The Early Childhood Educator Professional Development Grant: Research and Practice: Volume 15


Table of contents

(15 chapters)

Putting this volume together of this type took a team effort from many individuals who have given of their time and talent. I would really like to express my thanks to all who reviewed chapters for this volume: Mary Lu Love Early Childhood Services at ICI; Nancy Crowell, Georgetown University; Xuejin (Kim) Lu, Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County, FL; Jianping Shen, Western Michigan University; Xin Ma, University of Kentucky; Maria Magdalena Aguilar-Crandall, Brownsville Independent School District; Stuart Reifel, University of Texas at Austin; Deborah Wisneski, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee; Amye Warren, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Sarah Jo Sandefur, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; and Shira Peterson, Children's Institute. My colleagues here at the University of Texas Brownsville, Renee Rubin, Vejoya Viren, Jaime Garcia, and Ana Laura Rodriguez-Garcia were also of great assistance in reviewing articles.

This chapter reviews some of the important factors in the professional development of teachers of young children. It discusses how important teacher quality is for student outcomes. The chapter also discusses the many factors that go into the development of quality teachers. This chapter also introduces the history of the Early Childhood Educator Professional Development program financed through grants from the United States Department of Education. This program has focused on creating state of the art professional development programs across many U.S. contexts.

Professional development (PD), including coaching and mentoring, for early childhood education and care providers has received increasing attention over the past decade. PD, particularly coaching/mentoring, has been shown to improve classroom quality. We recognize the importance of content and format of PD, but argue that dosage (overall amount) and density (spacing) are important aspects of PD that are worthy of careful consideration. We hypothesize that when PD conveys new information and complex new skills, a dense initial period is likely to produce better results than a less dense delivery. In this chapter, we review the program of research that has led us to a focus on both dosage and density of coaching. We conclude with the results from an ECEPD project in which we systematically varied the density of coaching while maintaining the same overall dosage. Classrooms all received 120h of in-classroom coaching and were randomly assigned to a dense “immersion” condition (20 full days of coaching spread over 5 weeks) or to a low density condition (one full day per week of coaching over 20 weeks). Classrooms in the immersion condition showed gains in quality, albeit modest, over the course of the school year, whereas those in the low-density condition either remained the same or decreased in quality over the school year.

Understanding the complexity of the change process is critical if early childhood improvement initiatives are to result in lasting change. One of the keys to effective programs and efficient use of resources is an understanding of readiness to change. This chapter presents a theoretical approach to understanding readiness to change in the field of early education and care. We describe applications of this approach used within a community-wide initiative in Rochester, New York, funded by an Early Childhood Educator Professional Development grant. The goal of the initiative was to create an integrated professional development system from entry level through the completion of a bachelor degree, with the priorities of increasing access, alignment, and articulation. We describe interventions at the community, organization, and individual level, and explore the impact of readiness to change at each of these levels.

Evaluation results show that educators enrolled in the research-based mentoring program offered by this grant became involved in other types of professional development programs, made significant gains in the quality of the classroom environment, and had children who made gains in overall development and vocabulary beyond developmental expectations. We conclude with a discussion of these results as well as implications for policy, practice, and future research.

Project REEL (Resources for Early Educator Learning) was a quasi-experimental, delayed-treatment professional development (PD) design to provide training, coaching, and materials to 220 early childhood educators (ECEs) in 85 diverse, high-needs settings (family, group, and center-based) across Tennessee. Its two primary goals were to (1) increase the frequency of research-based classroom learning experiences that promote language/literacy, numeracy, and social/emotional development among diverse early learners through training and coaching to ECEs and (2) improve the language/literacy, numeracy, and social/emotional readiness of children in low-income areas through research-based training of ECEs and parents. Even with differences in ECEs’ educational backgrounds and diverse settings, teachers in both treatment groups improved and maintained their knowledge and skills in response to the intervention. Preschool children in two cohorts showed significant improvements in most language and literacy measures over the course of an academic year, and improvements were often beyond that due to maturation (using age-controlled measures). Given the amount of improvement seen across a wide array of measures, there is substantial convergent evidence that the Project REEL PD approach was successful in promoting long-lasting improvements in the practices of ECEs in diverse settings and from diverse backgrounds. This chapter follows the development, implementation, and results of two literacy-related modules (“Print Awareness” and “Book Strategies”) for directors and teachers of three- and four-year-olds. These modules are representative of our training design, with its intensive focus on coaching in the diverse settings, and will provide the most beneficial model for other ECE professional developers to follow.

This ECEPD project implemented a professional development (PD) protocol within a large public school system. The PD was designed to provide support for both teachers and their instructional partners in implementation of two curricula designed to foster children's language, literacy, math competencies, and overall cognitive development. The specifics of the PD are outlined including its development, coaching strategies, training approaches, and coursework components.

Results of the evaluation of the project are also highlighted and discussed. Analyses indicated that teachers showed significant growth in relation to the implementation of the curriculums and the PD efforts of both the district and the intervention, with less-experienced teachers showing the highest levels of growth. In addition, results indicated a significant difference between the intervention and the control group teachers in their developmentally appropriate beliefs and practices, with intervention teachers indicating higher levels of developmentally appropriate beliefs and practices. The challenges to field work in a large and ever-changing school system are discussed, and recommendations for further PD are made.

On the basis of the data collected from 144 practitioners, we studied impact of the Palm Beach County Quality Improvement System (QIS) on practitioners. We found that (a) the duration of early learning coaching, (b) the intensity of career advisors, (c) quality workshops and conferences, (d) college courses, and (e) scholarship for books and supplies in relation to taking college courses are related to improving practitioners' job skills and level of certification and degree in early childhood care and education. We found that additional income to practitioners through the WAGE$ program is effective in retaining them. We also found that the professional development program has differential impact on practitioners of various racial and ethnic groups and that more encouragement and support should be given to African-American and Hispanic practitioners to engage in professional development and pursue advancement in the level of certificate and degree. All these findings have implications for the policy of early care and education in general and for other quality improvement initiatives for early care and education in particular.

This chapter is a qualitative study on how an Early Childhood Educator Professional Development grant impacted early childhood educators and their literacy practices. This chapter also discusses how the grant impacted the researcher who was also an instructional specialist working with the educators as part of the professional development.

The professional development changed practitioners’ literacy practices by encouraging them to improve children's access to books, to increase read alouds, to change literacy activities and to improve access to writing materials. These changes were also reflected in the experiences of the instructional specialist who also altered her own life.

Maria Magdalena Aguilar-Crandall, Ed.D., is a librarian in the Brownsville Independent School District and an adjunct professor at Sam Houston State University.

Publication date
Book series
Advances in Early Education and Day Care
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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