Early Childhood

Study: Calif. Child-Care Centers Struggle To Keep Good Teachers

By Linda Jacobson — May 02, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Even child-care programs that are striving to be among the best in the country are struggling to hold on to their teachers and directors, according to the latest findings from a longitudinal study of those who provide care and education to young children.

For More Information

The new “Then and Now” study is available for $15 and can be ordered online from the Center for the Child Care Workforce.

In fact, more than three-quarters of the teachers and 40 percent of the top administrators who worked at a center in 1996 were no longer on the job four years later, says the report, which is based on an examination of programs in three California counties. The study was scheduled for release this week by the Center for the Child Care Workforce and the Institute for Industrial Relations at the University of California, Berkeley.

Calling that turnover pattern the “other teaching crisis,” the authors describe employee turnover in programs for young children as “equal to, if not greater than, the staffing crisis plaguing elementary and secondary schools.”

And they argue that the issue must be addressed through an increase in public funding.

“We think that compensation ... must be increased dramatically and quickly,” said Marcy Whitebook, a senior researcher at the Institute for Industrial Relations.

The study, “Then and Now: Changes in Child Care Staffing, 1994-2000,” shows that many newly hired employees are not as well educated as those they are replacing. While about half the teachers who left had four-year degrees, only a third of the new teachers had the same level of education.

In addition, the researchers found, only half the teachers who had left the centers were still working in child care when they were contacted last year. What’s more, those who were working in other fields were making an average of $8,000 more a year than those who had accepted another child-care job.

The new report updates the center’s 1997 study, which focused on 92 early-childhood-education programs in three northern California counties—Santa Cruz, San Mateo, and Santa Clara— that had earned or were seeking accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The counties have a mix of low-, middle-, and high-income neighborhoods, and the sample includes both nonprofit and for- profit centers.

In the initial study, “NAEYC Accreditation as a Strategy for Improving Child Care Quality,” the researchers found that earning national accreditation was one of the characteristics of high-quality child-care centers, but that such recognition alone was no guarantee that children were receiving the best care possible.

And the new study, which focuses on 75 of the original 92 centers, draws the same conclusion.

Wanted: Higher Salaries

Only centers paying higher wages were more likely to retain their teachers. Those teachers who had quit by 2000 earned an average of $10.29 an hour—about $1.50 less than those who were still in their positions.

The authors note that even the highest-paid and most experienced teachers in centers are making about $10,000 less than the average K-12 teacher in California.

Among their other findings, the authors discovered that early- childhood-education teachers were more likely to stay on the job if they worked with a higher percentage of well-trained colleagues, including those with a college degree and specialized training in child development.

“The absence of capable co-workers makes the already-demanding job of creating a well- functioning environment for children even harder,” the report says.

Barbara A. Willer

Barbara A. Willer, the deputy executive director of the NAEYC, agreed that the high turnover rate over a four-year period “is not good news.”

But she added that the results should be put in context. The study focuses only on counties within California, a state that began a large class-size-reduction effort in grades K-3 nearly five years ago.

Ms. Whitebook said that of the directors who were interviewed for the study, about a third said that they had lost teachers to the public school system.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 02, 2001 edition of Education Week as Study: Calif. Child-Care Centers Struggle To Keep Good Teachers


School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Early Childhood Spotlight Spotlight on Early Learning
This Spotlight will help you examine the impact of early education programs on high school performance, evaluate pre-K programs, and more.
Early Childhood Opinion The Not-So-Certain Science of Pre-K
Much of the support for universal preschool proceeds with a blind assurance that leaves difficult questions aside.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Early Childhood Pandemic Kids Need Early Language Support. Here's How Teachers Can Help
Preschool teachers share their ideas for promoting students' language growth.
3 min read
A Birmingham, Ala., preschool teacher works with a student wearing a "talk pedometer," which records child and adult vocalizations, as part of the school-based LENA Grow program. Teachers receive report on how much talk and interaction each child experiences in a day of recording.
A Birmingham, Ala., preschool teacher works with a student wearing a "talk pedometer," which records child and adult vocalizations, as part of the school-based LENA Grow program. Teachers receive reports on how much talk and interaction each child experiences in a day of recording.
Courtesy of LENA Foundation
Early Childhood What the Research Says Babies Are Saying Less Since the Pandemic: Why That's Concerning
Children born in the pandemic have heard fewer words and conversations. Their language development has suffered.
5 min read
Illustration of woman and boy talking.
<br/>BRO Vector/Getty