Higher Quality Early Childhood Centers – Kidsplaylearning

Higher Quality Early Childhood Centers

Posted by Nancy Wright on

Early Childhood Centers

Research shows that 3- and 4-year-olds who go to a good early childhood center are more likely to do well in kindergarden and later. But research also shows that most preschool programs aren't very good at what they do. They lack meaningful interactions and important concepts. This policy brief talks about what "high-quality" means, and how early childhood education can be better, so that it can be better.

Many of our most vulnerable kids go to low-quality early childhood education programs, and kids who are at risk of failing school are more likely to be affected by the quality of the preschool they go to. Many middle-class kids also go to preschools that aren't very good. There is a lot of support across the country for more early child hood centers to be built. So, it's important to have a clear picture of what high-quality early childhood education programs look like.

Rating the quality of preschool

Early childhood centers are usually judged on two quality factors: how well they work and how well they are organized. The interactions, activities, materials, learning opportunities, and health and safety rules are looked at and rated as a way to measure the quality of the process. It also looks at how big each group of kids is, how many adults there are for each child, and how well-trained the teachers and staff are.

There aren't enough good to excellent early childhood education programs to get a "good" or "excellent" rating from the most common tool for measuring process quality. They lack meaningful interactions and important concepts.

State standards should be set for all preschool programs.

Raise teacher pay and benefits to the same level as those for similarly qualified K-12 teachers.

Measures of early education quality should be based on the most recent research on early literacy, math, science, and social-emotional learning.

Continuously train and improve the quality of all preschool teachers and programs.

Work together at the federal, state, and local levels of government to make sure that all 3- and 4-year-olds get the best education and care possible.

Dimensions of a good preschool program

If you want to know what makes a high-quality preschool program, this short guide will help you figure it out. It uses the most up-to-date research findings and best practices recommended by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to describe what a high-quality preschool program looks like.

Children who go to preschool are more likely to do well in kindergarten than those who don't. Participating in early education can also have long-term academic and social benefits that last well into high school. When it comes to preschool, however, research has shown that it must be high-quality in order for kids to benefit.

Two important studies on the effects of intensive, high-quality early childhood programs have shown that these programs help poor kids in school and with their social lives into adulthood. Unfortunately, research shows that most of the young children in the United States don't go to high-quality preschool programs. Most of the preschool programs that researchers have looked at were not good enough to be called "good."

Also, kids from low-income families are more likely to go to low-quality programs. Those kids who are at risk of failing school get the most out of good early education, but they are the least likely to get it. Many kids from middle-class families also go to preschool programs that aren't very good.

It is very important that policymakers work to improve the quality of preschool education for all of the children in the United States, especially those who are most at risk.It's worth the money.

Preschool education costs money, but it's worth the money because it will help kids and is worth the money. Having a clear picture of how good preschool programs should help us decide if we should spend money on them.

People talk about and measure quality in early education all the time.

It says preschool is a type of center-based program that helps young children learn during the year or years before they start kindergarten. People who work with kids at a child care center, a state pre-kindergarten, a private preschool, or a Head Start center can have them.

In the United States, 76% of kids between the ages of three and four get their education and care from someone other than their parents. The majority of kids (58%) go to a center-based program like preschool, child care, or Head Start. In these programs, what do we know about how good they are at their job?

Process and structure are two common ways to measure the quality of early childhood programs.

The quality of the work that is being done

Process quality looks at the real things that happen in schools, like how children and teachers interact and what kind of activities they do. Health and safety provisions, materials, and relationships with parents can also be part of the process. It's worth the money.

Process quality is usually measured by looking at what happens in the center and classrooms and rating things like teacher-child interactions, type of instruction, room environment, materials, relationships with parents, and health and safety rules and practices, among other things, to see how well the program is running. The Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS) has been used a lot in early education research to measure how well things are going. There are 43 new things in the revised edition, which is broken down into seven areas of center-based care for children ages 2.5 to 5. Personal care routines, space and furniture, language-reasoning, interaction, activities, the structure of the program, parents, safety rules and staff are some of the areas. Each item has a detailed description and can be rated from 1-7, with 1 being bad, 3 being good, 5 being good, and 7 being great.

When the activities and interactions are rated higher, kids learn more advanced language and math skills, as well as how to be more friendly to other people. Conversely, bad process quality has been linked to more bad behavior.

This isn't the end of the benefits for cognitive and social development: They last into elementary school. Children who have high-quality center-based care are better able to take advantage of school's educational opportunities. This is the conclusion of a long-term study that looked at the short- and long-term effects of center-based care.

You can see these three grades on the ECERS: minimal, good, and excellent. What is the difference?

Item 16: Language and Reasoning: (Must be scored yes on all indicators.)


3.1 Some activities are used by staff with children to get them to talk.

3.2 Some materials are easy for kids to get to so they can talk.

3.3 Most of the group's communication activities are good for the kids.


5.1 Communication takes place during both free play and when people are in groups. (Ex.: A child writes a story about painting; a small group talks about their trip to the store.)

5.2 Materials that encourage kids to talk are available in a lot of places. Toys for acting out stories can be used both outside and inside.


People who work with kids should balance listening and talking based on their age and ability level when they're having communication with them, along with the safety rules. (Ex.: Give children time to respond; speak to children who don't speak very well.)

People who work with kids connect their speech to their writing. When children say something, write it down and read it back. When they write a note to their parents, help them write it.

Quality of Structure

It's also important to look at the program's structural and teacher characteristics, like how many teachers and staff members work there, how many kids are in a class, and how much space there is. There are two kinds of things that people think make programs better: things that make them work better and things that make them look better. Structural features are often regulated by state licensing rules.

Researchers have found that these two groups of indicators, process and structure, are linked and have an impact on how well children learn, because they are important concepts and are vital to achieving the expected results. Because teachers tend to have more positive and meaningful interactions with children when the groups are smaller, this is an example of how this can happen Warm and caring interactions are linked to children's social skills and future success in school, and they are also important for high-quality interactions. Early childhood teachers who are more qualified and work with smaller groups can better tailor learning to each child's needs and interests. It's also been found that teachers who make more money are better at their jobs and the work they do.

Ratios, which show structural quality, are also linked to process quality. People who have lower child-teacher ratios are more likely to have high ECERS scores.

It's hard to say how good early education programs are now.

Even though there aren't any national studies on the process quality of the average early childhood program, two multi-state studies and a lot of smaller studies using the ECERS give good estimates.

A 1998 study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development looked at early care in nine states. It found that 8 percent of early care settings for children through the age of three were rated "poor," 53 percent were rated "fair," 30 percent were rated "good," and 9 percent were rated "excellent."

A study done in 1999 looked at full-day child care centers in four states. It found that the average quality of the centers was 4.26 on the ECERS (on the 1-7 scale). There were only a small number of "typical" programs with average scores in the "good to excellent range" when this large-scale study looked at a lot of them. 

The Most Important Factors of a Good Early Childhood Center

People who work with kids and teachers have good relationships.

The room has enough materials and toys for everyone to play with.

Communication happens all day, with people listening, talking, and encouraging each other to use reasoning and problem-solving.

Every day, there are chances for art, music, movement, science, math, block play, sand, water, and dramatic play.

There are materials and activities that help people understand and accept different kinds of people.

Parents are encouraged to help with all parts of the program.

Adult-child ratios don't go above NAEYC guidelines.

Groups are small.

Teachers and other staff members are well-qualified and get paid accordingly.

All staff are supervised and evaluated, and there are opportunities for them to improve their skills.

Other studies that used the ECERS to measure process quality agree with these findings. In 10 studies that took place in different states, the average ECERS score did not reach 5.0. There is a figure 2. The Massachusetts Cost and Quality Study (2001), which looked at the quality of community-based programs for preschool-aged kids, and the FACES study, which looked at a nationally representative sample of Head Start programs, both had average scores of "almost good." Most were in the "minimally adequate" range. Many young children in typical programs don't get good experiences, but the Massachusetts report and the FACES study of Head Start give us hope that big programs can do well.

Research on quality has some problems, like:

For more than 20 years, the ECERS has been widely used to measure the quality of group care for preschool-aged children around the world. However, it doesn't take into account the more academic and intellectual development that is now expected of even young children.

For example, the National Academy of Sciences report, Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers (2001)19, says that curriculum and teaching practices should be used to help all young children grow and learn. This report sums up recent research that shows that young children can learn more and benefit more from good early education than previously thought. The current measures of early childhood education programs quality don't take into account the rich language, early literacy, and math and science learning that can happen during the preschool years.

So, the current information on average quality, which isn't good, may look even worse when compared to what research tells us about the kinds of learning environments that can help kids reach their full potential.

Important for Children

Children are treated with respect, cared for, and challenged. : They have a lot of fun with the adults and other kids in their classroom. They talk and interact with their peers and adults all the time; they don't spend a lot of time waiting, being ignored, or being alone. People say that kids love going to school when it's not of average quality.

Children have a lot of chances to learn important skills, knowledge, and habits in order to achieve the expected results. Classrooms are full of projects, experiments, reading, and building. The materials and activities are tailored to each child's needs and help them grow intellectually. Children don't run around aimlessly, and they aren't supposed to stay still for very long when it's not of average quality.

Children can make important decisions all day long. They can choose from a wide range of activities, decide what kind of products they want to make, have important conversations with their friends, and use their curiosity.

It is important that the children's home language and culture are respected and valued. They are also used in the curriculum and the classroom.

Individual, small-group, and large-group activities are all part of what kids do. They learn important social and self-control skills with the help of an adult and the right amount of discipline. All children aren't expected to grow at the same rate, and their needs and abilities are taken into account in all learning activities.

Children learn the skills they need to be successful in school in the future. Language and literacy activities include reading books together, having more in-depth conversations with adults, having many chances to read and write during the day, and having a positive and joyful learning environment. They have chances to learn how to listen, follow directions, respond to teacher questions, and come up with ways to solve problems in school.

Children have the chance to learn basic skills that will help them get ready for school. expanded vocabulary, alphabetic principles, and phonological awareness are some of the things they learn. They also learn concepts of numbers, shapes and measurement, task persistence, and early scientific thinking.

Children's natural curiosity is used as a powerful motivator to get them to do what they want to do. The way activities and lessons are made is based on their interest in everything around them, as well as their ideas and concepts.

Children are given a lot of different things to do each day. In a child's day, he or she should be able to be active or quiet, indoors and outside, do short and long activities, and plan carefully to make sure that each child grows in all areas.

There are many different types of high-quality early childhood centers,.

In this way, we can think about what a high-quality preschool looks like in a different way.

You can see how it looks in the following ideas. As you saw above, they're based on current research and on best practices that have been recommended by the National Association of the Education of Young Children. Recommendations: Even though there are many important parts to good early education, these recommendations focus on the child, family, teacher, curriculum, and classroom dimensions.

Important for families

Family members are partners in every part of the school program. People who have kids are asked a lot about what their kids like, what they can do, and what their preferences are.

Family members are welcome to come into the program and watch and participate in the activities.

There are ways for parents to get better at their education and parenting.

Each child's progress is always told to their parents.

Parents have a say in how the preschool is run and what it does. They also help their children achieve their educational goals.

They treat the family's home culture and language with respect. They also use it in all of their communications. The program learns about the families' values, beliefs, and customs so that it can make curricula that are meaningful.

Families from all walks of life are thought of as having good things. The strong bond of care between parents and their children is backed up by the law to get the expected results.

For teachers, curriculum, and classrooms, it is very important.

At a minimum, teachers need to have a four-year college degree and be trained in early childhood education. They know a lot about child development, teaching methods, and curriculum, which allows them to help children grow both socially and cognitively.

Teachers have a lot of meaningful interactions with kids on a regular basis. They often have meaningful conversations with kids, expand their knowledge and vocabulary, ask open-ended questions, and help them learn how to solve problems.

Important concepts like math and early literacy are taught by teachers through projects, everyday activities, collaborative activities, and a hands-on approach to learning.

Each child's progress is checked by teachers on a regular basis, and they make changes as needed. They keep a close eye on each child's progress and plan activities that will help them achieve more. They also work with other staff and parents to figure out what the assessments mean.

Teachers send kids who might have special learning needs to get a full evaluation and diagnosis.

Teachers get paid a professional salary and get other things. All employees are paid based on their education, experience, and special skills. Opportunities to move up in your job are available.

Teachers and other staff get professional development all the time. There is a lot of active supervision, mentoring, and feedback for all of the staff. It's a good thing that all the employees trust each other, respect each other, and work together.

Teachers show respect for the families and love for the kids. This is how they communicate. They know the languages and cultures of the people who work with the kids.

Teachers can work together with other staff, parents, and other professionals in a respectful way. There is at least one teacher and one other person in every classroom. They work together all day long. Standards should at least follow the ratios recommended by the National Association for the Education of Young Children for accreditation. One staff member for every 10 children and a group size of no more than 20 for children ages 3 and up.

Teachers use a curriculum that has set goals, an approach to learning, expected results, and ways to measure progress. Describe your curriculum, why you chose it and what you are trying to do with it.

Children can learn in large, well-equipped classrooms that have a wide range of age-appropriate materials, such as art, music, science, language, math, puzzles, dramatic play, and building materials.


To figure out what to do with policy, it's important to look at what research into early education has found. We've found out:

The quality of early childhood education programs and care has a big impact on academic and social development.

A good preschool can have a big impact on kids who might not do well in school.

In general, the quality of care isn't as good as you would expect.

Many vulnerable children go to the worst programs.

Many kids from middle-class families also go to preschool programs that aren't very good.

These findings should make policymakers feel like they need to act quickly to improve preschool education in the United States. Because preschool program quality is made up of both structural and process features, they must be addressed together to improve the quality of the program. The rules that govern child care licensing and the educational requirements for preschool programs are included in these policy suggestions.

State standards should be made for preschool teachers, group size, and class ratios, as well as the process features of programs like teacher-child interactions, learning opportunities, assessment procedures, daily routines, materials, classroom environment, and health and safety routines. These standards should be made by the state. One way to make preschool programs better is to support national or state accreditation for all preschool programs.

Pay and benefits for teachers should be raised to the same level as those for similarly qualified K-12 teachers.

Measures of early educational quality should be based on the most recent research on early literacy, math, science, and social-emotional learning.

Continuously train and improve the quality of all preschool teachers and programs.

Work together at the federal, state, and local levels of government to make sure that all 3- and 4-year-olds get the best education and care possible.

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