Building a Stronger Early Learning Workforce

Early Learning Team 10/28/2021

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The quality of early education teachers has been shown to be a key driver in overall classroom quality and outcomes for prekindergarten children. Also, early education teachers are prepared, regulated, and compensated differently, and often more poorly, than their K-12 counterparts. However, both professions require similar training and expertise, including bachelor's degrees for entry-level positions. These discrepancies can discourage otherwise interested and qualified candidates from pursuing early education teaching positions, which can contribute to shortages and declines in quality within the early education workforce.

About This Project:

Through this project, NCSL will grow legislators' understanding of challenges in the early education workforce and policy options to support early learning teachers. Five state teams will be led by a bipartisan group of legislators with expertise in education or health and human services. These teams will include representatives from relevant state agencies, the office of the governor, and the state board of education. Others could be invited based on feedback from the state teams, including members of a stakeholder group, state or local workforce agency, educator preparation program, etc.

The five state teams will collaborate with one another to create policy action plans for supporting the early learning workforce in their state in four phases:

  • Phase One: Building Legislative Expertise
  • Phase Two: In-State Technical Assistance Action Plan Development
  • Phase Three: Policymaker Convening
  • Phase Four: Action Plan Writing and State Team Approval

Areas of Focus:

  • Improve Preparation and Ongoing Development: Improvements to the preparation and ongoing professional learning, with emphasis on institutions of higher education.
  • Enhance Quality of Practice: Enhancement to the quality of professional practice through implementation research.  
  • Professionalize the Field: Professionalization of the early childhood workforce and increased awareness of the status of the early childhood workforce.


Upcoming meetings:

  • TBD

Past meetings:

  • Virtual Early Learning Workforce Boot Camp
    June 22, 2021, 1–4 pm ET
    • NCSL staff, early learning researchers, and program administrators reviewed the challenges faced by the early learning workforce and discussed opportunities to support these essential workers. This meeting covered the current state of the early learning workforce, teacher preparation, teacher and classroom support, and career pathways. The meeting also included opportunities to engage with experts and fellow legislators and staff. 
      Watch each session on NCSL's YouTube channel! Or read about it on The NCSL Blog!
  • Best Practices in Early Learning Governance and the Impact on the Workforce
    Aug. 10, 2021, 1–2:30 pm ET
  • Lessons From Our Providers: Experiences of Early Learning Educators
    Sept. 29, 2021, 1–2 p.m. ET
    • Early learning educators with experience in center, home-based, and school-based child care and prekindergarten programs spoke on the impacts of COVID-19 on their well-being, their clients, and their profession. Our provider panel discussed the challenges facing their profession and what policy supports they felt would be most impactful. Watch the recording on NCSL's YouTube channel!


Meeting-related materials:

Other resources: