Maryland’s Opportunities to Advance Early Care and Education
The State’s BluePrint for Maryland’s Future, with recommendations from the Kirwan Commissioners, will expand pre-kindergarten access by creating a public-private model to add pre-kindergarten slots through a publicly funded system. Enrolling more students in pre-kindergarten can alleviate adverse childhood experiences and result in early intervention for learning difficulties. If more children receive interventions at a younger age, they will enter elementary and subsequent school levels more prepared, and the state’s special education population could decrease. State funding for pre-kindergarten programs would ramp up over the 10-year expansion plan and will create a need for more highly qualified leaders and qualified early childhood education teachers who are proven experts in early education.
Being on Top to Meet the Needs of the Field
The Maryland Early Childhood Leadership Program (MECLP), at UMBC’s Shriver Center was designed to meet the new demands created by the BluePrint and to fill the early childhood education leadership gap that currently exists in Maryland. It is a workforce initiative to accelerate cross-sector leadership and career advancement in early education. It seeks to develop and support strong leaders who will generate positive change in communities by significantly improving school readiness and related outcomes for early learners, particularly for disadvantaged and vulnerable children. The Program prepares newly developed leaders representing a variety of early childhood classrooms, programs, and associated fields that comprise Maryland’s early childhood system to:
- Affect state-level change in early care and education and Head Start community programs and public education systems that impact young children (birth to eight) and their families.
- Develop a broad and diverse network of early education professionals recognized as transformative leaders in the field creating a diverse and equitable career pipeline.
- Advocate for equitable high-quality early care and education experiences for all children.
- Expand early childhood coursework in higher education to institutionalize leadership skills.
- Position Maryland at the forefront of developing strong leaders in early education.
- Create collective impact to improve outcomes for young children, families and communities.
How Does It Work?
To catalyze early childhood education leadership in Maryland, MECLP partnered with The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation (IEELI) at the University of Massachusetts, Boston to deliver a customized version of IEELI’s research-based, three-credit Graduate Course SHER 601 – Leading for Change in Early Childhood Education.
Building on the SHER 601 course, MECLP is creating a pathway to a six-credit graduate Endorsement in Early Childhood Leadership at UMBC. The pathway will include the following MECLP tiers:
Tier I: Completion of the existing leadership course, SHER 601, which builds skills, knowledge, and dispositions in seven core leadership competencies: visioning, values, people management, organizational capacity, results and outcomes, creativity and innovation, and policy advocacy.
The 12-month, cohort-based, three-credit post-baccalaureate course, taught by highly experienced faculty and thought leaders, provides a mix of six in-person day-long learning sessions that include guest presentations, six asynchronous online learning sessions, individual and small group assignments, and a capstone project focused on an issue specific to early education in Maryland. Upon completion of SHER 601, MECLP fellows have the option to join the Community of Practice which includes a robust coaching program; participate in Leadership in Action Conversations with ECE leaders across the state; join state-wide and national webinars and attend annual Early Childhood Leadership Institutes. MECLP leadership fellows benefit from the Community of Practice as they build applied knowledge of their leadership skills and become actively engaged in advocating for equitable high-quality early care and education experiences for all children.
Tier II: In 2023, MECLP will offer Tier II, the newly developed three-credit course – SHER 602 – Policy and Advocacy in Early Childhood Education features an emphasis on building participants’ capacity to act as advocates, leaders, and innovators for high-quality practices and research-informed policies in early childhood education at the local, state, and national levels. Participants will become familiar with the process for developing and establishing policies that impact young children and families in Maryland and nationally and develop strategies for influencing public policy and regulation through advocacy utilizing resources available to support change. Students completing SHER 601 and SHER 602 will receive UMBC’s Endorsement in Early Childhood Leadership.
With the development of 6 additional graduate credits in early childhood leadership, students (fellows) would receive a 12-credit Certificate in Early Childhood Leadership from UMBC.
MECLP’s Impact Now and in the Future
This tiered approach builds early childhood education workforce capacity for leadership positions with different levels of complexity. As the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future is being implemented, MECLP will develop early education leaders to serve as Directors/Coordinators of childcare programs and Judy Centers, in supervisory roles at non-profit organizations and local school systems, as well as lead policymaking at local and state governmental agencies. MECLP is positioning itself as the state’s early childhood education leadership hubwith the purpose of increasing the number of highly qualified early education leaders to address the needs of the field.
MECLP is on the move to enhance its impact in the next five years. MECLP expects to:
- Graduate more than 100 fellows from racially and linguistically diverse backgrounds to collectively improve Maryland’s early childhood system.
- Provide ongoing support to Maryland’s emerging early childhood leaders though a robust coaching program.
- Conduct a program and course evaluation to ensure that MECLP is engaged in a continuous improvement cycle.
- Champion MECLP fellows as early childhood leaders in Maryland through a vibrant Community of Practice within the state and nationally.
- Build its capacity to sustain leadership development activities as the state’s early childhood education system expands creating an early childhood leadership hub.
- Become a partner with other national early childhood education leadership programs associated with higher education institutions.