Preschool Quality Inconsistent for Poor

By Linda Jacobson — February 01, 2005 1 min read

Children from low-income families are spending their days in early-childhood settings of vastly different levels of quality, the latest findings of an ongoing study show.

Child-care centers examined in the three-state study scored higher on measures of quality, but the kinds of experiences young children received varied depending on where they lived.

And licensed family child-care homes were of a higher caliber than the care provided by friends or relatives, on such measures as the educational level of the provider, learning activities, and materials, the report found.

The report is the most recent from the Growing Up in Poverty project, a study of child care used by poor mothers enrolled in welfare-reform programs in California, Connecticut, and Florida. Conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, Teachers College at Columbia University, and Stanford University, the study involves 166 child-care or preschool centers and 187 homes.

The paper, “Child Care Quality: Centers and Home Settings That Serve Poor Families,” appears in the current edition of the Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

The researchers called the quality of many home-based settings “worrisome.” They also said that the strategy of giving parents vouchers to use for child care “appears to legitimate and support low quality in many instances.”

For centers, the differing worth across the sites raises questions about what tools can be used to improve centers: higher standards or better monitoring.

The researchers also found a weak connection between positive social interactions between providers and children and the educational levels of the teachers.

The finding suggests that requiring bachelor’s degrees for preschool teachers—a policy advocated by many in the early-childhood-education field—may not actually improve children’s development.

For a copy of “Growing Up in Poverty, ”call the National Association for the Education of Young Children at (202) 232-8777.

A version of this article appeared in the February 02, 2005 edition of Education Week