First 5 LA Investments in Workforce: Early Care & Education (ECE)
Above all, research indicates that the most crucial factor in determining the quality of an early education program is the teacher in the early care setting. Early childhood educators play an influential role in creating the positive learning environments that define high-quality early care and education (ECE). Neuroscience research has discovered that stable, responsive, and developmentally appropriate relationships between children and caregivers are central to healthy brain development, and that the quality instruction is the most important driver of a child’s outcome. Therefore, the relationship between the quality of an early learning program and its workforce is inseparable, as educators create the learning environment in which children begin to develop the cognitive and emotional skills that they will carry with throughout their personal and academic careers.
In 2011, the California Department of Education and First 5 California released the Early Childhood Educator Competencies that describe the knowledge and skills that early educators need in order to successfully provide high-quality care. Given that quality care is directly tied to the competency of the workforce, having a professional development system that properly equips teachers with these tools is a worthwhile investment. First 5 LA works to train the local ECE workforce on the competencies in two ways. First, through the Competencies Initiative, First 5 LA funds a local technical assistance provider (The Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles) to design a learning program and curriculum for a cohort of seven organizations that provide training to early educators. Additionally, First 5 LA pays for these organizations to participate in the trainings to help educators develop and refine their skills to align with the competencies, share best practices, and receive one-on-one coaching. Thus, given that the quality of an ECE program is closely tied to the skills of the workforce, it is imperative that the professional development system is aligned to these competencies and effectively trains early learning professionals to work with and prepare children for kindergarten and life.
Partners in Education, Articulation & Coordination through Higher Education (PEACH)
In order to ensure that early educators are properly trained and supported, First 5 LA funds the Partners in Education, Articulation, and Coordination through Higher Education (PEACH) consortium. Founded in 2011, PEACH is an initiative that brings together a diverse array of stakeholders from the early learning and higher education fields to strengthen educational and professional development pathways for the ECE workforce in Los Angeles County. The PEACH LA collaborative includes representatives from 25 LA County institutions of higher education, including 15 community colleges, 6 California State Universities, 3 private universities, and UCLA Extension’s Early Childhood Education Program. In addition to strengthening and developing pathways for the ECE workforce, PEACH works to align and articulate community colleges’ and universities’ curricula with the competencies. By creating a more uniform curriculum and aligning it to the competencies, not only is the move from community colleges to four year universities simplified, but the transition from postsecondary education to the ECE workforce is much easier.