New Evidence on the Importance of Early Childhood Teachers: Implications for Policy
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Two of the papers examine the drivers of key teacher practices in ECE settings. The first explores teacher- and center-level predictors of preschool teachers’ disciplinary strategies. Using data from a large evaluation of public pre-kindergarten programs serving low-income families, the authors find that 30% of teachers report that children were asked to leave early, stay home, or exit the program altogether due to challenging behavior, and that these decisions were associated with teacher and center-climate factors. Implications for supporting teachers in efforts to reduce negative disciplinary action are discussed. The second paper uses two waves of nationally-representative Head Start data to provide a national estimate of within-year teacher turnover in Head Start, and identifies several center leadership and climate factors associated with this turnover. This paper also provides new quasi-experimental evidence as to the effects of teacher turnover on children’s developmental outcomes. Together, these papers provide evidence as to the centrality of ECE teachers in children’s experiences, and identify important teacher- and center-level factors related to both teacher retention and teacher practices.
The second two papers focus on improvement efforts in early childhood settings. Paper three explores programmatic efforts to improve teacher practices in early childhood. Analyzing a large-scale, two-phase professional development program, the paper uses an innovative method to identify center-level variability in program success as measured by classroom observations and children’s outcomes. This paper will also probe the characteristics of settings where the program showed the greatest impact. A second way the quality of the ECE workforce might improve is through the exits of less effective teachers, especially if replaced by more effective teachers. To date, however, no large-scale data on ECE workers has tracked both teacher turnover and measures of teacher quality. The fourth paper leverages novel data from Louisiana to provide the first large-scale empirical evidence on the prevalence of teacher turnover across early childhood sectors, and the association between turnover and both classroom and program quality. It provides suggestive evidence that turnover may, in some centers, be an important driver of quality improvement efforts.
Together these papers provide new evidence relevant for policy efforts designed to improve the early childhood workforce. They highlight the importance of teacher practice in fostering children’s development, and draw attention to the role of center-level factors in retaining teachers, promoting high-quality practice, and supporting efforts for program improvement.