What Matters in Early Childhood Education

teacher-590109_1280It is no secret that early childhood is important, under staffed, and under enrolled.  Where do you start in recommending improvements in standards and staffing?  How is quality measured?  Which are the most critical priorities to improve care?  The Florida Association for the Education of Young Children did a survey.  We also compiled some legislative initiatives.

SURVEY RESULTS

There are quality ratings systems, teacher observation systems, and accreditation programs. There are three recommendations that center directors value most:

Florida Association for the Education of Young Children FLAEYC Public Policy Informational Survey

Response from survey/discussion of your members to the following question:  If you were king/queen and could implement any changes you wanted to improve quality as it impacts outcomes for children regardless of the financial impact, what would your top three changes be?

  1. Statewide Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS)
  2. Incentives for improvements in teachers’ CLASS observational assessment tool scores along with direct TA and support for teachers and administrators.
  3. Campaign to professionalize early childhood education as a workforce. This could include professional organization membership that is incentivized in some fashion by the state (possibly as part of QRIS), increased financial aid or loan forgiveness for early childhood professionals seeking higher credentials, and regulations for required in-service for owners (not just directors) of private for-profit programs accepting subsidy or VPK funds from the state.

DEFINITIONS

Sometimes the jargon can be difficult to unravel.  EYC affiliate/community-at-large chapter’s definition and understanding of what the following items mean are:

Quality: NICHD operationalizes “quality” in Early Childhood Education in three general categories:

  • structures (health and safety, environmental characteristics, teacher credentials, etc),
  • processes (teaching practices, teacher-child interactions, pedagogical considerations), and
  • outcomes (teacher as well as child outcomes). Structures are more easily regulated than processes and outcomes.

Accreditation: NAEYC accreditation covers all three of the above categories, and is the most comprehensive in the domain of processes of all state approved accrediting agencies. Processes associated with high quality are also the hardest to improve, even with willing participants, because processes involve complex human behavior change. Quality processes are highly correlated to improved child outcomes in early childhood settings.

The field has made good progress in how to assess processes, including the CLASS.  Quality enhancement initiatives that do not focus on process level quality are generally unsuccessful in improving outcomes for children. In other words, overemphasis on how sippy-cups are labeled to the exclusion of how teachers talk to children will not lead to improved quality or better outcomes for children. Unfortunately, observational studies of early childhood programs reveal highly variable, but generally mediocre or low quality programs are the norm in the US. Children living in poverty are the least likely to have access to high quality programs.

Gold Seal: Awarded to early learning programs that have attained accreditation with nationally recognized organizations such as NAEYC or NAFCC.

Class I Violations: Serious health and safety violation, which could put children at risk of harm are basic to quality improvement.

LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

Not much has happened with early childhood legislation in Florida this session.  A tracking document from a past session gives some indication of what bills were being considered.  As we study ECE, having some idea about possible legislation is useful.    Improving staffing regulations and training are essential.  Expanding access to high quality programs as well as increasing the number of program hours, for example from three to four hours a day are essential if kindergarten readiness is to improve.  The sources below are helpful in evaluating legislative priorities that have been identified previously.

SPB 7006 Legg and HB 7017 O’Toole. This bill died when the 2015 session ended early.  It was the most comprehensive bill filed in the Florida legislature in years.  These provision need to be resurrected and improve.  It is a place to start:

  • Revised terms: family day care to family childcare;
  • add large family child care home;
  • standards limited to supervision, transportation, access, health related requirements, food and nutrition, personnel, records, and standards enforcement.
  • DOE must define and enforce substantial compliance.  Non public schools must comply to standards and be inspected;
  • personnel background checks for arrests and previous employment;
  • cannot transfer ownership to a relative if arrested;
  • must have certificate of compliance with standards;
  • 30 clock hour child care course;
  • first aid and cardio pulmonary resuscitation;
  • home rules training; annual CE of 1 unit;
  • hire a general counsel and inspector general at Early Learning Coalition;
  • provide best practices in other languages;
  • PreK instructor must have AA minimum;
  • staff must be 18 years old with high school diploma;
  • must notify parents of class I violations;
  • be trained in developmentally appropriate practices; online training course on performance standards for school readiness;
  • check on absences after 2 days;
  • Pilot project to assess early learning skills using K readiness and FSA

SEE ALSO:

National Council of State Legislatures data base of early childcare legislation in 2016

Posted in Early Childhood Education, Florida, Legislation.

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