Equitable access to high-quality early education programs (EEPs) is essential to promoting children's development and success in school and life. Though it is recognized that leadership is a key driver of organizational performance, there is limited rigorous evidence on its role in enhancing EEP quality and outcomes. The Early Childhood Support Organization (ECSO) initiative, launched in 2020, aims to enhance EEP quality by supporting leaders in improving organizational climate, offering professional development opportunities for educators, promoting curriculum and child assessments, and facilitating continuous quality improvement. This initiative is a public-private partnership between New Profit and the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, with the goal of integrating this support model into the state's strategy for quality improvement.
This report presents findings from the initiative’s ongoing implementation and impact evaluations conducted by Abt Global. Key findings include:
- On the whole, ECSOs succeeded in providing the types and intensity of supports to EEPs as planned and according to the initiative’s theory of change.
- EEP leaders were more confident in their leadership skills and engaged in significantly more positive leader practices than leaders in comparison programs.
- Educators in ECSO-supported EEPs maintained a positive view of program climate and positive intentions to stay in the field, an important outcome given the stressed EEP environment across Massachusetts and beyond.
- After their first year of ECSO supports, ECSO programs did not have higher observed classroom quality than comparison programs, though data from Cohort 2 suggest that another year of supports may lead to positive change.
These findings, though interim, shed light on the initiative thus far, showing positive impacts on leadership beliefs, attitudes, and practices after one year, and as the second year commences for Cohort 3, further changes in leader and educator practices are expected, with the potential for positive changes within participating EEPs compared to similar programs without these supports.