Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Classroom Quality and Children's Academic Skills in Child Care Centers: Understanding the Role of Teacher Qualifications

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 3:50 PM
Brickell South (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ying-Chun Lin, University of Wisconsin - Madison and Katherine Magnuson, University of Wisconsin – Madison
This study examines the associations between child care teacher’s education and professional training with observed classroom quality and children’s early skills in community child care centers. Teacher's education has been a focus for policymakers in early childhood education (ECE), based on the idea that teachers with more education and credentials provide better quality care that helps improve children’s development. However, previous research provided inconsistent evidence about the associations between teacher's education with classroom quality and children’s outcomes. Recent studies of public funded programs showed primarily null findings, but studies of community-based programs during 1990s yielded more positive findings. As opportunities for education and professional development have increased along with teacher’s higher levels of education, it is important to re-examine the role of teacher qualifications in the general community settings.

Data are drawn from a Midwestern study of child care providers who participate in the state's Quality Rating and Improvement System and provide care for children ages three-to-five. The sample includes 119 center-based programs that were randomly selected. The current analyses use data from 661 three- to five-year-old children who attended center care regularly and were assessed in the school year of 2013-2014 as well as from 191 teachers who completed a survey in the same data collection period and were also observed as lead teacher during the classroom quality assessment. Classroom quality is measured by the Early Childhood Environmental Rating System-Revised (ECERS-R). Children’s academic skills are assessed by standardized measures of school readiness, particularly early literacy and math skills (i.e., Woodcock Johnson Letter-Word Identification and Applied Problems, and Bracken School Readiness Assessment) in the fall and spring of the school year. Teacher qualifications are measured by completed education and training, including degree and major, degree and course credits in ECE, and the Registry career level (a career ladder for ECE professionals). These measures of ECE training are more detailed than those used in prior studies, because prior studies only look at educational credentials but not credits which do not necessarily result in degrees. Multiple regression with cluster standard errors and multilevel linear modeling are used for analyses in classroom quality and children’s gains in early skills. Controls for program and parent-report family characteristics are included. Multiple imputation is also used to handle missing data.

Many states have identified caregiver training and education programs as an important mechanism to improve program quality and therefore targeting resources to improve workforce training. Our data shed light on the likely pay-off for such efforts, and give some indications of which types of investments might be most efficacious. Preliminary analyses of complete data suggest little associations between education level, ECE credits, or career ladder level and observed classroom quality. Our next step will examine whether the pattern of null findings extends to standardized measures of children’s school readiness.