New America’s Early & Elementary Education Policy team partnered with the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership to collect data on early education leaders. New America collected the elementary school principal data via survey from December 2016 to March 2017. We sent the survey to state departments of education and, in a handful of cases, also to state elementary school principal associations. We encouraged officials at the state departments of education to collaborate with colleagues in different offices and departments to collect the data. For states that did not respond to our survey or provided incomplete responses, we scanned their websites and contacted state department of education officials via e-mail and phone to find as much information as possible.

The McCormick Center gathered the data on state center director policies through a comprehensive review of state child care licensure laws, child care director credential requirements, and Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS). The scan included QRIS because this is the method most states are using to encourage program quality, unlike licensing standards, which tend to focus on minimal compliance. The McCormick Center followed up with states via survey and e-mail for certain indicators, as needed.

The McCormick Center’s work culminated in the L.E.A.D. Early Childhood Clearinghouse, a public resource that makes available accurate and accessible information through an interactive website. National data about policy levers to improve the early childhood leadership workforce; state standards; and programs that educate, train, and support individuals who lead organizations serving children birth through age 8 are accessible through the Clearinghouse.

New America and the McCormick Center collected information about state early education leader policies in four areas:

  1. Pre-service requirements

  2. In-service requirements

  3. Compensation and retention

  4. Efforts to encourage diversity

Where possible we include the source of the data on the individual state pages, which can be accessed by selecting a state on any of the maps in this tool. Some data points are left blank either because the state reported that it does not collect the appropriate information or we were unable to find the data.

In addition to our 50-state scan of state-level policies, we conducted interviews with multiple center directors and principals from around the country to learn more about their roles, including how they spend their days, what they view as the most important aspects of their jobs, what challenges they face, and how their formal preparation and professional development opportunities support or fail to support their work.


The McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership was a valuable partner in New America’s data collection for this project. Thank you to Teri Talan, Michael Abel, and Melissa Newkirk for this partnership. Early on, the project benefited from the advice and expertise of Stacie Goffin and Kelly Pollitt. Thanks also to New America colleagues Aaron Loewenberg, Anna Sillers, and Emily Workman for their research assistance; Laura Bornfreund, Sabrina Detlef, Lisa Guernsey, Elena Silva, and Melissa Tooley for their expert and editorial insight; and Kirk Jackson, Tyler Richardett and Joanne Zalatoris for their help in the execution of this project. And finally, the author would like to give a special thanks to Amy Lobo and Joey Page for sharing their stories.

This report was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. New America thanks the Foundation for its support. The views expressed in this paper are of the author alone.