Kate Tarrant is the Institute’s Director of Research and Evaluation. A central function of her work is facilitating the NYC Early Childhood Research Network , which funds research projects that examine the early care and education workforce of New York City’s universal prekindergarten programs in partnership with the Foundation for Child Development. We asked Kate to share some of her reflections about her work with us.
What is your current role? In your own words, how would you describe the work you do?
As the Director of Research and Evaluation for the Institute, my work falls into two buckets. First, I facilitate the NYC Early Childhood Research Network. The Research Network is a group of policymakers and early care and education researchers who are currently investigating the implementation of Pre-K for All with a particular focus on the early childhood educators and teaching practices. The research is designed to inform policy about early childhood education at all levels, especially since so much of NYC’s Pre-K is in sites with many different aged children. It’s my job to support their collaboration. The second major category of my work is to bring research and evaluation capacity to the Institute. This takes place in a number of ways. I design and conduct evaluations of some specific projects and then I also work with our other initiatives to do strategic planning about ways that we can track, improve, and showcase our work.
Who do you work most closely with at the Institute? What outside partners/organizations do you work with?
I am fortunate that I get to work closely with a lot of people within the Institute and with outside partners as well. Since I support research and evaluation activities across all of the Institute’s initiatives, I partner with all of the Directors. I am also currently evaluating our New York Public Library professional development project and so I am working closely with Helen Frazier, Director of Early Childhood, who is leading that work. I am lucky to work with many outside partners through the Research Network, including the early childhood leaders at ACS, DOE, and DOHMH, as well as early childhood faculty from the major universities and colleges throughout the metropolitan area.
What motivated you to work in the early childhood field?
I think the early childhood bug bit me when I was in high school and worked at a day camp as a counselor for four-year-old children. Since then, I’ve always wanted to work with children and families. My career in the early childhood field began about 15 years ago at an organization that advocated for young children’s safety, health, and wellbeing. In that role, I saw the importance of connecting research, practice, and policy and how a comprehensive approach to early childhood policy and practice had the potential to level the playing field and support children and families. Since that time, I have been committed to working toward that vision. I stay motivated because I’ve seen a lot of progress in policy and research focused on providing children from families who are economically disadvantaged with access to quality early learning. There are so many smart and dedicated people working hard toward the goal of providing children from birth through age eight with enriching and nurturing childhoods—but there is so much more to do!
If you could learn a new skill today, what would it be?
That’s a hard question. There is so much I’d like to learn. Learning how to play an instrument would be at the top of my list, I love to dance and listen to music, and when my children were babies, singing and listening to music became a huge part of our daily lives. It's therapeutic and inspirational. A close second would be to learn how to speak Spanish fluently.
What brings you joy in your work?
I really enjoy working with and learning from people who are dedicated to young children’s wellbeing. I feel like anyone who is involved in helping young children thrive has an important perspective. With my work, I try to elevate voices from the field to make more responsive early childhood policy.
If you had one piece of advice for a new early childhood teacher, what would it be?
Take care of yourself and have fun. For me, the best way to do that has been through supportive relationships with my colleagues who I can laugh with, vent to, and learn from.