Cross-Sector Program Selection, Quality Improvement, and System-Building in Early Childhood Education: Evidence from a Statewide Reform in Louisiana

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Magouirk, Preston, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Bassok, Daphna, CU-Leadshp, Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia

The early care and education (ECE) system is fragmented across three sectors of center-based programs. These sectors, which include subsidized child care programs, federal Head Start programs, and state or local pre-Kindergarten programs, were founded for different purposes, receive disparate levels of funding, are subject to different standards and regulations, and operate separately from one another. As a result of this fragmentation, parents often struggle to access high-quality programs that meet their needs and policymakers lack systemwide data to track and support quality improvement at scale. In this dissertation, I use rich administrative and survey data from a sweeping ECE reform in Louisiana to provide new insights about the ways cross-sector fragmentation creates challenges, and to highlight ways Louisiana has managed to address these challenges. In the first paper, with Daphna Bassok, Anna Justine Markowitz, and Daniel Player, we assess low-income parents’ preferences, their search and selection processes, and the degree to which these preferences and processes varied based on the sector they ultimately selected for their children. In the second paper, I, with Daphna Bassok and Anna Justine Markowitz, examine both levels of systemwide quality and multiyear improvement trends in Louisiana using four years of data from each publicly-funded ECE program in the state. Finally, in the third paper, I examine local ECE leaders’ experiences building cohesive, cross-sector networks and implementing Louisiana’s reform initiatives. Each paper provides new insights on problems policymakers hope to address when unifying ECE system quality and governance across sectors. Results have implications for future reforms in Louisiana and elsewhere.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Early Childhood, Accountability
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