This is a story about the single most important feat of construction our society undertakes. It is about the assembly required in order to build physically, emotionally, cognitively, and socially healthy children. It’s a process as complex as the most challenging feat of engineering, and a process that is easily thwarted by poverty and stress. The healthy child does not come pre-assembled: work is required.
This story begins with the amazing journey of 100 North Carolina babies born into poverty, whose life trajectories were altered with a single intervention: high quality educational child care. They remain part of one of the world’s most famous long-running studies of child development—the Abecedarian Project—and it started right here, in this town, at this university ….
Kimberly Haskins of the Barr Foundation has written a post on A New Model of Quality Improvement in Early Education, an interesting pilot project in Boston. Participating early education programs begin with a needs assessment that informs an improvement plan. The plans include targeted professional development and coaching to address the site’s identified needs. According to Haskins,
This multi-year initiative seeks to advance early education programs in Boston centers and home-based care sites to the highest level of quality, ensuring that all programs: 1) identify the needs of children; 2) provide appropriate resources and supports to meet those needs; and 3) demonstrate measurable improvement in child outcomes. The goal is for programs to build their capacity to use data for continuous quality improvement.
In its first year, the Ready Educators Quality Improvement Pilot worked with ten center-based early education programs, one large family childcare system, and four of its home-based providers. Each participating program was assessed to identify its strengths and areas for improvement. Based on these assessments, Wellesley Centers for Women helped the programs develop customized improvement plans, including targeted professional development, coaching, and consultation.
Thus far, the results look promising.
See Haskins’ post for additional information.
“There’s a disconnect between our 21st-century knowledge about early childhood teaching and these 20th-century wages,” says Phillips. “We desperately need educated young people to be working with young children, but they look at this job and say, ‘It’s a pathway to poverty. I can’t pay my student loans if I do this.’ ”
“Wages come out as the strongest predictor of observed quality of care,” says Phillips. “The caliber of teachers is tied to their wages.”
Better-paid teachers and caregivers have lower turnover, can afford more training, and, not incidentally, are less stressed and preoccupied — not a small consideration when screaming tantrums are a normal part of the workday.
“Policymakers and the business community are all now turning to early childhood education as one of the best investments we can make,” says Phillips. “But if you don’t pay adequate wages, you undermine the very thing that produces that value.”