Early Childhood Support Organizations (ECSO)

Accelerating Excellence in Center-Based Early Childhood Programs

ECSOs partner with local center-based early education and care programs licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to implement tested approaches to improving instruction and practice in high-quality program serving children ages birth through five years old. This effort is a key strategy of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care’s continuum of supports for program leaders to ensure high quality services delivered to young children across the Commonwealth. The ECSO Initiative is supported through a public-private partnership with New Profit, a national venture philanthropy organization that backs social entrepreneurs who are advancing equity and opportunity in America.


By leveraging the expertise of program leaders, ECSOs offer center-based programs direct coaching and collaborative peer learning opportunities based on promising research-based models with documented evidence of success across the country. Through engagement with highly trained implementation experts, program leaders will be empowered to:

Implement program-wide continuous quality improvement strategies using program data
Deliver job-embedded professional learning with educators through collaborative communities
Support educators to successfully integrate curriculum and child assessment strategies to advance high-quality instructional practices

Programs partnering with ECSOs should have:

  • A program leader willing to engage in continuous improvement and to build their skills as an instructional lead
  • Commitment to intensive professional development that includes regular leader coaching, online learning, participation in professional learning communities and leader facilitation of professional learning for educators
  • Commitment to the use of a high quality curriculum that improves child outcomes

How to access an ECSO

  • Programs invited to apply will be matched with an ECSO based on the goals of the program and the fit of the ECSO model
  • If you have any questions about the ECSO Initiative, submit them at the link below.

*Programs will receive a yearly stipend of $1000 per classroom to support quality improvement investments needed to achieve the outlined goals with the ECSO organization they are partnered with.


Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI) is an award-winning national 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on strengthening early education in the United States. Founded in Philadelphia in 1988, we are an anti-racist organization whose mission is to work with early childhood through fifth-grade educators to transform care and instruction so that children can become powerful readers, writers, and thinkers.

During the 2018-19 school year, we served nearly 5,000 educators and 94,480 children located in more than 300 schools and early childhood education centers across the country, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, and Chicago.

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What is it like to partner with us?

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Children’s Literacy Initiative is an organization of teachers, and we believe deeply in teachers. Just like the educators with which we partner, since its founding, Children’s Literacy Initiative has remained committed to helping children become strong readers, writers, and thinkers. Center leaders and teachers possess the knowledge, skills, and drive that transforms children into life-long learners.

To enhance children’s learning, our Theory of Change asserts that center leaders and teachers need ongoing, structured professional development combined with high-quality curriculum, coaching and support, and classroom materials for children.

Through the ECSO initiative, CLI will provide a comprehensive and cohesive approach to coaching and training early childhood center leaders and educators. CLI’s proven model includes a programmatic approach for the whole center to transform early learning.

As partners, we will implement:

    1.  Collaborative, embedded professional learning
    2.  Build staff capacity and content knowledge
    3.  Blueprint for Early Learning: A Comprehensive
      Pre-K Curriculum

Our gradual release model will deliver coaching and training to center leaders and educators via one-on-one and small group coaching, delivered both on-site and virtually, with professional learning community activities scheduled for center leaders. We will engage and guide center leaders in utilizing a Content-Focused Coaching (CFC) Model, where coaches work individually or with groups of educators to design, implement and reflect on standards-based lessons that promote children’s learning.

We work closely with center leaders to build on their knowledge and ability to effectively run an early education and care center that supports strong educators and the emotional and academic development of children. We help teachers develop their capacity, helping them to identify strengths and areas of need.

By the end of the project, center leaders will be able to sustain the work as a model of continuous improvement and high-quality childcare as outlined in the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS).

The table below provides an overview of the short, mid, and long-term outcomes from our work:

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Practitioner Experience

A CLI Coach works 1:1 with individual educators in the Content-Focused Coaching Model. In a pre-conference, teacher and coach discuss goals for children, implementation plans for individual lessons, activities, and high-quality interactions utilizing the core issues in effective lesson design. Coaching conversations focus on the content and context of the lesson, children’s prior knowledge, lesson implementation, evidence of understanding and learning, and collaboration in a learning community. During the lesson, activity, or high-quality interactions, coach and teacher negotiate support levels. In a true gradual release of responsibility, you may see the coach modeling, co-teaching side by side with the teacher, or a teacher-led lesson. In conclusion of the cycle, the coach and teacher meet for a post conference. This provides the partnership an opportunity to debrief, celebrate successes, discuss areas to strengthen, and set explicit next steps to move forward.

Never leave us. We benefit so much from our coaches. [Our district] does not offer professional developments like in the past. Therefore, having someone coach you through skills and strategies that you struggle with as an educator is so much more beneficial and rewarding especially seeing the results in your students’ academic success.”

I love and appreciate CLI for everything they provide to colleagues and I. We truly are grateful for the experiences and guidance and it shows through our students. That one on one time has been enlightening, refreshing and motivating.”

Who do we work with?

CLI has expertise to serve a range of center types, program levels, and age ranges. CLI anticipates partnering with center-based programs in private child care, public schools, and head starts. Here are some baseline requirements for participation:

  • Serve a high percentage of high needs children, defined as a program that consists of at least 25% of enrolled children are those who receive any subsidized care through EEC. All Head Start programs are eligible.
  • Demonstrate readiness to engage in the quality improvement process and participate in support services provided by CLI.
  • Eagerness to adopt a new PK Curriculum
  • Willingness to engage in a dynamic partnership that fosters collaboration, continuous growth, and keeps children at the forefront.

The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation at UMass Boston mobilizes leadership from the field to create systems of early care and education in which all young children and their families thrive. They have partnered with Start Early (formally the Ounce of Prevention) to create an Early Childhood Support Organization that offers professional development and learning, one-on-one coaching, and peer network support that will improve program quality on the organizational conditions in order to advance child outcomes.

Transforming PD
A System to Measure Organizational Conditions in Early Education
What is it like to partner with us?

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Professional Development Is A Process, Not A One-Time Event
Our model emphasizes peer learning, using data to guide decisions, and building collaborative and trusted working relationships with staff and families. Together, we will focus on making improvements to program systems that surround classroom practice.

Participants in our program receive professional development and learning in how to be an effective instructional leader as well as coaching and peer support in learning how to transfer new knowledge about leadership to program staff. During monthly coaching calls with a skilled coach, participants can talk through and problem solve any challenges arising from their work as they progress through our program.

Participants will also join a Professional Learning Community with other leaders that meets monthly. During facilitated meetings, participants can share their expertise and problems of practice. The professional development and learning that takes place within the professional learning community happens in real time as members share the results of their experiments that solve the problems of practice.

All training and coaching will be delivered virtually via Zoom. Program participants will record their sessions working with educators and upload it to Torsh, a video learning platform for educators. Our leadership coach will review and assess the ways in which program leaders are implementing what they learn in training and provide feedback.


Foundations of Effective Instructional Leadership (12 hours)
By the end of this training, you will:

  • have a deep understanding of the research around early education program quality improvement and be able to connect that research with current improvement efforts in your program
  • be able to assess your strengths in visionary leadership (communicating a vision for your program to staff and families and ensuring that this vision drives program policies and decision-making); effective management (ensuring that the instructional leadership team has adequate time, expertise and support to provide guidance to teachers and manages school calendars, schedules, staffing and resources to ensure routine protected time for teacher collaboration and professional learning); and ethical leadership (promotes the success of all young children by acting with integrity and fairness and in an ethical manner, confronting inequality and bias, ensuring equity and valuing diversity)
  • be able to link your roles and responsibilities as an effective instructional leader with the characteristics of job-embedded professional learning and the strategies needed to implement them throughout your program

Data Dialogues (10 hours)
By the end of this training, you will be able to:

  • use data to identify your program’s strengths and weaknesses, identify root causes, and implement experiments to solve problems of practice
    compare how the emotional, organizational, and instructional supports that teachers provide to children parallel the same supports instructional leaders provide to teachers
  • understand the mindsets, structures, and practices that are important to quality teaching and learning
  • apply facilitation strategies and skills to support routines of job-embedded professional learning

Team Lesson Planning (9 hours)
By the end of this training, you will be able to:

  • define the essential elements needed for effective, intentional lesson planning and educator-child interactions
  • assess the knowledge and proficiency of your educators to when developing lesson planning for children
  • revisit best teaching practices as the way to address educational inequities

Collaborative Groups (9 hours)
By the end of this training you will be able to:

  • connect peer learning communities to a system of ongoing educator professional development and job-embedded learning
  • compare and contrast a variety of peer learning community formats and protocols
  • describe and apply skills, strategies and supports in the facilitation of effective peer learning communities
  • apply tools and strategies and use reflection to plan peer learning communities as a routine to support continuous quality improvement in your program

Survey staff and families, assess results, and implement/iterate new strategies (approximately 10-15 hours)
Several months into our program, two surveys will be administered to assess improvement efforts and develop additional strategies for embedding a culture of continuous quality improvement across your organization. One survey will be for teachers/staffs and one will be for families.

Implement work sessions with staff(approximately 12-15 hours) During this phase, you will learn how to work with your teams so they can do the following:

  • identify areas for improvement across the entire organization
  • make incremental changes using evidence-based tools and processes
  • create collaborative cultures of continuous learning

[This system] gives us the responsibility to do what we can do in our classroom to collaborate with each other, support each other and that trickles down to supporting the families and the children in our classroom.”
— Matasha, teacher

It’s an accountable process for change that doesn’t feel overwhelming for teachers, it feels empowering for teachers and empowering for leaders as well.”
— Rachel, head teacher

Flamingo Early Learning is a comprehensive professional development system for early childhood educators developed by the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning. Our mission is to create equitable educational systems where every child and educator — regardless of circumstances — experiences high-quality learning that support the achievement trajectories through school that are predictive of success in life.

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We achieve this through:

  • Offering competency-based teaching and professional development
  • Using technology-enhanced adaptive and personalized learning systems
  • Leveraging validated research to inform the ongoing design and implementation of solutions

What is it like to partner with us?

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Partnering with us means systematically improving child outcomes through free professional development for early childhood providers. The program is designed to give program leaders and staff access to a suite of supports around Instructional Leadership Development. This includes virtual one-to-one coaching as well as director and early childhood courses. The courses focus on a variety of critical topics such as curriculum selection and adoption and highly effective leadership skills.

Through our Instructional Leadership Development work, directors will practice strategies for facilitating collaborative Professional Learning Communities, also known as Communities of Practice, with teachers. The program includes 12 virtual, collaborative sessions. The first cohort of directors began this transformational program in January 2021. Cohort 2 will begin partnering with us in mid 2021. Once program leaders complete the program, they will continue receiving support as new cohorts are launched.

What will the program look like?

Conducted virtually, it begins with a two-day, high-energy launch that facilitates dialogue and a sense of community among peers. We introduce the critical, foundational topics that build their skills as an instructional leader, including elements of coaching and Communities of Practice facilitation. Participants will identify the characteristics of highly-effective leaders, explore their passions around early childhood and build action plans that articulate next steps for working on individual leadership dispositions and habits.

Following the launch, program leaders will engage in follow-up support sessions. As leaders implement their action plans, our highly-skilled coaches will help further deepen their understanding and application of Instructional Leadership. A key part of this process includes exploring curriculum options for selection and adoption.

Being able to participate in a CoP that focuses on ‘leadership’ is a wonderful gift to me as the director of an early childhood center. Directors wear many hats and constantly juggle meeting the needs of others: children, parents, teachers, and licensing agencies. It’s rare that we can focus on issues of leadership, let alone with others! Can’t wait to delve deeper!”
— Early Childhood Program Director

Who are our partners?

We are looking for program leaders who demonstrate an interest and willingness to embrace an inquiry stance toward leadership. This transformational program will positively impact directors and early childhood educators increasing the level of professionalism and quality of instruction.

Flamingo Early Learning has been a wonderful investment of my time. It brought a small team of my teachers together and they’re all finding it beneficial to their teaching styles. I appreciate the focus on supporting each other as leaders and strengthening our team as well as the entire program as a whole; I look forward to implementing what we’re learning.”
— Early Childhood Program Director