The Administration for Children and Families presents NRCEC 2024, National Research Conference on Early Childhood. June 24 - 26, 2024 at Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA.
June 24 - 26, 2024

2022 Session Videos

Addressing Historical Inequities in Early Care and Education: Strategies to Support Workforce Equity

  • Emily Schmitt, ACF's Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation
  • Chrishana M. Lloyd, Child Trends
  • Dawn A. Yazzie, Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation
  • Michelle Sarche, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver
  • Marcy Whitebook, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley
Early care and education (ECE) has been found to be an important strategy for supporting the positive development of young children. At the same time, the ECE field has been grappling for years about how best to ensure fair and equitable compensation for workers, a key component of employee retention and important for ensuring access to high-quality ECE programming for families and children. Alongside this issue, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the shrinking of the ECE workforce, which has been catalyzed in part by safety concerns as well as individuals’ broader evaluations of their professional lives. The end result, a phenomenon coined, “The Great Resignation” is forcing ECE, like many other sectors, to contend with how best to retain staff. This session provided a first-of-its-kind historical overview of how the roots of inequities in ECE along racial and gender lines in the U.S. are linked to workforce compensation disparities that are still felt today. Presenters drew on this history and other research, to explore pathways to move forward. The dynamic discussion was facilitated by a moderator and included opportunities for audience participation.

Supporting a Thriving Early Childhood Home Visiting Workforce through Effective Hiring, Preparation, and Supervision

  • Nicole Denmark, ACF’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation
  • Christopher Jones, Mathematica
  • Heather Sandstrom, Urban Institute
  • Allison West, Johns Hopkins
  • Brenda Jones Harden, University of Maryland
Early childhood home visiting can be a rewarding career. Yet local programs and the larger home visiting system need strategies for hiring and preparing home visitors to thrive in the field. While a growing literature focuses on early childhood workforce development, research on strategies that organizations can use to support home visitors is limited. This session shared three OPRE-funded studies that explore how features, policies, and practices of home visiting programs relate to job outcomes. The first presentation from the national Home Visiting Career Trajectories Study explored mixed method findings around hiring practices, the work environment, compensation, and supervision, and home visitors’ intent to stay in the field. The second presentation described home visitors’ characteristics and experiences, and examine how professional development and organizational climate are related to their job satisfaction, using data from the nationally representative Early Head Start Child and Family Experiences Survey. The third presentation from the Supporting and Strengthening Home Visiting Workforce Study described a recent literature review and ongoing measurement development work to better define reflective supervision in the context of home visiting. The session concluded with a discussion of implications for home visiting policy makers, model developers, administrators, and practitioners.

Child Care in Crisis: How a Pandemic Exposed our Inadequate Care Infrastructure, Affecting Parents, Children, and the Early Childhood Workforce

  • Rasheed A. Malik, Center for American Progress
  • Anna Markowitz, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Jessica McCrory Calarco, Indiana University
  • Shantel Meek, Children’s Equity Project; Arizona State University
The U.S. child care system has historically suffered more than other fields during economic downturns and takes longer to recover in their wake. The COVID-19 pandemic put even greater stress on this vulnerable system, as public health concerns led to unprecedented enrollment declines and program closures, both temporary and permanent. What are the vulnerabilities that led to these catastrophic conditions, and what do we know about its effect on the well-being of parents, children, and early childhood educators? How have families and child care providers negotiated the instability of closures and shortages? Finally, what policy solutions are necessary to address a crisis that continues to take an emotional and financial toll on parents and early educators? Three panelists from complementary disciplines shared findings from research conducted before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing the question from the fields of psychology, sociology, and policy practice.

Increasing ECE Compensation: Policies Promoting ECE Workforce Well-Being and the Continuity and Quality of ECE

  • Sara Vecchiotti, Foundation for Child Development
  • *Lea J.E. Austin, Center for The Study of Child Care Employment, University of Califorinia, Berkeley
  • Daphna Bassok, University of Virginia; EdPolicyWorks
  • Elizabeth Groginsky, New Mexico Cabinet Secretary for Early Childhood Education
  • Michele Miller Cox, First Presbyterian Day School; Durham Technical Community College; North Carolina A&T State University
  • *Lea Austin’s research was presented by Caitlin McLean, Center for The Study of Child Care Employment, University of Califorinia, Berkeley
While the early care and education (ECE) workforce plays a central role in the development of young children, many members are not paid professional level salaries and benefits. Research supports that nationally ECE professionals, the majority of whom are women and 40% are people of color, are among the lowest-paid workers and many must rely on public assistance. Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino ECE professionals experience further inequity by being paid less than their White peers. Such stark disparities were exacerbated and gained national attention during the COVID-19 pandemic as the public viewed ECE as essential and as the voices of early educators/leaders were magnified. Research demonstrates that sustained increases to ECE compensation, both salary and benefits, has positive effects on teacher well-being, reducing turnover, and improving recruitment and retention, thereby promoting the quality and continuity of care for young children. At federal, state, and local levels, current efforts are financing, shaping, and implementing policies to increase ECE compensation and address structural racial and gender gaps. This session focused on research on racial and gender disparities and the benefits of increased compensation, as well as highlighted policy opportunities to increase salaries and benefits for ECE professionals.

The Pitfalls, Potential, and Promise of Continuous Quality Improvement in Early Care and Education (State of the Field Synthesis Session)

  • Kelly R. Fisher, Society for Research in Child Development
  • Anne Douglass, Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Kathryn Tout, Child Trends
High quality early care and education promotes the healthy development of young children. Yet research suggests that early childhood program quality varies widely and in ways that may perpetuate inequities. Additionally, not all early childhood programs have consistent access to the resources needed to achieve and sustain high quality. In this state of the field session, Dr. Douglass charted the evolution and emergence of continuous quality improvement (CQI) research, theory, and practice in early care and education. She described the potential of CQI to promote more meaningful and lasting change in the sector than that of current approaches, while also noting the pitfalls. She offered a new vision for CQI and its potential to build a culture of continuous learning and distributed leadership in early childhood settings and systems. As discussant, Dr. Tout elevated key themes from the research, practice, and vision shared by Dr. Douglass and engaged the audience with questions and discussion. Through conversation and real-life examples, they supported application of the concepts and suggested next steps for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners.

Building a Diverse, Skilled, and Stable Early Care and Education Workforce through Apprenticeship Programs

  • Jenessa Malin, ACF’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation
  • Abby Copeman Petig, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley
  • Hanna Melnick, Learning Policy Institute
  • Teresa Collins, District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund
Early care and education (ECE) apprenticeship programs offer promise as a novel approach to prepare a diverse cadre of teachers and caregivers. Broadly, ECE apprenticeship programs allow employees to remain employed while participating in on-the-job training or coursework to build the competencies essential to their practice. These programs are often designed to address common barriers to pursuing higher education or credentials, such as a lack of time or financial resources that conflict with the realities of most ECE practitioners’ lives, and which are often not responsive to the diversity of educators or children served. This session highlighted the opportunities and challenges of existing apprenticeship programs implemented at state- and local-levels, discussed approaches to be responsive to children and educators of color, and discussed how public policies and resources may be utilized to support feasible and effective ECE career pathways across the Birth-to-Five continuum and close critical research gaps.

Scaling Quality and Equity in Mixed Delivery Public Preschool Systems: What We Know When Rubber Hits the Road (State of the Field Synthesis Session)

  • Kelly R. Fisher, Society for Research in Child Development
  • Christina J. Weiland, University of Michigan
  • Miriam Calderon, ZERO TO THREE
Expansion of publicly funded 0-5 early care and education (ECE) is a hot policy topic at the national level and in many states and cities. Nearly all states with public ECE programs use mixed-delivery systems, with ECE classrooms in both public schools and community-based settings. However, some experts have long raised concerns about systematic inequities by setting in these public systems. New, emerging lines of research have begun to explore the differences in programs and children’s experiences by setting. In this session, Dr. Christina Weiland presented what is known about how to scale up high-quality ECE across different delivery systems, what we need to know next, and implications for policy and practice. She was joined by Miriam Calderon, an ECE policy and practice expert with experience at the local, state, and federal levels. Miriam helped connect researcher findings and recommendations with the realities on the ground, particularly within the context of the COVID-19 crisis and its many stressors on ECE systems.

State Efforts to Support the Competencies of the Infant and Toddler Workforce

  • Kathleen Dwyer, ACF’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation
  • Pia Caronongon, Mathematica
  • April Crawford, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
  • Alexa Watkins, Child Care State Capacity Building Center
State efforts to improve the competencies of infant and toddler teachers and caregivers may be central to building and maintaining a supply of high-quality care options for families. This session described recent state-based education and training efforts to build the competencies of infant and toddler teachers and caregivers. The first presentation from the Infant and Toddler Teacher and Caregiver Competencies (ITTCC) project described findings from in-depth case studies of five states that have developed and implemented competency frameworks targeted to infant and toddler teachers and caregivers. The second presentation on the CIRCLE Infant-Toddler Teacher Training (CIRCLE IT), a competency-centered early educational professional development model, shared findings from a study of the impact of CIRCLE IT on child care providers’ instructional quality and interactions with children, and on child outcomes. The discussion included key lessons learned related to the implementation of competency frameworks and considerations for groups and individuals interested in strengthening alignment and integration of competencies within professional development and teacher recognition systems.

Addressing the Early Care and Education Workforce Crisis: What Do We Know About Sustaining the Workforce?

  • Christopher Jones, Mathematica
  • Michelle Maier, MDRC
  • Josh Borton, NORC at the University of Chicago
  • Sara Amadon, Child Trends
  • Christina Padilla, Child Trends
  • Abby Copeman Petig, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley
The early care and education (ECE) workforce plays an essential role in caring for and educating young children, yet turnover has been a significant issue which has been exacerbated and brought to greater attention by the COVID-19 pandemic. This session highlighted new research on workforce turnover, recruitment, retention, and job satisfaction. It highlighted contributing factors to the workforce crisis, how the characteristics of the ECE workforce have changed after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and strategies aimed at recruiting and retaining the ECE workforce. Presenters discussed national findings on the center-based workforce in community-based and Early Head Start settings using data from the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE), and the Early Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (Baby FACES 2018). Presenters also shared findings from a comprehensive literature review and environmental scan focused on sustaining the broader ECE workforce.

Promoting Children’s Social and Emotional Development – The Time is Now (State of the Field Synthesis Session)

  • Martha Zaslow, Society for Research in Child Development; Child Trends
  • Mary Louise Hemmeter, Vanderbilt University
  • Rosemarie Allen, Center for Equity & Excellence; Institute for Racial Equity & Excellence
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on young children’s social and emotional development and the programs, caregivers, and early childhood educators who support them. While COVID-19 is perhaps the most recent event, it only serves to highlight the many factors that affect young children: racism, natural disasters, the Opioid crisis, political unrest, and other traumatic events in the lives of young children and their families. From an educational perspective, the growing concerns around exclusionary discipline practices, the balance between focusing on social and emotional development and early academics, the mental health needs of early childhood educators, and the lack of supports in our early childhood systems further highlight the need to focus on young children’s social and emotional development. In this presentation, Dr. Hemmeter provided background information and context; information about what we know works and what supports are needed; and discussed the limits of what we know. She then guided a conversation with Dr. Allen about how to ensure appropriate practices are implemented in programs serving young children.

Competency-Focused Virtual Professional Development and Lessons Learned from COVID-19

  • Sarah N. Lang, Virtual Lab School/VLS Momentum Project, Ohio State University
  • Erin Tebben, Virtual Lab School/VLS Momentum Project, Ohio State University
  • Kristen Knight, Virtual Lab School/VLS Momentum Project, Ohio State University
  • Allyson Dean, EarlyEdU Alliance/Coaching Companion/Cultivate Leaning, University of Washington
  • Gail Joseph, EarlyEdU Alliance/Coaching Companion/Cultivate Leaning, University of Washington
  • Shayna Cook, ACF’s Office of Early Childhood Development
Emerging evidence demonstrates an increase in the use of virtual professional development during the pandemic. This session examined competency-focused virtual or hybrid models of professional development and explored modifications made during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an emphasis on models supporting in-field professionals. Invited speakers and audience attendees reflected on what are useful adaptations to maintain post-pandemic in support of the broad ECE workforce, with attention to issues of equity around the systems, delivery, and flexibility necessary to grow, maintain, and sufficiently support a well-trained and diverse workforce.

Creating a System of Care for Infants and Toddlers – A Discussion with State Leaders

  • Cynthia Osborne, Peabody College at Vanderbilt University
  • Beth Bye, Connecticut Office of Early Childhood
  • Jenna Conway, Virginia Department of Education
  • Karen Powell, Louisiana Department of Education
The science is clear that the prenatal to age three period is the most rapid and sensitive period of development. Warm, nurturing, stable environments create the conditions in which children thrive from the start and are associated with lifelong health and well-being. Early trauma and chronic adversity, by contrast, can damage children’s developing physiological, neurological, and psychological systems. The pandemic has exposed how crucial policies are to support families with young children, and states currently have an unprecedented level of resources to invest in the earliest years. This plenary session explored what the most rigorous evidence to date says are the most effective state level policies that create the conditions in which children thrive and that create equitable systems of care. Key takeaways from the plenary session include: (1) To create an effective and equitable early childhood system requires a combination of broad based economic and family supports combined with targeted interventions that address families’ specific needs – there is no one magic bullet; (2) State policy choices can have a substantial impact on improving the well-being of infants and toddlers and their parents – we know what works; (3) Currently there is a patchwork of benefits and services available to families across the country – where you live determines what you have access to; (4) Implementation of policies is the key to success, and should include the voices of communities and families to better promote equity; and (5) Adequate data systems are key to accountability and strategic planning.