Preparing children for success: EarlyEdU Alliance

Written by CoMotion Staff / September 24, 2018

Gail E. Joseph, Associate Professor, University of Washington

One of the most profound ways to have societal impact is to prepare a workforce of educators in the field of early childhood education, teachers who in turn prepare children for success in school and in life. However, far too many in this field face numerous barriers to obtaining degrees or accessing these programs.

The EarlyEdU Alliance ®, now active in 34 states and led by the College of Education at the University of Washington, grew out of a dream of founding director and Primary Investigator Gail Joseph to change this narrative, by giving early childhood teachers access to affordable teaching materials, relevant coursework and community and mentorship in order to complete their degree.

Joseph’s dreams will now get even further support as she becomes the first faculty member to hold an endowed professorship with the College of Education, made possible by the recent gift by The Bezos Family Foundation of $3 million to the University of Washington for its work in early education.

(left to right) Jennifer McCullar, Randi Shapiro and Gail Dykstra

Initially funded by the Office of Head Start, Joseph’s higher education initiative grew from “Head Start University” to a national alliance of higher education institutions offering EarlyEdU courses. With the help of Gail Dykstra, Senior Manager, Innovation Development with CoMotion, a business model was developed that distributed financial support between philanthropists, government and other funding agencies. “CoMotion has been instrumental in helping us build a successful Alliance through the development of licenses that clearly outline our relationship with our members, promote the EarlyEdU approach, and protect our intellectual property,” says Randi Shapiro, Executive Director of the EarlyEdU Alliance.  Shapiro oversees the program and works locally and nationally to forge partnerships that support its mission.

The EarlyEdU Alliance, which consists of in-person and online foundational and practice-based courses developed by national experts in early learning, a “coaching companion” which helps reach students in remote locations, and a community of early childhood scholars and experts for reflection and practice, is free to individuals with a relevant affiliation, institutions of higher education serving early childhood teachers and state and national organizations charged with improving the early childhood workforce.  The program also offers monthly webinars, video-based feedback, research opportunities and a place to share ideas. The opportunities for collaboration ensure that the course materials and activities reflect the diverse communities they serve.

While structured as a domestic program, a charity association based in China approached the EarlyEdU Alliance to learn how to adopt the program for their use in China’s growing field of early learning. Not sure how to move forward with the current structure on an international scale, the EarlyEdU Alliance team turned to CoMotion for ideas. Quick on their feet, the team of Dykstra and her colleague Jennifer McCullar devised a pilot program to distribute the coursework and resources in multiple steps. This distribution model could become a new source of revenue.

To date, the EarlyEdU Alliance has served over an estimated 4900 students of early education, impacting the learning of over 49,000 children. With the creative insights of CoMotion’s innovation managers, this program has soared and is leaving a positive imprint on the lives of early educators, children and their families.