The early childhood field received significant attention throughout the pandemic, generating an important opportunity for long-overdue systemic change. As leaders grapple with workforce shortages, funding disparities, system-wide inequity, COVID-19 recovery efforts, and more, their need for support is greater than ever.
Earlier this year, Bank Street’s Learning Starts At Birth initiative received funding to launch its Early Childhood Policy Fellowship, a new professional learning opportunity designed to support mid-career early childhood policy and systems leaders in navigating real-world challenges and problems of practice to advance high-quality equitable systems. The fellowship will prioritize Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) applicants, recognizing they have been historically excluded from policy leadership positions.
Beginning September 2022, the fellowship will welcome up to 15 leaders in the field to participate in cohort-based learning experiences designed to deepen their leadership skills, build on their early childhood education policy expertise, and strengthen their impact within their current organization to build equitable early childhood systems. Fellows will join monthly virtual convenings, receive coaching from an experienced mentor, and partake in professional development workshops, all while maintaining their current leadership roles within the field.
“In these demanding times, it can be difficult to find the space and resources needed to build the skills and knowledge that support our individual growth as leaders in the field,” said Demetria Joyce, Program Director, Bank Street Education Center. “A few years ago, I participated in a fellowship with the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes and that experience changed the trajectory of my career, providing me with tangible tools and resources to not only sharpen my leadership skills but also to deepen my knowledge of early care and education systems. At Bank Street, our goal is to provide fellows with a similarly transformative experience.”
During the year-long program, participants will build a network of like-minded professionals by regularly connecting with and learning from other fellows as they reflect on their work and co-generate new ideas. Together, members of the inaugural cohort will strengthen their ability to strategize at the systems level and learn how certain actions and decisions can make an impact over time. Discussion topics and learning activities will help participants refine their understanding of the complex early care and education system and build off of their strengths to create strong systems that center equity.
The cornerstone of the fellowship is a capstone project, which will enable fellows to apply new skills and knowledge from the program to their own work in real-time. The project will leverage fellows’ existing role as early childhood leaders to help drive sustainable systems-level change within their current sphere of influence. Coaching opportunities will support fellows as they apply new learnings to their capstone project.
The Early Childhood Policy Fellowship draws on Bank Street College’s deep expertise as a leader in early childhood education, which spans over a century. This includes extensive experience supporting adult learners through programs at the Bank Street Graduate School and through professional learning opportunities in the Bank Street Education Center. Bank Street is also home to the Straus Center and the renowned National Center for Children in Poverty, which conducts research to support the creation of effective policy for young children and their families.
“Research shows that the brain develops most rapidly in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. Stronger investments in the early childhood system are essential if we are to realize the full potential of this critical period of childhood development. There is no better place to start than with leadership development,” said Emily Sharrock, Associate Vice President, Bank Street Education Center. “We hope this fellowship supports the personal growth of participating leaders and serves as a catalyst for the development of new approaches that better promote equity and developmentally meaningful experiences for all.”
The inaugural cohort will include participants from across the country who hold roles at local and state government agencies as well as several agencies that directly support governments. Members of the first cohort will be announced later this summer.
Learning Starts At Birth leverages Bank Street’s research and hands-on expertise in early childhood and educator preparation to impact policy and practice so all infants and toddlers can have access to the culturally responsive and developmentally meaningful learning experiences that support cognitive, social, and emotional development. To learn more about the Early Childhood Policy Fellowship, click here. To learn more about the work of Bank Street’s Learning Starts At Birth initiative, click here.