Okay, this is a slight change from our usual “What We’re Reading” posts. Instead of highlighting a particular article, we wanted to share an interesting application of research: this childcare cost calculator from the Center for American Progress. You can use it to estimate the impact of improving different parts of structural quality (the infrastructure that surrounds teaching, like teacher-child ratios, the physical space, and materials) on the cost of care.
How does this relate to CLASS? CLASS measures elements of process quality, the day-to-day experiences and interactions that help children learn. While it’s possible for educators to provide high-quality, nurturing care in any environment, there’s evidence that some aspects of structural quality support higher process quality. What’s more, teacher compensation plays a substantial role in providing ongoing, high-quality care.
Playing with the childcare calculator is a reminder that the quality interactions that are essential for child development don’t come cheaply. It highlights the systemic challenges to ensuring that all young children have life-changing teachers and early learning experiences. For example, in Teachstone’s home state of Virginia, the childcare calculator estimates the baseline cost for one child to attend preschool at $822 per month. But if we paid early childhood educators the same as kindergarten teachers, provided retirement benefits, and increased health insurance contributions to the national employer average, the estimated cost jumps to $1,323—about a quarter of an average Virginia family’s monthly income!
Take a look at the tool and see the financial effects of improving quality. How much would costs go up in your state? And how much would children benefit?
We’ve written before about the discipline disparities between children of color and their white peers. (Since that post was published last year, the Department of Education has released updated - but not improved - statistics on the topic.) But discipline is not the only school arena where children from different backgrounds have different experiences. There’s also evidence that racial bias affects teachers’ academic and behavioral expectations, even in early childhood.
One of my biggest takeaways from the childcare calculator we talked about recently was how much it would cost to increase early childhood educators’ wages. It wasn’t shocking—if you’re looking to get some laughs, ask any teacher you know if they’re in education to make big money—but it was a disappointing reminder of just how little we pay those who are shaping our future. The recently-released 2018 Early Childhood Workforce Index gives us some specifics around compensation in early childhood education and care.
All across the world, researchers and educators are working on ways to help students learn. Some are small tweaks or classroom “lifehacks.” Some are big, expensive programs with huge ambitions. Some (like CLASS!) are paradigms about learning. When something works, you want it to be accessible to other practitioners. The problem is, many of the programs that are most effective also take a lot of time, money, or resources.
Most people I know who are invested in early childhood education look at Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address as an important moment. In it, Obama called on the federal government and states to work together to “make high-quality preschool available to every child in America,” and talked about the economic and social impact of such policies. I teared up when I rewatched this speech. It’s powerful stuff. As it so often does, the conversation about early childhood education and care revolved around quality.