Case Study: Developing a Statewide Early Childhood Leadership Program
In February 2009, senior officials of the Pennsylvania Departments of Education and Public Welfare came to the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) with a vision for building and assessing Pre-K leadership at multiple levels, starting with public school principals and providers of early childhood development and learning (Birth to Grade 3).
In 2005 the PA Department of Education implemented the NISL Executive Development Program for School Principals across the Commonwealth--changing practice and resulting in great student success. In early April 2009, NISL launched a ten-week Front-end Analysis (FEA) on the variegated Pre-K landscape and on related leadership needs attendant to enhancing and interlacing child development and early learning approaches.
The efforts led by an Executive Committee of NISL/Pennsylvania Inspired Leaders (PIL)/Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) analysts were guided by a singular vision: The Creation of an executive leadership program to engage and connect Pre-K providers of child development and learning to elementary school leaders (Birth through Grade 3) through a common vision, mission, and performance linkages—the multi-faceted program would focus on the health, skills, and readiness of all children to enter kindergarten prepared for great success (proficient or above).
Participants recognized how much further we needed to go to help children achieve their fullest potential. The team agreed that leadership, connectivity, and communications were key missing components. We together needed to construct a system of systems between early providers and school leaders to ensure achievement of the desired cognitive, social, and emotional goals. The root question was: What is it that early learning providers, child development professionals, and elementary school leaders need to know and be able to do to turn this landscape into a mapped system of systems with a common vision, mission, and performance linkages?
The PIL/OCDEL/NISL team in mid June briefed the Early Learning Council on the results and recommendations from an analysis NISL conducted. Subsequently, Pennsylvania Department of Education authorities approved and funded NISL to design, develop, and pilot a five-day training program for superintendents and their assistants, principals and their assistants, and directors of child development centers/facilities.
NISL conducted two pilots of the five-day institute in the fall and winter of the 2009-10 school year with a group of experienced leaders. Using feedback from the pilot cohorts, NISL revised the curriculum and completed the design of the five-day institute by May 2010.
This Institute is designed to increase the capacity of leaders in early childhood education (ECE) programs to connect the many public and private systems that are focused on the growth, development, and education of our children from birth through Grade 3. The work that participants engage in concentrates on what early childhood leaders need to know and be able to do in order to provide guidance and direction on sustained instructional improvement. The improved practices in turn lead to the desired outcomes in physical, emotional, social, cognitive, aesthetic, and attentional areas.
Working together, participants acquire the deep knowledge and leadership skills needed to identify and navigate with success through the labyrinthine challenges and opportunities that confront Pre-K through K-3 educators and service providers as they deliver coordinated, aligned, and cohesive learning experiences for students and their families.
Included in the pilot cohorts were a dozen individuals who were being trained as facilitators. NISL provided additional coaching and eventually certified them as facilitators for the Early Childhood Executive Leadership Institute, and they were ready to facilitate the Pennsylvania institutes by the time it was rolled out in the 2010-11 school year. The cohorts are lead by teams of two facilitators – one who is or has been a K-12 leader and one who is or has been a leader in early childhood education.
PIL is an initiative of the PA Department of Education. At least one ECEL Institute is offered in each of the eight PIL regions each year.
Approaching its second full year of implementation, early results of the ECEL Institute in Pennsylvania are very positive. See what state leadership and participants are saying about the program.
For more information, contact:
Director of Early Childhood Executive Leadership Programs
National Institute for School Leadership
firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-723-0026