Patterns of Early Childhood Education Quality: Associations with Policy and Learning
Thursday, November 12, 2015: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Brickell South (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Allison H. Friedman-Krauss, New York University
Panel Chairs: Maia Connors, The Ounce of Prevention Fund
Discussants: Margaret Burchinal, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Ivelisse Martinez-Beck, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation; Administration for Children and Families
A large body of research has demonstrated that early childhood education (ECE) programs are an effective strategy for improving children’s cognitive and social-emotional school readiness skills (Gormley, Gayer, Phillips, & Dawson, 2005; Weiland & Yoshikawa, 2013). Furthermore, mounting evidence suggests that quality is a critical ingredient in ECE programs associated with children’s preparedness to begin kindergarten (Yoshikawa et al., 2013). The ECE field has long recognized the distinction between structural and process components of quality as important for understanding the role of quality in supporting children’s outcomes. Research has argued not that one form of quality matters more than another, but rather that structural features (e.g. teacher qualifications, ratios, class size) provide an important “foundation” for high quality processes (e.g. teacher-child interactions, instructional support) in ECE classrooms. As such, it is critical to understand the patterns of quality that exist in diverse programs across the country, and how these patterns relate to children’s school readiness and sustained learning.
In response to this empirical evidence, policy-makers at the local, state, and federal levels have offered bipartisan support for high quality ECE as a cost-effective strategy to reduce the income-related school readiness gap (Lombardi, Harding, Connors, & Friedman-Krauss, in prep). Yet critical knowledge gaps exist regarding how policies shape quality within ECE programs, how teachers’ qualifications contribute to ECE quality, and how patterns of ECE quality are related to children’s school readiness and longer-term academic success. The papers in this panel use innovative approaches to address these pressing questions in a diverse set of child care, Head Start, and state preschool programs across the U.S.
The first paper validates California’s Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), as well as alternate scoring methods, against observational measures of ECE quality. The second paper explores how nuances in teacher qualifications are related to classroom quality and children’s school readiness in a Midwestern sample of child care providers. The third paper identifies typologies of Head Start quality in a nationally-representative sample and uses them to predict variation in Head Start impacts on children’s school readiness. The final paper examines how the long-term effectiveness (through 8th grade) of the Tulsa pre-k program varies by latent profiles of ECE quality.
Together, these four papers provide a deep exploration of the complex patterns of ECE quality that exist across the country, the role that they play in children’s learning, and the policies that shape them. The focus in this panel on “regulable” aspects of quality is critical for informing the development of effective ECE policies nationwide. Senior scholars from the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation in the Administration for Children and Families and the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill will serve as co-discussants. Their ECE policy and research expertise, particularly regarding quality, position them well to provide integrative and thoughtful comments regarding the implications of this set of papers for policy and practice.