Understanding Leadership in Early Care and Education: A Literature Review
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation
Leadership is widely recognized as an essential driver of organizational performance and improvement, but little is known about who participates in leadership in early care and education (ECE) center-based settings and its role in improving quality and outcomes for staff and children. Additionally, information on how to define key constructs associated with leadership and the activities that demonstrate leadership is lacking. The Early Care and Education Leadership Study (ExCELS) project aims to: (1) fill the definitional and measurement gaps to understand what leadership looks like as defined by who participates in leadership in center-based ECE settings and the ways in which leaders can improve quality experiences for children in ECE settings, (2) develop a short-form measure of ECE leadership, and (3) identify actionable leadership quality improvement initiatives and methods of evaluating them. The purpose of this literature review is to understand what is known about what leadership looks like within center-based ECE settings and how it functions to improve center quality and, in turn, children’s experiences and outcomes. We look to the literature to understand what evidence exists about the features, practices, and outcomes of ECE leadership so we can build a theory of change that will guide the rest of the work of ExCELS.