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

2023 PA Equity in ECE Champion Award Winners

The Pennsylvania Equity in Early Childhood Education Champion Award brings awareness to and highlights the equity work being done within Pennsylvania’s early childhood education and afterschool settings, by child care, evidence-based home visiting and early intervention professionals and Organizations which support Pennsylvania’s Early Childhood Education programs and individuals, 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  recognizes outstanding achievements in advancing equity by individuals and early childhood education and/or afterschool programs. Pennsylvania invited 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.

See the 2023 Pennsylvania Equity in Early Childhood Education Champion Awardees.

The following are categories of eligible entities. All must be physically located and operating within Pennsylvania and providing early childhood education services or supports relating to Pennsylvania’s families/children.

Early Childhood Education Individuals

Individuals, employed at a Pennsylvania certified/licensed child care, afterschool, Early Intervention, or an OCDEL funded evidence-based Home Visiting program (Nurse Family Partnership, Early Head Start, Family Check Up, Healthy Families America, Parents as Teachers). Individuals must be employed at the eligible program at the time of submission.

Early Childhood Education Programs

  • 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 Home Visiting: OCDEL funded evidence-base home visiting programs (Nurse Family Partnership, Early Head Start, Family Check Up, Healthy Families America, Parents as Teachers) are eligible to submit a nomination as it relates to home visiting services and equity.

Organizations which support Pennsylvania’s Early Childhood Education programs and individuals

Those who were 2022 awardees in the Gold, Silver, and Bronze categories are not eligible for submission for the 2023 Pennsylvania’s Equity in ECE Champion Award.

See the 2022 Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awardees.

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, afterschool or organization which supports Pennsylvania’s Early Childhood Education programs and individuals. Self-applications are accepted.

Window for 2023 submissions has passed. See 2023 Equity in ECE Award winners!

Submissions will be determined complete when each question has a full and complete response. Incomplete submissions may not be scored.

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

Those who score in the Gold, Silver or Bronze level 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 2023 Month of the Young Child with press and promotion.

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.
  • SCRIPT-NC 2021 Webinar: Using Children’s Books to Support Identity, Equity, and Inclusion: This presentation unpacks the many ways in which children’s books can play a significant role in supporting each and every child and family. Explore the concepts of mirrors, windows, and sliding doors, selection criteria that enable children to both have their lives reflected and to gain insight to the lives of others. Access a new checklist for examining books for bias, get high-quality resources that share Black and Asian experiences, and learn ways in which children’s books can be used to enhance STEM learning for children with and without disabilities. Access to books in multiple formats and languages is also part of this look at how to build literacy and learning into an early childhood course or across an early childhood program. Presenters: SCRIPT-NC team with Hsiu-Wen Yang and Sarah Pedonti from the STEM Innovations for Inclusion in Early Education Center
  • Including Disability in Early Childhood Curricula: Evaluating and Using Children’s Books (NAEYC) This article from the Winter 2021 edition of NAEYC, shares updated guidance regarding how to evaluate children’s texts about disabilities. It also highlights a sampling of high-quality books along with conversation prompts and extension activities that early childhood educators can use in their settings.
  • 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.