Equity and Early Childhood Education (ECE) in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Key is committed to expanding the knowledge and advancing the efforts of equitable practice. Part of this journey has required identifying what is equity, and how to ensure equitable and high-quality service of care for the children, families, professionals, and communities.

Equity has been defined by many organizations as an effort or strategy to ensure all who need services have access to and an understanding about opportunities. This effort recognizes not everyone comes from the same starting place, and regardless of the identity or financial background of someone, there may be a need for assistance in different and unique ways. Since opportunities arise in personal and professional life, having the lens of equity and equitable practice, helps everyone succeed and benefit from these efforts.

Current events have engaged education professionals to reflect on practice and identify ways educators can play a critical role in expanding the awareness of equity. As administrations and programs find opportunities to advance their understanding of equity and equitable practices, part of that journey is providing clear strategies and examples of treating everyone with an equal amount of respect and care, regardless of race, class, culture, gender, sexual orientation, ability/disability, language, national origin, indigenous heritage, religion, or other identities.

Equity is part of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) larger framework, and is component of the narrative in the education profession. The combination of all four concepts allows for an innovative and newer approach of previously established diversity initiatives.

While diversity is used in this framework to recognize that varied experiences and backgrounds from those who are similar, inclusion is the effort to invite individuals from varying backgrounds to be a part of the work. Inclusion requires action in which all participants can connect, engage, collaborate, and contribute to a space and taking into consideration individual uniqueness.

Equity recognizes that not everyone comes from the same starting place, and regardless of the identity or financial background of someone, there may be a need for assistance in different and unique ways.

Belonging is the element of this framework that keeps participants engaged and active in the group. Belonging creates the space for individuals to feel valued and respected as they bring forth their diverse experiences and suggestions to the collective group.

All these concepts—diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging—are tied to retention of a high-quality workforce in the early childhood education profession.

As organizations continue to reflect on their journey with equity, here are several resources that may be helpful.

Pennsylvania’s Equity in Early Childhood Education Champion Awards

Due Dates & Timeline:

Submissions Open

Submissions Close

Feb. 7, 2022
5 PM EST


Awardees Contacted via Email

March 2022


Awardees Announced During Month of the Young Child

Apr. 4, 2022

The intention of Pennsylvania’s Equity in Early Childhood Education Nominations is to bring awareness to and highlight the equity work being done within Pennsylvania’s early childhood education and afterschool settings, and by child care, evidence-based home visiting and early intervention professionals, as it aligns with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Equity and Inclusion Toolkit, and with the position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education Position Statement.

PDE has defined equity in education as, “every student having access to the resources and rigor they need at the right moment in their education across race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender, identity, family background and/or family income.”

NAEYC published the Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education Position Statement (2019) to provide guidance around the core values of NAEYC that “emphasize diversity and inclusion and respect the dignity and worth of each individual.”

Pennsylvania will recognize outstanding achievements in advancing equity by individuals and early childhood education and/or afterschool programs. Pennsylvania invites nominations of individuals or programs that have demonstrated support to children and their families through: embracing diversity and full inclusion as strengths, upholding fundamental principles of fairness and justice, and/or working to eliminate structural inequities that limit equitable learning opportunities.

Nominations/Applications must include details as to how the individual or program/organization has implemented at least one of the NAEYC Recommendations for Administrators of Schools, Centers, Family Child Care Homes, and Other Early Childhood Education Settings.

  1. Providing high-quality early learning services that demonstrate a commitment to equitable outcomes for all children.
  2. Taking proactive steps with measurable goals to recruit and retain educators and leaders who reflect the diversity of children and families served and who meet professional expectations.
  3. Employing staff who speak the languages of the children and families served.
  4. Ensuring that any formal assessment tools are designed and validated for use with the children being assessed.
  5. Recognizing the value of serving a diverse group of children and striving to increase the range of diversity among those served.
  6. Providing regular time and space to foster a learning community among administrators and staff regarding equity issues.
  7. Establishing collaborative relationships with other social service agencies and providers within the community.
  8. Establishing clear protocols for dealing with children’s challenging behaviors and providing teaching staff with consultation and support to address them effectively and equitably.
  9. Creating meaningful, ongoing opportunities for multiple voices with diverse perspectives to engage in leadership and decision making.

Nominations/Applicants may also adapt and implement one or more of the Key Resources identified in the PDE Equity and Inclusion Toolkit:

  1. Prevention: Needs Assessment; School Culture and Climate; Training and Development.
    • Examples: Fostering equitable work environment and a sense of belonging for all individuals; Providing professional development opportunities specifically for Black, Indigenous, (and) People of Color (BIPOC) staff, as well as unconscious bias training for all staff.
  2. Response: Safety First; Messaging and Media; Targeting students
    • Example: Developing a plan for future use in response to an incident of bias, discrimination, harassment, and violence.
  3. Recovery: Ensuring Mental Well-Being of Staff, Students, and Community; Debrief and Action Planning for Future Prevention Efforts
    • Example: Providing safe outlets through which staff can deliver feedback or air grievances.

As part of the nomination/application process, submissions will also include information as to Lessons Learned through their process of implementing at least one of the NAEYC Recommendations for Administrators of Schools, Centers, Family Child Care Homes and Other Early Childhood Education Settings.

The following are categories of eligible entities. All must be physically located and operating within Pennsylvania and providing services to Pennsylvania’s children.

  • Individuals: Individuals, employed at a Pennsylvania certified/licensed child care, afterschool, Early Intervention, or an OCDEL funded evidence-based Family Support program. Individuals must be employed at the eligible program at the time of submission.
  • Early Childhood Education/Child Care and Afterschool: Programs must be certified/licensed by Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS), and in good standing with DHS at time of submission. In addition, a Federal Head Start/Early Head Start grantee that operates a program that is certified/licensed by DHS may submit a nomination for the DHS certified/licensed program. Nomination categories include:
    • Child Care Center
    • Group Child Care Home
    • Family Child Care Home
    • Afterschool Program
  • Early Intervention: Programs providing Early Intervention services and supports are eligible to submit a nomination as it relates to early intervention services and equity.
  • Evidence-based Family Support: OCDEL funded evidence-base Family Support programs are eligible to submit a nomination.

Submissions can be an application (apply on your own or a program/organization’s behalf), or nomination (submit on behalf of another individual or program/organization) to be acknowledged for their work around equity in the early childhood education or afterschool setting. Self-applications are accepted.

Applications/nominations and any supporting documentation to be submitted via electronic online submission process only.

For questions or concerns, please contact Mary Hall at marhal@pakeys.org.

Submissions will be determined complete when each question has a response, with exception to Optional: Upload photos or other additional documentation to support the narrative on how the individual or program/organization has been implemented.

Completed submissions will be scored by Nomination Selection Committee(s) using a scoring rubric. Applicants will be identified as one of three separate levels: Gold, Silver, Bronze.

Each completed submission will receive an official signed and framed certificate of placement level (Gold, Silver, Bronze) from the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), appropriate for display. Completed submissions will also receive electronic copy and supporting images for their own digital use on websites, social media, electronic communications, etc.

Completed submissions will be highlighted during April 2022 Month of the Young Child, with press and promotion.

Completed submissions will be selected at random to win an Early Learning Equity Classroom Supply Pack.

All scoring and placement level (Gold, Silver and Bronze) decisions are final.

Resources for A Greater Understanding of Equity

  • Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education Position Statement (National Association for the Education of Young Children): This position statement is one of five foundational documents NAEYC has developed in collaboration with the early childhood profession. With its specific focus on advancing equity in early childhood education, this statement complements and supports the other foundational documents that (1) define developmentally appropriate practice, (2) set professional standards and competencies for early childhood educators, (3) define the profession’s code of ethics, and (4) outline standards for early learning programs.
  • Pennsylvania Equity and Inclusion Toolkit (Pennsylvania Department of Education): This toolkit is a collection of resources that are integrally linked to PDE’s mission to ensure that every learner has access to a world-class education system that academically prepares children and adults to succeed as productive citizens.
  • Racial Equity Report 2021 (Pennsylvania Department of Human Services): The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) serves more than three million Pennsylvanians through the programs and work conducted through agencies. Many of those served have experienced marginalization due to their race, sexual orientation, gender, disability, poverty, or a combination of more than one of these factors. Because of this, DHS has an opportunity to be a part of a solution to address inequity in society through work. The data, goals, and work in progress outlined in this document detail opportunities to start to reverse centuries of inequity that still stains this nation. The department cannot undo the past, but their commitment will be a part of the solution.
  • Professional Development Opportunities: Looking for professional development surrounding the topic of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging? There are several offerings happening throughout the Commonwealth! Check out the Pennsylvania’s Professional Development (PD) Registry and learn more about upcoming offerings.