What Research Tells Us

Leadership matters when it comes to creating quality early learning and development experiences. Research shows the value of ongoing investment in early childhood leadership development.


Quality early childhood experiences matter.

  • Investments in quality early education have high rates of return for society. Investing in early childhood education has been shown to increase school success, improve economic status, and reduce incarceration.

Capable program administrators matter.

  • To create fiscally sound early childhood programs with learning environments that nurture and challenge young children and work environments that develop, support, and retain skilled teachers, strong leadership is essential.
  • Center directors, family child care providers, and elementary school principals play a vital role in ensuring that children experience a smooth transition from the early years to the early grades.

Specialized training in both early childhood education and program administration matters.

  • Administrators’ ability to attract and retain effective teachers in their programs, establish norms of ongoing quality improvement, and oversee other facets of program operations is directly related to their own level of formal education, experience, and specialized training.
  • Most early childhood directors have not received specialized training before being promoted into their leadership positions.
  • The scope of responsibilities for center directors is similar to elementary school principals, yet director qualifications contrast sharply with the qualifications for principals.

Credentials matter.

  • An administrator credential identifies what an effective director needs to know and be able to do. Achieving an administrator credential is linked to more effective administrative practices in community-based early childhood programs.

Quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) matter.

  • QRIS is an effective strategy for increasing the qualifications of directors and improving the quality of leadership and management practices in early childhood programs.

Cross-sector early childhood leadership development matters.

  • In order to build comprehensive early learning and development systems, states must address early childhood leadership development across private and publicly funded program models.
Read a compilation of research