A Time Use Study of Site Support Personnel in New York City’s UPK Program
Final Report to the Foundation for Child Development
October 7, 2021
If early childhood educators are to provide the types of high quality learning experiences for young children that ensure positive developmental outcomes, then they need ongoing opportunities to hone their pedagogical knowledge and skills. Professional learning for early childhood educators can take many forms (e.g. off-site workshops, continuing education credit at universities, professional learning communities) but increasingly systems leaders are employing individuals in various kinds of technical assistance and consultation roles. Individuals in these roles are often the conduit between policy and practice, supporting teaching teams and team leaders to address problems of practice that directly and indirectly have an impact on young children and their families.
One of the most widely employed site assistance roles is that of coaches, a teacher-leadership role (Mangin, 2014) that involves a collaborative partnership between early childhood professionals (Hanft, Rush & Shelden, 2004), the aim of which is to improve early childhood educators’ “learning and application of child-specific interventions or teaching strategies” (Sheridan, Edwards, Marvin, & Knoche, 2009, p. 382). Working one-on-one or with small groups of educators in local sites of practice, coaches in public preschool programs support teachers to use evidence-based practices and to implement curricula and pedagogical approaches in keeping with state or city guidelines (McLeod, Hardy, & Grifenhagen, 2019).
Aside from instructional coaches there are also personnel who provide technical assistance and support in specialized areas. Some of these personnel, may focus on issues of compliance and policy such as licensing and standards. Others may center their work around particular areas or users of early childhood services such as those who work with families and children with developmental needs or in mental health services. Regardless of the role of these infrastructure personnel as they have been called collectively (Ryan & Whitebook, 2012), their task is to support program staff to improve the quality of their practices in some way.
Much of the research on the early childhood workforce (Institute of Medicine & National Research Council, 2015) investigates early childhood teachers and leaders and not those who work in support and technical assistance roles across a range of programs or sites. The research that does exist concentrates mostly on different forms of instructional coaching as part of content focused interventions (e.g. Brenneman, Lange, & Nayfield, 2019; Brock & Beaman-Diglia, 2018; Neuman & Cunningham, 2009). Policymakers and leaders of pre-K systems therefore, have little empirical information to guide how they structure the range of technical assistance and support they provide to pre-kindergarten programs.
This study sought to understand the work of a range of site support roles in New York City’s (NYC) universal pre-kindergarten (pre-K) program. Employing time use methodology, the main research question guiding this study was how do a group of NYC pre-K site support personnel use their time? We also sought to answer the sub-questions: what are the common activities site support personnel spend their time doing and for how long? and how do activities and time use vary across the demographics and roles of site support personnel?