A Teaching and Learning Tightrope: Navigating Accountability Mandates While Maintaining Sound Pedagogical Practices


  • Colleen Whittingham University of North Carolina Charlotte
  • Emily Brown Hoffman




early childhood policy, early childhood protocols, compliance, instructional practices, classroom interactions, Head Start


This article describes the antecedents and the implications of the ‘accountability climate’ and associated ‘compliance climate’ in early childhood education through an 8-week case study of one Government-funded preschool in an under-resourced urban community. With attention to the macro- and micro-systems that situates the preschool, this study describes how the preschool achieved compliance with external mandates while maintaining pedagogically sound teaching practices. This article reaffirms that quality early childhood education opportunities are possible acrosseconomic disparities if appropriate supports are made available to teachers, students, and families.  The qualitative case study, complemented by video-based fieldwork, examines local instructional practices and investigates the policies and protocols facilitating these practices.  The join impact between macro- and microsystems contributed to the teachers’ successfully privileging student academic and social success within a compliance-driven ecological system.  This study offers a concrete example of how supports and leadership can contribute to early childhood contexts upholding regulated compliance mandates while privileging children’s needs.

Author Biography

Emily Brown Hoffman

Assistant Professor

Department of Early Childhood, Youth, and Family Studies 





Research Articles