CUEL Affiliate and UIC Professor Emeritus Dr. Steve Tozer recently co-hosted an invitation-only think tank in Chicago by the National P-3 Center in August 2023. The event, co-hosted by National P-3 Center Director Kristie Kauerz, aimed to develop a strategy for advancing research, practice, and state/district policies in P-3 leadership development.  The convening featured research and policy leaders coast to coast, including UIC Senior Lecturer Cathy Main, an expert in early learning policy in Illinois, as well as new Illinois State Board of Education Superintendent Tony Sanders. The 3-day convening was funded by the W. Clement and Jessie Stone Foundation, facilitated by staff from the Aspen Institute, and will soon yield a report on the future of policy change for P-3 leadership preparation and development.

According to Dr. Tozer, and “as a result of external funding from McCormick Foundation that supported collaboration between the EdD Program and UIC’s Early Childhood Program, UIC has long been committed to preparing school leaders to lead Pre-K programs and P-3 learning communities.”  The work of UIC-affiliated school leaders has been featured prominently in national publications addressing the leadership of early childhood programs in public schools. More recently, the CUEL has partnered with the CPS Office of Early Childhood Education on a number of initiatives. Although Pre-K and school leadership have been clearly established in the research as effective levers for equity, these two domains tend to exist in separate spheres of research, policy and practice.  They are typically housed in separate university departments, and have separate journals and professional associations. Moreover, very few principals come out of the ranks of early childhood teachers. Partly as a result of UIC and McCormick Foundation influence, Illinois became the first state to require a P-12 principal endorsement in 2010. However, to date no other state has followed suit. Thus, a central focus of the National P-3 Center’s August convening was to address a pressing need for policy development in the space shared by ECE and school leadership preparation.