Early Years

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Child-Care Quality: A new study offers strong evidence that raising the wages of teachers in child-care centers can improve the quality of the care children receive.

"For every age group, classroom quality was most strongly associated with teacher wages," according to the study, which looked at infant, toddler, and preschool classrooms in 104, mostly nonsubsidized centers in Atlanta, Boston, and the central area of Virginia.

"These findings indicate that centers in which teachers are supported with higher wages also provide higher-quality environments for the young children in their care," the study concludes.

"Within and Beyond the Classroom Door: Assessing Quality in Child Care Centers" was conducted by researchers from five universities and appears in the March 28 issue of the Early Childhood Research Quarterly, which is published by the Washington-based National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The quality of the programs was determined by using three different rating instruments, which measure such features as curriculum, play materials, indoor and outdoor play spaces, and caregiver-child interactions.

The researchers found that wages were the highest predictor of quality in the preschool classrooms.

It is unclear, however, why teacher wages appear to play such a significant role, the authors say. They suggest the reasons may include that higher pay contributes to the stability of a center's staff, and that centers that pay more can be more selective when hiring teachers.

While wages were linked as well to the quality of the infant and toddler classrooms, the researchers found that teacher training, parents' monthly fees, teacher-child ratios, and group size were also important factors.

"This may be interpreted as encouraging news for those who seek to improve quality of care for infants and toddlers: Apparently, there are many avenues to quality for these youngest age groups," the authors write. But that finding, they add, might also suggest that all of those factors require attention in order to provide high-quality care for young children.

While most studies of child-care quality focus on characteristics of the classrooms themselves, this research suggests that factors outside the classroom can also be "potentially powerful influences" on child-care quality.

"Child-care research that blends developmental and economic considerations is in its infancy," the authors write, "but promises to be an exciting interdisciplinary direction for future research."

—Linda Jacobson

Vol. 20, Issue 30, Page 15

Published in Print: April 11, 2001, as Early Years

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