A Noble Bet in Early Care and Education: Lessons from One Community's Experience

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Rand Corporation, 2002 - Education - 183 pages
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The Early Childhood Initiative (ECI) was an ambitious effort launched inPittsburgh in 1996 to provide high-quality early care and education servicesto at-risk children, on a countywide scale and under the direction of localneighborhood agencies. Its goal was to improve the preparation of thesechildren for kindergarten, promote their long-term educational attainment,and give them the early tools to help them become productive, successfulmembers of society. Initially funded by foundations and private donors, ECIplanned to become financially sustainable over the long term by persuadingthe state of Pennsylvania to commit to funding the program at the end of astartup period.Four years after its launch, ECI was far short of its enrollment targets,the cost per child was significantly higher than expected, and the effort tosecure a commitment of state funding had failed. ECI was therefore convertedto a small-scale demonstration program, leaving a residue of disappointmentin many communities around the county. Although findings from a parallelstudy suggest that participating children may have derived substantialbenefits from ECI, it failed to achieve its goals in terms of scale andsustainability.In the aftermath of ECI's scale-down, RAND was commissioned by the HeinzEndowments (ECI's largest funder) to study why ECI fell short of itsobjectives and to learn from its mistakes. The findings of the study arepresented in this report, which summarizes ECI's organizational history,analyzes and explains critical weaknesses that hindered ECI's ability tosucceed, and articulates lessons to inform the design and implementation offuture large-scale reform initiatives, whether in early care and educationor in other areas of social services.
 

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Contents

INTRODUCTION
1
THE AIMS AND METHODS OF THIS STUDY
4
THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY IN EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION
7
THE NOBLE BET
11
THE BOTTOM LINE
13
Community
15
Positive Aspects of ECIs Legacy
16
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE EARLY CHILDHOOD
19
CONCLUSION
80
EXPLAINING ECIS COSTS
81
COST PER CHILDHOUR
82
ADJUSTING FOR SERVICE MIX
83
ADJUSTING FOR FIXED COSTS
84
SUMMARY OF COST FACTORS
86
CONCLUSION
89
SUSTAINABILITY AND THE STRATEGY TO SECURE STATE FUNDING
91

THE PLANNING PERIOD
23
THE ECI BUSINESS PLAN
25
LAUNCH
29
PLANNING IN THE NEIGHBORHOODS
30
QUALITY ASSURANCE
33
TRANSITIONS IN ECI MANAGEMENT
34
EARLY PROBLEMS
35
Expansion of the Committee Oversight Structure
36
Neighborhood Planning and Approval Delays
37
Head Start Initiatives
40
FURTHER REASSESSMENT AND REVISION
41
The Third Business Plan
42
SCALEDOWN
45
CONCLUSION
46
ECIS THEORY OF ACTION
49
THE ADMINISTRATIVE BURDEN
52
THE TIME NEEDED FOR COMMUNITYBASED PROCESS
54
COMMUNITY CONTROL VS QUALITY CONTROL
57
THE ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURE
59
Absence of a Board
60
Consequences of Administrative Complexity
62
CONCLUSION
64
ECI SERVICES DEMAND SUPPLY AND INCENTIVES
65
WHO WOULD ECI SERVE?
67
WHAT SERVICES WOULD BE REQUESTED BY PARENTS AND LEAD AGENCIES?
68
The Demand for FullDay Care
70
Incentives to Neighborhood Agencies
71
WHO WOULD PROVIDE ECI SERVICES?
73
New Providers and Capital Costs
75
ECI and Family ChildCare Providers
77
The Supply of Qualified Labor
79
CHALLENGES FOR THE STATE STRATEGY
92
Short Time Horizons
93
Doubtful Public Commitment to ECE
94
PROBLEMS WITH ECIS STATE STRATEGY
95
Inadequate Engagement of State Officials and Policymakers
96
Education Became Care
97
ECI and the State Subsidy System
98
SUSTAINABILITY IN THE ABSENCE OF A DIRECT STATE COMMITMENT
100
CONCLUSION
102
LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE ALTERNATIVE MODELS AND PUBLICPOLICY IMPLICATIONS
105
Establish an Independent Board and a Clear Administrative Structure
106
Adopt a Clean Direct Theory of Action That Promotes Intended Goals
107
Include All Stakeholders
108
Start with an Independent Review
109
Make a Substantial Investment in Planning and Management
110
Make Sure Bold Visions Are Backed Up by Hardheaded Plans That Acknowledge Political and Policy
111
ALTERNATIVE MODELS FOR THE DESIGN OF ECE INITIATIVES
112
The Chicago ChildParent Center Program
113
Child Care Matters in Southeastern Pennsylvania
115
Focus on Our Future in York County Pennsylvania
117
Focus on Quality in Chicago
118
Concluding Thoughts on Alternative Models
120
IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC POLICY
121
Quality Supplements
122
Professional Development for Providers
124
ECI COST MODELS
127
PLANNED COSTS BASED ON THE ACTUAL SERVICE MIX
132
PLANNED COSTS WITH VARIABLE OPERATING COST ASSUMPTION CORRECTED
135
ACTUAL ECI COSTS
137
REFERENCES
141
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