Shifting the Curve: Building a Stronger Future for Texas Children

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On July 14, 2011 the Texas Early Learning Council hosted an interactive Plenary Session at the Texas Early Childhood Leadership Summit in Austin.  Nearly a thousand early childhood stakeholders, including parents, educators, center directors, policymakers, and researchers, attended the Plenary Session.  The interactive session allowed the Council to receive critical feedback from stakeholders about our projects.

Visit our Facebook page to see photos from the Plenary Session.

John Gasko, Ph.D., Chair of the Council, and Don Titcombe, Council Manager, presented information on the Council and our ongoing and upcoming projects.  Attendees were asked to answer eight multiple-choice questions throughout the presentation, and provide comments.

View the PowerPoint Presentation from the Plenary Session. [ Click here for the PDF version ]

The Council received nearly 600 feedback surveys from the Plenary Session.  In addition, we received several dozen responses to the same questions in an online survey.  Feedback from Texas early childhood stakeholders is critical to the Council's work - we need to ensure that our projects are on track with the needs of parents, providers, and policymakers in Texas! Council staff has analyzed the data from the feedback surveys, and we are pleased to present the results.  Click on each question in the interactive graphic below to view information on the survey questions and results of the analysis.

As the Council moves forward with our projects, we will use this information to ensure our projects will meet the needs of the early childhood system and improve school readiness in Texas!

Plenary Session Survey Results

Introduction

The Council received over 600 feedback surveys from early childhood stakeholders in response to the 2011 Texas Early Childhood Leadership Summit Plenary Session.  As you can see from the chart below, the responses came from a diverse audience from across Texas.  The largest respondent groups were: providers, teachers, and educators; mentors, trainers, coaches, and consultants; and, administrators and directors.

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Because of the versatility of early childhood professionals, many of the respondents chose multiple roles on their surveys.  For example, many respondents who work at centers selected administrator/director, provider/teacher/educator, and mentor/trainer/coach/consultant.  To properly catalog all responses, surveys with multiple role identification were counted multiple times, one set of responses for each role. Therefore, in the example above, the survey responses were counted three times, once as an administrator/director, once as a provider/teacher/educator, and once as a mentor/trainer/coach/consultant.

Each survey question was analyzed individually.  The following analyses feature the full question from the original survey, and response options.  Each analysis includes charts of the responses and the responses of the largest respondent groups.

What are the top 3 infrastructure needs in your ECE area of practice?

The first survey question followed a presentation of the changing demographics and increasing population of our state in the coming decades.  Texas will add over a million children in the next 30 years, an increase of over 50%, and the demographics of the 0-5 population will also change; in the next decade, Hispanics will become the majority ethnicity of children in Texas.  The Council asked early childhood professionals to evaluate a list of infrastructure needs, and determine the three most important needs in their area of practice.

What are the TOP 3 infrastructure needs in your ECE area of practice?

  • Access to quality professional development
  • Access to technology and data
  • Access to new models of leadership and administration
  • Standards and regulations
  • Opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing
  • Resources for serving special and underrepresented populations
  • Teacher preparation in higher education
  • Funding
  • Local planning
  • Curriculum
  • Parental outreach

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According to all the survey responses, the respondents selected: funding; access to quality professional development; and, opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing.  These three responses comprise nearly half of all responses for this question.  The respondents selected standards and regulations, local planning, curriculum, and access to new models of leadership and administration as their least needed infrastructure needs.

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Next, we sorted the total responses by respondent groups. The largest respondent groups, administrators, educators, and trainers each chose funding as their greatest infrastructure need, access to quality professional development as their second greatest infrastructure need, and opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing as their third greatest infrastructure need. Trainers valued access to quality professional development more than all other groups, while educators valued parental outreach more than all other groups.

What type of data would most help you improve outcomes for young children?

The second survey question asked respondents to select the type of early childhood data that would most help them improve outcomes for young children.  The Council is committed to improving school readiness in Texas, and improving outcomes for young children in school.  This question followed a presentation of the types of early childhood data currently available in Texas, and what agencies collect, store, and use this data.

What type of data would MOST help you improve outcomes for young children?

  • Historical child data (screening results, developmental histories, program history, etc)
  • Parental data (demographics, income, etc)
  • Assessment data (school readiness assessments, screenings, etc)
  • Classroom data (school readiness information, performance tracking, classroom  metrics, etc)
  • Teacher/staff data (staff demographics, staff professional development histories, etc)
  • Program data (quality ratings, accreditations, services, staff professional development histories, etc)

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As illustrated in the pie chart, the respondents selected assessment data, historical child data, and classroom data as the most helpful types of data to help them improve outcomes for young children.  These three responses comprise 70% of all responses to this question.  Parental data and teacher/staff data were selected least often by the respondents.  Many respondents commented on their concerns over security of parental data and child data (both historical and assessment data).  The Council's efforts to build a comprehensive early childhood data system, the Texas On-Track System (TOTS), are progressing with a clear vision of data security for all contributors and users.

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While the top three responses, assessment data, classroom data, and historical child data, are still the most popular among the largest respondent groups, the frequency of their responses in these categories is slightly different.  Trainers and teachers value assessment data and classroom data more than administrators, but all three groups chose historical child data at the same rate, approximately 22%.  Administrators value teacher/staff data and program data more than all other respondent groups.

What is the single greatest barrier to ECE collaboration in Texas?

The third survey question asked respondents to select the greatest barrier to ECE collaborations in Texas.  The Council's Collaborations and Standards Subcommittee is working towards improving collaborations among early childhood stakeholders to improve school readiness in Texas.  This question followed a presentation of the projects of the Subcommittee, including the development of a online, cross-sector standards and guidelines crosswalk tool and creating new infant and toddler early learning guidelines for all ECE professionals.

What is the SINGLE GREATEST barrier to ECE collaboration in Texas?

  • Varying standards and regulations
  • Institutional unwillingness
  • Lack of communication among sectors, programs, and institutions
  • Benefit of collaboration are not apparent
  • Accountability and funding challenges

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Nearly 50% of all respondents selected a lack of communication among sectors, programs, and institutions as the greatest barrier to collaboration.  Accountability and funding challenges was the second-most selected response, followed by varying standards and regulations. Most respondents do not consider institutional unwillingness and unapparent benefits of collaboration to be barriers of ECE collaboration in Texas.

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Each of the three largest respondent groups, trainers, teachers, and administrators selected a lack of communication among sectors, programs, and institutions as the greatest barrier, followed by accountability and funding challenges, and varying standards and regulations.  Trainers recognized more institutional unwillingness than other groups, as well as unapparent benefits of collaboration.

What is the greatest ECE workforce challenge in Texas?

The fourth survey question followed a presentation of the training and preparation of the ECE workforce in Texas.  In order to continually improve the ECE workforce, opportunities for career development, higher education, high-quality trainings, and improved standards and expectations and pay scale must be addressed.  The Council asked early childhood professionals to evaluate a list of workforce challenges, and determine the greatest challenge for the ECE workforce.

What is the GREATEST ECE workforce challenge in Texas?

  • Pay scale
  • Access to quality training
  • Access to education
  • Varying standards and expectations
  • Varying career development pathways

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Using the responses from all respondents, pay scale was the overwhelming choice for the greatest ECE workforce challenge.  Respondents also selected access to quality training and access to education at higher levels than other options.  Together, the top three selections comprise more than 85% of all responses.  Currently, the Council is developing a comprehensive, online professional development system for ECE professionals in Texas.  The new professional development system will feature resources to find trainings, higher education opportunities, and scholarships.

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We also sorted this data by the respondent's role in ECE.  Among the respondents, 50% of teachers, administrators, and trainers each selected pay scale as the greatest challenge for the ECE workforce.  Trainers valued access to quality training more than all other respondent groups.

What is the single most important area of knowledge for Texas parents?

The fifth survey question asked respondents to select the area of knowledge that is most important for parents of young children to optimize their children's development.  The Council currently hosts resources for parents on its website, and, the Council will launch a parental outreach campaign to help parents improve school readiness.  This question followed a presentation of the Council's plans to assess the needs of children in our state, and then engage in targeted outreach to parents, providers, and policymakers.

In terms of optimizing the development of young children, what is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT area of knowledge for Texas parents?

  • Knowledge of brain development (social-emotional, cognitive, physical, etc)
  • Knowledge of resources and strategies
  • Knowledge of in-home strategies for supporting healthy development
  • Knowledge on how to evaluate the effectiveness of a program
  • Knowledge of the effects of abuse and neglect

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The respondents selected knowledge of in-home strategies for supporting healthy development as the most important area of knowledge for parents.  Respondents also chose knowledge of brain development and knowledge of resources and services as important areas of knowledge for parents.  The top 3 responses comprise nearly 90% of all responses.

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Because this question directly relates to knowledge of parents, this chart shows their responses to the question, as well as the highest respondent groups.  Parents selected knowledge of brain development as the most important knowledge area for parents at a higher rate than other groups.  All respondent groups selected knowledge of in-home strategies for supporting healthy development as the most important for parents.  None of the parents at the Plenary Session selected knowledge of the effects of abuse and neglect or knowledge on how to evaluate the effectiveness of programs.

What are the three most important channels to reach parents with critical information?

The sixth survey question followed a presentation of the Council's projects of the Parental Outreach and Communications Subcommittee.  One of the Subcommittee's projects is to implement a targeted outreach campaign to assist communities and parents to improve outcomes for young children.  The Council asked early childhood stakeholders to evaluate a list of information and resource channels to reach parents with critical information related to child development and access to resources and services, and decide the three most important channels to reach parents.

What are the THREE MOST IMPORTANT channels to reach parents with critical information related to child development and access to resources and services?

  • Professionals that work with parents of young children (pediatricians, ECE educators, social workers, etc)
  • Radio, television, and print media
  • Community "grasstop" leaders (clergy, librarians, local politicians, etc)
  • Web campaigns (videos, webpages, email, etc)
  • Direct mail
  • Targeted campaigns (supermarket advertising, information embedded in utility mailings, etc)
  • Direct efforts (community organizing, PTA, resource fairs, community development efforts, etc)
  • Parenting classes

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Among all respondents, the three most important channels to reach parents were: professionals that work with parents of young children; direct efforts; and, radio, television, and print media.  Direct mail was only selected by 4% of respondents, and web campaigns had a similarly low response rate.  The Council and the Parental Outreach and Communications Subcommittee will use this information to inform the development and implementation of our targeted outreach campaign in the near future.

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Each of the three highest respondent groups, trainers, teachers, and administrators, selected professionals that work with parents of young children as the most important channel to reach parents, followed by direct efforts and radio, television, and print media.  However, parents selected direct efforts, such as resource fairs and community organizing, as the most important channel to reach parents.  Parents selected web campaigns at even lower rates than other respondents, preferring face-to-face and traditional outreach materials.

What is the most significant barrier for ECE professionals to engage in high-quality professional development?

The seventh survey question asked respondents to select the most significant barrier to engaging in ongoing, high-quality professional development for ECE professionals.  The Council's Workforce and Professional Development Subcommittee is working towards improving the ECE workforce in Texas to improve school readiness for Texas children.  This survey question followed a presentation of the Subcommittee's projects, including the new professional development system.

What is the MOST SIGNIFICANT barrier for ECE professionals in continuing to engage in ongoing, high-quality professional development?

  • Limited time to engage in high-quality professional development opportunities
  • Limited personal funds to pay for high-quality professional development opportunities
  • Limited program funds to pay for high-quality professional development opportunities
  • Limited access to high-quality professional development opportunities
  • A lack of political and public policy support for high-quality professional development opportunities

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Early childhood stakeholders selected limited program funds as the most significant barrier for ECE professionals seeking high-quality professional development.  Limited personal funds and a lack of political and public policy support for high-quality professional development were also selected as significant barriers for ECE professionals.  Only 8% of respondents selected limited access to high-quality professional development as a barrier, suggesting that most ECE stakeholders are able to access high-quality professional development.

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Both teachers and trainers selected limited program funds, limited personal funds, and a lack of political and public policy support as the most significant barriers to high-quality professional development.  However, administrators selected limited time as their second most significant barrier to professional development.  More teachers selected limited personal funds for professional development, which may also be related to the high number of responses selecting pay scale as the greatest ECE workforce challenge.

What problem or challenge is a QRIS most likely to solve?

The final question followed a presentation of the projects of the Data and Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) Subcommittee.  The Council is currently developing recommendations for a Texas QRIS, a system to rate the quality of ECE programs and assist programs with quality improvement.  Early childhood stakeholders evaluated a list of problems and challenges in ECE in Texas, and selected the problem or challenge that will most likely be solved if Texas were to have a QRIS.

What problem or challenge is a QRIS MOST LIKELY to solve?

  • Child outcomes
  • Program development
  • Parent knowledge
  • Funding decisions
  • Unifying standards and regulations

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Early childhood stakeholders selected program development as the problem or challenge that a Texas QRIS would be most likely to solve.  Unifying standards and regulations was the second problem most likely to be solved by a QRIS, followed by funding decisions.  Parent knowledge was selected by only 5% of respondents.

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The three largest respondent groups each selected program development as the challenge most likely to be solved by a Texas QRIS.  They also selected unifying standards and regulations and funding decisions as the second and third challenge most likely to be solved by a QRIS.

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