Liberal Party Sees Universal Quality Child Care
as Primary Answer to Nation’s Educational Failures
Need for Money Not Lack of Quality Captures Attention
Our nation’s public schools continue to fail to teach our children. We believe this is so because children arrive at school without 3,000 or so hours of pre-school readiness. They are therefore unprepared for Kindergarten and teachers are not trained to make up the educational shortfall. (See Policy Statement on Education) This ‘missing link’ between what a child should (and used to) know as he/she enters school – and what is not known today – is a barrier that leads to almost certain failure in school.
It is essential that America now recognize that millions of very young children – perhaps close to a majority of them – are no longer at home to experience the most important years of developmental learning, the years from birth to three. Instead, these children – of all colors, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds – are being raised at a child care facility. According to the most respected authorities, the performance of these facilities is so bad that 70% of them …” are hurting the ability of children to succeed in school.”
This failure to provide America’s children with quality child care exists despite the fact that there are recognized guidelines to Standards of Quality which are totally accepted within the field of early childhood development – and available to all in the child care business.
Moreover, most pre-Kindergarten classes of three and four year olds operated by public schools, have neither the programs nor the properly trained staff to help children prepare for Kindergarten…and there is growing evidence that these pre-K programs are among the ones harming children’s ability to learn in school.
The reason for this failure in pre-K is that few public schools are in close contact with early childhood development specialists. Most teachers hired to supervise Pre-Kindergarten classes have been trained in the principles and techniques of elementary education and not in early childhood development. These teachers are inappropriately trained to deal with the individual needs of very young children. They do not know how to help children choose activities they want to do rather than direct them to activities the teacher wants them to do. They have not been trained to know when a child has assimilated new information and is ready to move on to a new activity.
These are critical areas of quality child care and when they are missing, quality child care is not being offered.
Although the term ‘quality child care’ has been used in media coverage of child care, little has been done to explain to the public what ‘quality’ means. Therefore little has been done to help inquiring parents understand what they should be looking for and at, when they begin their search for a child care facility for their youngsters. The devastating news from the Carnegie Foundation’s “Report on Child Care” (1997) that seven of every ten child care facilities in the nation actually hurt a child’s ability to succeed in school, should have been headline news … but it wasn’t. And the foundation has published nothing to indicate that the conditions have improved.
Instead, we read of Federal and State government funding of “day care slots”. Politicians and bureaucrats at every level of government work for and take credit for increased funding of these “slots”. . But no one talks about “quality”.
In New York, the latest news is that millions of dollars authorized for child care subsidies are not being allocated because while there are tens of thousands of families to help, there are not enough licensed child care facilities to fill the demand for them – or to take advantage of available funds!! In New York City there are waiting lists of between 35,000 and 40,000 children. As the result of new welfare policies, officials estimate that in New York City alone, there will be additional 100,000 children requiring child care assistance by 2001.
New York State reports that state expenditures on child care subsidies have increased to roughly $800 million this year from $269 million annually in 1995. But there are no reports about whether children in child care are receiving a quality service.
What follows is a close look at child care in America and at some of the guidelines for quality which must exist if child care is to properly prepare children for school and learning.
What you will see clearly is that ‘quality’ means a very appropriately trained staff, available money to pay such a professional staff and to continue training them, and the desire and ability to make every child’s experience in child care a very individualized experience for each child.
Such an approach costs money. ‘Quality’ is defined as a means of “custom-tailoring” a child care experience for each child’s educational and social growth, as every consumer knows, ‘custom-tailoring’ is always more expensive than mass-produced ‘goods.’
Does money exist for quality child care? Of course. Do we have the means and desire to switch current expenditures from funding failing programs to successful ones? Apparently not until the politicians and public understand what is meant by ‘quality’ and therefore, what we should be funding.
The standards for quality reviewed here, have been established by the child development field with the help of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), a Washington, DC-based membership organization. NAEYC is the national accrediting agency for the field. If a child care facility gains accreditation from the NAYEC, it is offering quality child care. [It should be noted that there are child care agencies offering quality child care but not accredited by NAYEC. In most instances these facilities do not have the funds to go through the accrediting process. But, in fairness, we must add that these facilities are few and far between.]
It is clear from all the studies that:
- 1) The existence of quality child care is critically important to America’s children and their future. And that most children in child care facilities have no access to it.
- 2) Our public education system will continue to suffer unless the young children coming into it have received the educational readiness they need and/or teachers are trained to provide that readiness as children learn to ‘catch up.’ If our child care systems continues to fail to provide that readiness, schools will continue to fail our children.
The Case for Quality Child Care
75% of all the women in America with children are working full time.
55% of women with one-year-old children are out of the house working full time.
“Children coming into public schools today have approximately 200 hours of pre-literacy compared to the 3,000 hours that children have had in previous generations. Today’s children do not know the letters or sounds of the alphabet, do not know numbers, nor the direction that print takes as it moves across the page.”
Dustin H. Heuston, President
The Waterford Institute
“Children coming into our kindergarten don’t know anything at all.”
Diedre Hayes, Principal
The Frazier Elementary School,
Dallas ISD, Texas
“Look into the child care situation. Children coming into our school system from child care are not prepared for kindergarten.”
Fred Zachary, Superintendent
Waco ISD, Texas
“In France, disadvantaged children attend ecoles matternelles (preschools) starting at the age of two. Their academic performance by grade six or seven equals that of highly advantaged children who did not attend a preschool until age four.
90% of French three and four year olds attend these ecoles which last all day, for twelve months a year, are staffed by masters-degree equivalent, child development specialists with well-defined academic goals. Contrast that to Head Start which barely reaches 30% of three and four year olds, lasts three hours a day, for a nine month school year, is staffed essentially by non-professionals and is nonacademic.”
The Schools We Need
E.D. Hirsch, Jr.
“No significant across the-board improvements in education have occurred, despite the vast sums of money we spend every year ($539 billion in 1997 for primary and secondary education)… but fail to do enough for children early enough to make a difference in their lives. ‘Too little, too late’ seems to be the golden rule for American education. Unless we recognize that the problem is in school readiness, in the development of children long before they enter kindergarten, we will continue to see schools fail.
When faced with the need for childcare, Mothers are concerned first with safety… and then cost. There is a high turnover of teachers and caregivers and the day care field is characterized by people with inadequate training… yet what infants and toddlers need most are consistent, qualified caregivers.
Day care’s principal purpose is (not to educate the child, but) to allow the Mother to be in the work force… with much too little concern for the child’s development and education. Simple babysitting or custodial group care does not provide vital development tasks. Children put ‘on hold’ for five to ten hours a day, five days a week, risk serious impairment of their potential brain development… that very early development so vital to the child’s later education and ability to learn… is lost.”
Children in Poverty
Irving B. Harris, 1996
“Child care in most centers across the U.S. is poor to mediocre… only one in seven provides a level of quality that promotes development… seven of ten centers may impair a child’s ability to enter school ready to learn.”
Report on Child Care, November 22, 1996
The Carnegie, J.M. and Packard
Foundations et. al.
“37.5% of the country’s 3.8 million 18 year olds can be described as functionally illiterate.”
U.S. Department of Education, 1994
“Half of all seventeen year olds in our major cities lack the basic skills in reading, writing, math and problem-solving to get job with a future.”
The National Assessment of Education, 1994
The Meaning of Quality Child Care
What does ‘quality child care’ mean?
Think first of the classic relationship between Mother and child. The constancy and care, the attention and concentration, the trust, the love, the endless patience as the ever-curious child selects the activities and adventures that turn into hours of play — and learning; the many, many moments of teaching that come from this attentive Mother; the fact that each of her children instinctively knows that this special attention and concern exists for him or her.
Now think of the institutionalization of this relationship. Child care as millions of children now know it; children spending ten to twelve hours a day in a center away from Mother. The closer a child care center can come to translating the above-described relationship of Mother and child to each child in its care, the closer that center has come to delivering quality child care.
There are seven elements which encompass the standards of quality in the child development field. Children who are fortunate enough to be in a child care environment in which all of these elements are present, are going to be receiving excellent care and the kind of early childhood education which will prepare them to learn and grow to their potential.
- Understanding child development; recognizing that each child is an individual with new skills to learn and special interests; that each is at a different stage of emotional, social, cognitive and physical growth patterns with an individual timetable of growth and development that must be recognized; that each comes from a different family background.
- An Individualized approach to each child based on the above knowledge, so that each staff member knows when each child has assimilated new information or a new skill and is ready to move on to the next learning experience.
- A physical environment that is safe and orderly and that contains stimulating toys and materials.
- An atmosphere that permits each child to actively select and be involved in his own activities, so that his/her natural curiosity is always encouraged.
- Adults present who show respect for each child and who are caring and nurturing, so that the vital area of trust grows deeper and deeper.
- Parents who are respected by staff and encouraged to participate in a child’s activities.
- Ongoing training for staff that provides them with all the skills and techniques they need to accomplish (1) and (2).
Quality Standards Overview
BA degree or higher in early childhood education or education with early childhood and 3 year’s teaching experience with young children. Director needs a working knowledge of Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP).
AAS degree in early childhood education with at least 5 year’s teaching experience with young children and a working knowledge of DAP.
- CDA* or 6 to 9 hours in early childhood education with two year’s experience in early childhood, ongoing coursework, and a working knowledge of DAP.
- AAS degree in early childhood, two year’s experience teaching young children and a working knowledge of DAP.
- Higher level degree with three year’s teaching experience with young children and a
- working knowledge of DAP.
*A nationally recognized credentialing for early childhood development teachers.
A minimum of 20 hours per year with 6 hours to be devoted to management and supervision and 6 hours to child development or early childhood education.
A minimum of 16 hours per year in early childhood education workshops, seminars, conferences. Training is expected to the ongoing and to include:
1. developmental stages of children; 2. age-appropriate activities for children; 3. positive guidance and discipline of children; 4. fostering children’s self-esteem; 5. health and safety practices in the care of children; 6. positive interaction with children; 7. supervision of children; 8. detection and reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect; 9. diversity
Smaller group sizes and lower staff-child ratios have been found to be strong predictors of compliance with indicators of quality such as positive interactions among staff and children and developmentally appropriate curriculum. Variations in group sizes and ratios are acceptable in cases where the program demonstrates a very high level of compliance with criteria for interactions, curriculum, staff qualifications, health and safety, and physical environment.
- Modifications are made in the environment, staffing pattern, schedule, and activities to meet child’s special needs.
- The daily schedule provides a balance of activities in consideration of the child’s total experience–what happens before, during, and after the program with attention to the following dimensions:
- All age group play outdoors daily, weather permitting.
- The schedule provides for alternating periods of quiet and active play.
- More than one option for group activity (individual, small group, or large group)
is available most of the day. Infants and toddlers are not expected to function as a large group.
- Developmentally appropriate materials and equipment are available for preschoolers.
- Developmentally appropriate materials are available for school-agers.
- The use of media, such as television, films, and videotapes, is limited to developmentally appropriate programming.
- Develop social skills.
- Encourage children to think, reason, question, and experiment.
- Enhance physical development.
- Encourage and demonstrate sound health, safety, and nutritional practices.
- Staff provides materials and time for children to select their own activities during the day.
- Staff conducts smooth and unregimented transitions between activities.
- Staff is flexible enough to change planned or routine activities.
- Routine tasks such as diapering, toileting, eating, dressing, and sleeping are handled in a relaxed and individualized manner.
- A variety of age-appropriate materials and equipment are available for children indoors and outdoors.
- Individual space is provided for each child’s belongings.
- Private areas where children can play or work alone or with a friend are available indoors and outdoors.
- The environment includes soft elements.
- Sound-absorbing materials such as ceiling tile and rugs are used to cut down noise.
- A variety of activities can go outdoors throughout the year.
- Staff interacts frequently with children showing affection, interest, and respect.
- Staff is available and responsive to children.
- Staff speaks with children in a friendly, courteous manner.
- Staff encourages independence in children as they are ready.
- Staff uses positive approaches to help children behave constructively.
- Staff does not use physical punishment or other negative discipline methods that hurt, frighten or humiliate children.
Parents are encouraged to participate in the program, and staff regularly communicates to parents information about their child’s adjustment/development.
- A written description of the program’s philosophy is available to parents.
- Written operating policies are available for parents.
- A process exists for orienting children and parents to the program that may include a pre-enrollment visit, parent orientation meeting, or gradual introduction of children to the program.
- Staff and parents communicate about childrearing practices in the home and at the program in order to minimize potential conflicts and confusion for children.
- Staff gives parents specific ideas for promoting children’s healthy development and learning at home.
- Parents are welcome visitors into the program at all times (for example, to observe, eat lunch with a child, or volunteer to help in the classroom).
- A verbal and /or written system is established for sharing day-to-day happenings that affect children.
- Changes in a child’s physical or emotional state are reported to parents regularly.
- Conferences are held at least once a year and at other times, as needed, to discuss children’s progress, accomplishments, and difficulties at home and in the program.
- Parents are informed about the program and about policy or regulatory changes and other critical issues that could potentially affect the program and/or the early childhood profession through regular newsletters, bulletin boards, frequent notes, telephone calls, and other similar measures.
- Staff and parents communicate to ensure that children experience smooth transitions from one program to another during the day.
- A consistent method is used for communicating with all parents with special needs, such as a limited ability to understand English or hearing/visual impairments.