our research process and findings.

Barancik Foundation researched Sarasota County’s system of early learning to better understand how to invest in this resilient and essential industry.  Our research process was three-part: 1.) interviews with key stakeholders; 2.) a survey of teachers and center directors; and 3.) geo-maps showing center quality, capacity and price point by zip code.  This effort is done in partnership with the center directors, area foundations, and the school district.  Here is a summary of what we learned and how we plan to invest in the system of early learning.

Recruit and Retain Talented Teachers

The greatest influence on student success is the quality of the teacher.  Unfortunately, the early learning industry is experiencing a workforce shortage with an estimated 25% attrition rate during the pandemic.  This shrinkage places significant strain on the remaining teachers.  

We have proposed a recruitment campaign to identify new teachers.  We will also award retention bonuses to loyal educators, who for too many years have been paid below a living wage.

The top challenges reported by center directors were workforce shortages and turnover.

Relative to the supports teachers and directors need to do a good job:

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Increase Behavioral Development Supports

In most instances, behavioral issues identified at an early age can be remedied before they impede a child’s relational or academic performance.  We plan to expand a proven model already in existence in the community where trained behavioral coaches work alongside teachers, students and families to help work through behavioral challenges.  We will draw upon a network of caring professionals who are experts in childhood development and parenting education.

The majority of teachers/directors agreed classroom challenges are related to kids needing more behavioral health support than currently provided.

Overwhelmingly, respondents said behavioral health support for early learners is important to their ability to do a good job.

The large majority of participants agreed the quality of early learning could be negatively impacted by children needing more mental/behavioral health support.

Leadership and Administration Training for Center Directors

It’s often said, “It all comes down to leadership.”  This holds true in childcare.  Our researched revealed teacher satisfaction and the quality of the childcare center is heavily dependent upon the Center Director. 

Directors expressed strong desire for supportive mentor relationships with other directors.  They also said they want to continue to develop their own leadership and business acumen in order to benefit the children and families they serve.

Directors were asked, “What are your future aspirations in your career?”

Of concern — and pointing back to the need to recruit more talent into the industry — 43% of directors said their aspiration is to retire.   Also of worry, 56% of directors said the business model for their center is not sustainable.

Despite the challenges of the job, 87% are extremely or very satisfied in their job.  And, when asked if they would choose the early learning profession again, 80% of directors said “Yes!”

In response to these findings, Barancik Foundation and its partners will establish a director mentorship cohort that offers business training.  We will work with center directors to craft the specifics of this program and provide them with resources to meet their leadership development goals. 

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we do the work.

With these findings in hand, we will now start our work. We have convened key partners and will be working together to create more opportunities for high-quality childcare. We thank the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County and YMCA of Southwest Florida, who have been instrumental in identifying areas that can be improved in our system.  

We are also grateful to our Sarasota County School District, who has identified a need to focus on children before they enter the public school system.