Building Capacity and Improving Quality in Early Childhood Education: Opening Doors for Educators

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC)—a community development organization providing affordable housing and community supports—has seen a lot of change in the childcare field over the last 20 years—in particular a growing focus on quality. Initially, JPNDC focused on supporting immigrant women to build their own in-home childcare businesses and obtain state licensing. With growing research pointing to the importance of quality early childhood education, JPNDC is providing professional development and technical assistance to in-home early childhood educators so they can offer higher-quality programs to primarily low-income families in Boston.

With support from the Boston Children’s Collaboration for Community Health, JPNDC is improving quality through four key activities: 

  1. Collaboration with Urban College of Boston, a two-year college that provides post-secondary education and professional advancement to those traditionally underserved by higher education, to provide a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential program for early childhood educators. Thirteen educators are enrolled in the course in winter and spring of 2019. Classes focus on a range of topics from developing age-appropriate curricula to positive family engagement. 

  1. Supporting educators to increase their ratings in the Massachusetts Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)—a tool used to assess program quality—by training educators on the topics directly related to raising QRIS levels and supporting them to improve specific practices within the childcare setting.

  1. Providing technical assistance through one-on-one coaching visits with educators, both in and out of the childcare setting, to support quality improvement. This includes focusing on observation and feedback sessions and developing protocols to implement higher-quality services. 

Building internal capacity 

With support from the Boston Children’s Collaboration for Community Health, JPNDC is also building its own internal capacity to support both educators and families. A new education coordinator will manage professional development, and a new licensed bilingual social worker will work with educators and families to connect them to community resources and referrals. JPNDC is also continually improving its services and systems to effectively reach any family in need across multiple areas—childcare, job training, or economic stability, for instance—and connect them to the right staff or program to support the whole family. 

Looking ahead

JPNDC’s goal is to engage 60 educators in the activities described above and to see significant increases in the number of educators who improve their QRIS level and who use a standardized assessment tool.  JPNDC also plans to track the number of early intervention referrals, hours that educators spend in training, and family referrals for other JPNDC services. 

Most exciting for JPNDC is the CDA course—something that would normally be financially out of reach for most educators. JPNDC didn’t know how educators would respond to the new course, but as Francia de Jesus, JPNDC’s Family Child Care program director, says, “The educators all encouraged each other to join in—next thing you know, we had 13 people signed up! And the educators who complete the course will have nine college credits at the end—a huge benefit.” 

Focusing on improving capacity and quality in early childhood education is beneficial for children, families and educators. “Working with JPNDC has ensured that I am always up to date with training. I’ve also updated the assessments for all of the children in my program. I connect families to resources. But what I like most about JPNDC is that they help the educators connect with each other. Working with JPNDC makes me a better educator,” shares one participant.