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Giving Compass' Take:
• Arabella Advisors provide key insights into early the impacts of leadership development on childhood education based on the United States, particularly California.
• How can philanthropy support increased, equitable access to leadership development? What else do early childhood education centers need?
Researchers, providers, and others working in the early childhood education (ECE) sector in the United States have long recognized both the importance of effective leaders and the underinvestment in leadership development. The New Venture Fund, with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, commissioned Arabella Advisors to conduct research on ECE leadership development and to produce this report, which provides a review and analysis of leadership development in the formal ECE sector in the United States, with particular attention to California.
Leadership development opportunities are scarce and scattered: There is not a coordinated ECE leadership development ecosystem to build and support a pipeline of leaders.
Investing in leaders helps strengthen organizations and systems: More and more data about the positive impacts of quality early education on children’s life outcomes creates new urgency to invest in leadership.
Effective leaders share common competencies: The ECE sector understands what makes a leader effective. Many organizations and researchers have identified a small set of leadership competencies, which we have organized into five categories: 1) content and pedagogy, 2) operational and management, 3) team and interpersonal, 4) individual, and 5) policy and community.
Effective leadership training includes both formal and informal opportunities that are contextualized and provided over time: The sector also understands how to build those effective leaders. To develop strong leaders, the ECE sector needs to offer both formal and informal training opportunities that contextualize learning, build leaders’ networks, and are accessible to all promising leaders, especially the mostly low-income women of color who work in ECE but are not advancing to decision-making roles.
Leadership development is an important strategy for funders interested in making ECE systems higher-quality and more equitable: While a small number of public and private funders support ECE leadership development, need outstrips supply. The result is an opportunity for funders who want to support both individuals and systems. When deciding how to invest in leadership development, we recommend that funders answer five questions to determine their approach: 1. What are the outcomes we are trying to achieve for systems and for children? 2. How do leaders help to achieve these outcomes? 3. What types of leaders can help achieve these outcomes? 4. What competencies do leaders need to achieve these outcomes? 5. What conditions must be present in the ECE ecosystem for leaders to succeed?
Quality early childhood education is critical for communities to thrive, and effective leaders are needed to deliver quality early childhood education. As funders develop, refresh, and implement their ECE strategies, we hope that they consider the roles leaders play in the success of the field—and of the children and families that depend on that leadership.