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Improving Early Childhood Education through Investments in Leadership Development

Gwen Walden and Helen Goldberg
Improving Early Childhood Education through Investments in Leadership Development

Strong leaders are critical to achieving many of the ECE sector’s top priorities—providing quality education to young children, increasing equity, and strengthening organizations and systems—yet a lack of investment in leadership development means that few can access training.

Over the last 20 years, a large body of research has been amassed indicating that quality early childhood education is critical for the long-term health of communities: Effective interventions in the early years pay dividends in school, workplace, health, and community outcomes for decades to come and represent highly strategic philanthropic investments.

Recognizing this potential, many public- and private-sector entities have expanded their support for early childhood efforts in the last decade. As the sector seeks simultaneously to scale up and continuously enhance its impact, however, one of the roadblocks it faces is leadership development. Effective leaders are needed both to deliver quality early childhood education at scale and to help address sector-wide priorities related to increasing equity and strengthening systems. Yet leadership development in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) sector is significantly underfunded.

The New Venture Fund, with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, recently commissioned Arabella’s ECE team to review and analyze leadership development within the formal ECE sector across the United States (and with a special focus on California). The resulting report, “Developing Early Childhood Leaders to Support Strong, Equitable Systems,” examines current challenges and opportunities in the field related to leadership development.

Among the report’s main findings:

Going forward, we hope that more funders will consider the roles leaders play in the success of the ECE field—and of the children and families that depend upon that leadership. Participation in high-quality leadership development programs has multiple benefits for ECE leaders and the sector overall. Participants gain new knowledge, peer networks, and professional pedigrees. The sector benefits from better knowledge sharing and innovation, continual enhancement of best practices, and increasing equity. Interested funders can engage effectively in multiple ways, whether through scaling or strengthening existing leadership development programs, investing in new programs, or supporting informal leadership development.

To learn more, read the full report here.

If you or those you know have questions about effective funding in this area, please let us know.

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