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Early Childhood Evaluation Hub: Learning Sessions and Spotlight on Butler Institute’s Dr. Meg Franko

A woman and small female child in a denim jumper play with animal figurines at a table

Between 2021 and 2022, the Colorado Department of Early Childhood received over $700 million in stimulus funding to strengthen Colorado’s early childhood sector. The Colorado Lab is coordinating the Early Childhood Evaluation Hub, contracting with multiple evaluation teams to conduct high-quality evaluations of more than a dozen prioritized stimulus-funded activities to ensure the goals of the activities are being met. We’re highlighting these great partners over the next several newsletters.

Colorado Lab Hosts Learning Session for Hub Teams

In July, the Colorado Lab convened all of the evaluation teams participating in the Early Childhood Evaluation Hub. Each team shared information about the evaluations of the stimulus-funded activities they are conducting and collectively discussed cross-cutting themes.

“Having all of the evaluation teams together in person was invaluable. By harnessing the considerable knowledge and expertise of these seasoned evaluators, we were able to brainstorm approaches to move past challenges, bridge gaps, and streamline evidence-building efforts,” said Dr. Kristin Klopfenstein, Director of the Colorado Lab. “While collaborative work can take some extra work up front, the synergy and alignment greatly boosts the potential to inform smart state investments to strengthen the full ecosystem.”

Over two days, the teams also:

  • outlined strategic messaging and actionable interim insights for the legislative session;
  • deepened their understanding of theories of change and their application; and
  • exchanged ideas on aligning data collection and analysis efforts.
A woman gives a presentation to a room of colleagues at groups of desks

The evaluation teams will create evidence briefs for the Colorado Department of Early Childhood that will be publicly available toward the end of 2023. For more information, please reach out to Dr. Whitney LeBoeuf.

Spotlight on External Research Partner: Butler Institute for Families

The Colorado Lab selected Dr. Meg Franko, Early Childhood Director at the Butler Institute for Families at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, to evaluate the targeted, stimulus-funded efforts to retain and grow Colorado’s early childhood workforce. Dr. Franko has decades of experience studying early childhood workforce and systems issues.

“Workforce and compensation are at the core of what is needed to strengthen the early care and education system. Without the workforce, the whole system breaks down, and it isn’t any secret that compensation in this field is horrible,” said Dr. Franko. “By understanding effective pathways, we can help people who want to be in this field improve their chances of advancing and be in a position to earn higher wages.”

“The activities being evaluated include an apprenticeship program, scholarship and financial assistance programs, and support for candidates for the Child Development Associate. All community colleges and four-year institutions in Colorado’s higher education system are supporting some or all of these activities.

Dr. Meg Franko

The evaluation will show how and to what extent each activity has been able to bring new people into the field and support people already in the field. The evidence on program participation and completion, along with workforce additions and retention, will help the state to better understand where to make modifications, shift emphasis, and invest existing dollars and future resources.

“Frankly, it’s unusual to have this level of investment going into the early childhood field in general and focused on the workforce in particular. It’s a really unique opportunity to test all our assumptions on what we think may be effective, but don’t know for certain,” Dr. Franko says. “As an evaluator, this is really exciting.”