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Abt Evaluates Family and Early Childhood Workforce Needs for Rhode Island’s PDG B-5


  • Rhode Island’s PDG program funds needed supports for children from birth through age 5.
  • Abt and partners worked to identify needs and resources for the early childhood workforce and families served.
  • We produced detailed reports outlining the challenges and benefits in these areas.
The Challenge

Rhode Island’s Preschool Development Grant – Birth through Age Five (PDG) grant is being used to implement a plan to ensure all children from birth through age 5 (B-5) are supported by services and programs that will prepare them for lifelong success. To identify goals for the many public services that address a child’s wellbeing, the state hired Abt Global and our partners (Bellwether Education Partners and Dr. Stephen Buka from Brown University) to conduct an evaluation of the PDG initiative in the state, including a needs assessment to identify what challenges need to be addressed to meet the state’s goals.

The Approach

Abt conducted a Family Needs Assessment from a statewide sample to understand not only families’ needs, but their knowledge of, access to, and experience with B-5 programs such as Early Intervention services, Family Home Visiting, Early Head Start, Head Start, child care, and State Pre-K. We also conducted follow-up focus groups with subsets of parents who were using different forms of early childhood education (ECE) programming or were not part of the ECE system. This work included a descriptive outcome study on the effects of PDG-related efforts to improve coordination and quality of child and family services.

Abt also conducted the state’s Workforce Needs Assessment to help the state plan for improved staffing and content quality for its B-5 programs. Additionally, we delivered a desk review of relevant research and policy documents on the ECE workforce issues and needs nationwide.

Finally, Abt also worked with state data offices to help develop a coordinated statewide system to allow access to relevant data in future policy initiatives.

The Results

Abt delivered robust reports for both sectors. The findings for the Family Needs assessment include:

  • Across all demographics, families identified access to affordable childcare and care close to home as their top needs.
  • Vulnerable families are nearly twice as likely to report at least one or more barriers to services as less-vulnerable families, and nearly three times as likely to encounter multiple barriers.
  • That said, more than half of families report that early childhood programs offer “a lot” of benefits pertaining to child development and parenting skills. Unfortunately, families of children with special needs have less consistently beneficial experiences.
  • Non-English-speaking families and families of older children within the cohort were more likely to report receiving “a lot” of benefit from their programs.

Key findings for the Workforce assessment include:

  • Rhode Island’s B-5 workforce has significant experience working with the targeted cohorts, both children and parents.
  • Absenteeism is relatively high among staff.
  • B-5 teacher and front-line staff salaries are low in Rhode Island, as is the case nationwide. Compensation levels for the B-5 workforce are comparable to or lower than those of similarly educated workers in other industries, depending on the specific role.
  • Although the supply of qualified teachers to support state Pre-K expansion appears to be adequate, the quality and stability of other sectors (particularly childcare) will likely be impacted if current teachers leave to teach in state Pre-K classrooms.