Methods: We first used teacher-level administrative data to identify factors that affect ECE teacher enrollment in higher education and related professional development opportunities and to examine the characteristics of Head Start teachers. We then used these characteristics to estimate each teacher’s probability of enrollment in higher education. Through logistic regressions we explored the relationship between teacher characteristics and their enrollment in higher education. We then focused on teachers who were not enrolled in higher education, yet had a relatively high probability of enrollment. We refer to these staff as teachers with the highest “unmet demand” for higher education. Finally, we mapped this “unmet demand”, as well as the locations of the Head Start sites and the post-secondary institutions with ECE teacher preparation programs.
Results: Teachers without any post-secondary degrees were more likely to be enrolled in higher education than those who already possessed an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Teachers with more years in their current position were also more likely to be enrolled in higher education than those with fewer years in their current position. We did not find a robust relationship between enrollment in higher education and distance or commute time from a teacher’s worksite to the nearest higher education institution. Three of four community areas with the highest density of teachers with “unmet demand” for higher education are predominantly LatinX and have a lower median income than the city overall. There are no ECE degree programs within these communities, although opportunities exist within a 30 minute commute.
Conclusions and Implications: The findings indicate both challenges and areas of opportunity, especially in LatinX communities and other areas with a concentration of teachers with unmet needs for education. These include: (1) increasing the supply of credentialed teachers; (2) increasing the field-relevant skills of ECE-degree students and the current ECE workforce; (3) improving teacher compensation and benefits to help retention; and (4) conducting additional research to better understand how to prepare and support the ECE workforce.