Building a Strong Early Learning Workforce

Early Learning Team 7/23/2021

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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 a 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 developed. These teams will be led by a bipartisan duo of legislators with expertise in education or health and human services and include state education agency staff, office of the governor, and the state board of education. Other groups could be invited based on feedback from the state teams, including a member of a stakeholder group, state or local workforce agency, educator preparation program, etc. The 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: Policymaker Convening
  • Phase Three: In-State Technical Assistance Action Plan Development
  • 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 though implementation research.  
  • Professionalize the Field: Professionalization of the early childhood workforce and increased awareness of the status of the early childhood workforce.


Upcoming meetings:

  • Tuesday, August 10, 2021, 1 – 2:30 pm ET: 
    • Best Practices in Early Learning Governance and the Impact on the Workforce
  • Tuesday, August 17, 2021, 1 – 2:30 pm ET: 
    • Lessons from Our Providers: Experiences of Early Learning Educators

Past meetings:

  • Tuesday, June 22, 2021, 1-4 p.m. ET: Virtual Early Learning Workforce Boot Camp
    • 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.


Pre-meeting materials:

Other resources: