Raising the Bar for Early Childhood Education

Early Signals on How Louisiana's Education Policy Strategies Are Working for Early Childhood Providers and Community Networks

by Jill S. Cannon, Sophie Meyers, Julia H. Kaufman

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Research Questions

  1. How are Louisiana's key actions for ECE being perceived and acted upon by ECE community network lead agencies, site leaders such as center directors and principals, and site teaching staff?
  2. What implementation challenges have emerged?

Since 2012, Louisiana has been developing policies to improve student outcomes in the areas of early childhood education (ECE), K–12 academics, teacher preparation, and graduation pathways; an overview of these efforts is provided in the 2018 RAND report Raising the Bar: Louisiana's Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes. The current report, which is part of a four-part series on the implementation and outcomes of these reforms, focuses on the state's comprehensive efforts to support and improve ECE and what implementation challenges have emerged.

The study's findings suggest broad awareness and support of the state's major reforms to create a unified ECE system intended to increase quality and accountability for publicly funded providers of ECE, as well as strong communication between the state and ECE stakeholders. However, interviews and surveys with ECE stakeholders revealed some implementation challenges, including challenges particularly affecting Type III ECE centers, which are centers that serve low-income children eligible to receive public subsidies.

Key Findings

  • The majority of Louisiana ECE site leaders and teachers were aware of the major reforms the state has undertaken since 2012 to create a unified ECE system for publicly funded centers, and most voiced support for the broad goals to increase quality and accountability for publicly funded providers.
  • Some ECE stakeholders were concerned that the supports and resources provided for reform efforts were not commensurate with the comprehensive scale of the reform in actual practice.
  • Several new requirements presented particular implementation challenges for a minority of ECE providers, including the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) observation process, Early Childhood Ancillary Certificate, and high-quality curriculum adoption.
  • Type III ECE centers, in particular, faced challenges, which endanger their ability to serve low-income children receiving public subsidies.
  • Some communication links seemed to be stronger than others, and ECE stakeholders were trying creative ways to overcome challenges.

Recommendations

  • Louisiana could modify the CLASS observation process to provide more meaningful feedback to ECE providers about classroom quality and areas for improvement.
  • Louisiana and other states should be realistic about the resources needed to carry out reforms as intended; otherwise, they may face a host of problems associated with unfunded mandates.
  • Louisiana should ensure that Type III centers receive the supports and resources they need, such as professional development opportunities available to non–Type III centers, to implement required changes and make expected quality improvements.
  • Louisiana should consider further support to facilitate getting all lead teachers to attain the Early Childhood Ancillary Certificate, and providing wage supports to those who do.
  • Louisiana should expand communication efforts to families to convey why ECE is important for children, what quality means in the rating system, and how to access different funding sources.
  • States should consider a trial period for any new enrollment processes and collecting data to understand whether those processes are supporting low-income families to enroll in ECE.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and conducted within RAND Education and Labor.

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