Author Archives: Ashley LiBetti

Seriously, Stop Asking If Head Start “Works”

Last month, yet another study came out examining the effects of Head Start on children’s long-term outcomes. The findings were lackluster: Depending on the cohort of children and outcomes you’re looking at, the effect of Head Start was either negative or non-existent. 

This study is noteworthy for a few reasons. It uses the same analytical approach as a high-profile 2009 study on Head Start, conducted by Harvard economist David Deming, which found Head Start had unquestionably positive results. And in a twist I’m definitely reading too much into, a former Deming student is one of the lead co-authors on this new study. People are also paying attention to this study because the findings go against a truly massive body of evidence on Head Start, which largely shows that Head Start has positive effects on children and families. 

But what snagged my attention is the fact that the research question at the heart of this study is irritatingly useless. It asks, essentially, “Does Head Start work?” That’s a question we answered a long time ago. And the answer is: It depends.

Again, the existing research on Head Start overall is positive. But we also know that there is wide variation in quality between individual Head Start providers. It’s a valuable federal program that can get better.  Continue reading

Media: “NM’s $10 million bet on teacher recruitment” in the Albuquerque Journal

I have a new op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal about New Mexico’s recent teacher recruitment bills. The state struggles with teacher shortages, specifically teachers of color. Six in ten students of color will go through their entire schooling without having a teacher who looks like them. As you’ve read in Katrina Boone, Justin Trinidad, and Cara Jackson‘s work, that’s a BIG problem.

The state is investing $10 million in two new programs to address this shortage, but I argue that they’re divvying up their dollars the wrong way:

The bulk of this investment is going to the Teacher Preparation Affordability Act, which targets new prospective teachers. A much smaller amount of money is allocated to the Grow Your Own Teachers Act, which focuses on current education assistants. But this is the wrong way to divvy up the pot: The state should be banking more on current education assistants and less on prospective teachers.

Education assistants are the perfect population to recruit from to address teacher diversity and retention concerns. Nationally, paraeducators – like New Mexico’s education assistants – are more likely to be bilingual, born outside the U.S., and nonwhite than current teachers. And they’ve already demonstrated their interest in working in schools. This type of locally focused recruitment strategy isn’t new: Former Public Education Secretary Karen Trujillo, whose dismissal was announced last month, led one such program out of New Mexico State University. But the Grow Your Own Act is particularly promising; it could be the incentive that pushes education assistants into lead teacher positions. According to a recent survey of current New Mexico education assistants, the primary barriers to completing licensure positions are time and money. But if each education assistant enrolled in the program uses the full scholarship amount available to them, that’s only enough to prepare 17 new teachers. By way of comparison, last year, New Mexico had 740 teacher vacancies. The state needs to do much more to recruit teachers of color, and this plan isn’t it.

Read the full piece in the Albuquerque Journal.

This op-ed is part of a series on teacher residencies. Read Bellwether blog posts in the #ResidentExperts series here.

Exploring Pathways Into Early Education: Q&A with Kathy Glazer of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation

Early educators spend all day building baby brains, setting them up for lifelong learning. You would think, then, that they would be supported and paid accordingly. But, as you already know if you’re a reader of Bellwether’s early childhood work, that’s not the case. Early educators actually make less than animal caretakers and desk clerks

The early childhood field is exploring alternative pathways to better compensate and prepare early educators. One such pathway is an early childhood apprenticeship, like the Registered Apprenticeship initiative offered in Virginia. To understand how this apprenticeship operates, I spoke with Kathy Glazer, the President of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF), a key partner in the Registered Apprenticeship program.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Teachers from the ACCA Child Development Center in Annandale, Virginia are celebrated for their completion of early childhood registered apprenticeships at an event in Richmond in March 2019.

Let’s start with the basics. What is the registered apprenticeship and what is VECF’s involvement with it?

The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation leverages a partnership with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry to facilitate and promote registered apprenticeships for early childhood educators. The program allows early childhood employers — specifically, child care directors — to designate early educator employees as apprentices, or be apprentices themselves. 

Apprentices complete a sequence of coursework and on-the-job training based on an individualized professional development plan. They need to complete a certain number of coursework hours; they receive college credit for those. They’re also paired, one-on-one, with a veteran staff member who mentors them and advises their on-the-job training. It takes about two years to go through the program. 

VECF’s role is to facilitate and shape implementation of the apprenticeship program. We identify potential participants and leverage an existing state-funded initiative, Project Pathfinders, to cover the cost of the required college coursework (tuition, fees, textbooks, etc.) so that there’s no cost for apprentices or their employers.

What do apprentices get after completing the program?  Continue reading

Media: “New York City Comptroller Wants to Start Country’s Largest Teacher Residency; Here’s 3 Ways to Make it Successful” in Gotham Gazette

Today in the Gotham Gazette, I have a new opinion piece about a proposed teacher residency in New York City. The residency, put forth by Comptroller Scott Stringer, would be the largest in the country and cost $40 million a year.

An excerpt from my op-ed:

Teacher residencies are a high-potential pathway into the classroom. And Comptroller Stringer’s plan is particularly promising. The residency would be an alternative certification program to prepare new teachers for the classroom. In it, residents would complete a year of training, primarily in the classroom, under the tutelage of an effective mentor teacher. Classroom experience would be complemented by relevant coursework completed at an institution of higher education. Residents would receive a living stipend during the program, and at the end of it, would be able to teach in a classroom of their own.

And there’s reason to believe that Comptroller Stringer may get his way on this. Past analyses out of Stringer’s office called out issues in physical education and arts education, which ultimately led to $124 million in investments in those programs.

Stringer obviously did his homework, and proposed a residency program built on current best practices in the field. But now is the time to think through implementation. Operating an effective residency requires careful planning and design choices. Here’s what would need to be done to ensure this idea works.

Read the full piece in the Gotham Gazette.

This op-ed is part of a series on teacher residencies. Read Bellwether blog posts in the #ResidentExperts series here.

3 Things Head Start Programs Can Do Right Now to Improve Their Practice

Research tells us that, overall, Head Start has positive effects on children’s health, education, and economic outcomes. But there is wide variability in quality from program to program — and, as a field, we don’t understand why. 

Earlier this year, Sara Mead and I tried to figure that out. We published an analysis, conducted over three years, of several of the highest performing Head Start programs across the country. We specifically looked at programs that produce significant learning gains for children. Our goal was to understand what made them so effective.

As part of this project, we provided detailed, tactical information about exemplars’ design and practices. We hope to serve as a resource and starting point for other Head Start programs interested in experimenting with something new and, potentially, more effective.

Here are three action steps that Head Start programs can take right now to improve their practice:  Continue reading