Though exacerbated by the pandemic, turnover in early childhood education is not a new phenomenon. In 2012, the Institute of Medicine & National Research Council reported early childhood settings turnover rates averaging between 25-30 percent. Some pre-pandemic studies indicate it could be even higher, at a startling 26-50% turnover rate. The pandemic has compounded the already present challenge and has made the headlines as our country grapples with the realization that a healthy child care system is critical to our economic recovery.
We hear from administrators, directors, and owners across the country as they share why hiring and retaining quality early childhood educators is challenging. In fact, we talked at length about these workforce challenges in a recent episode of Impacting the Classroom. And one thing we are all in agreement about is this: the compensation provided to teachers in early childhood is not a reasonable living wage.
This one driving challenge is more openly talked about than ever before, something that is welcome as we all double our efforts to advocate for systemic change in our field. As one study shares, “...educator wage is the strongest predictor of center-level turnover across early childhood centers.
Beyond pay, what other factors are driving high turnover rates in our field? Often, survey data is targeted towards the people hiring, and the teachers’ voices aren’t always present. Studies that include input from the educators who leave the field are more balanced and provide the most insight beyond the focus on wages. Some states, such as Illinois and Colorado, are looking into workplace quality. At the same time, the data about early childhood teachers’ well-being is being considered, as many early childhood educators are experiencing depressive symptoms.
What we are learning is a call-to-action for early childhood leaders. Early childhood educators are under duress. Research shows that when teachers are feeling depressive symptoms, they are more likely to report child behavior problems in their classrooms. This is significant because behavior challenges are an additional reason teachers leave the classroom.
While systemic change is needed, we can, as leaders, consider what changes we can make within our circle of influence.
A tangible culture shift we can make in our centers and classrooms is to embrace the CLASS Parallel Process. The CLASS interactions that we coach our teachers to adopt in their daily work can also apply to our adult-to-adult interactions between leaders and peers.
Early childhood teachers call out specific needs, and we can wrap those into our CLASS lens and make a culture shift in the process. In addition to financial rewards and compensation, Whitebook (2011) shared that early childhood teachers need:
Whitebook shares that the well-being of the adults in early childhood settings—their living and working conditions—is an essential determinant of how well children will do. And everything can mimic what we have learned about teacher and child interactions in our adult to adult interactions. Teachers report that despite the challenges in their daily work, they care deeply about children. Kwon, Malek, et al., (2020) state that many teachers go into the field knowing they are not well-paid or respected. But they want to stay because their work is rewarding and meaningful! That sentiment is inspiring, and we should find ways to honor our teachers each day.
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Moving towards a post-pandemic world, early childhood education is still in a fractured state of recovery. Numerous headlines define the inequitable foundation early childhood system is built on that limits educators’ capacity to thrive and impact children’s lives. Yet demand for early learning remains steadfast as families get back to routines in communities everywhere. How do policymakers start to level the playing field for early childhood programs with equitable policies while increasing access for families in need of high-quality care?
Feel intimidated by the idea of advocacy? Many do. Our guest on today's episode of Teaching with CLASS, Jake Stewart, explains the importance of using your voice to make change & easy ways to take action. Whether you're talking to Members of Congress, creating a TikTok, or simply talking to a family member, your voice as an educator matters.
The frameworks that power great interactions with children can be applied to relationships with our coworkers. In our webinar Staying In-Sync: Creating Positive Interactions Between Teachers, panelists Kate Cline, Professional Services Manager at Teachstone, and Deidre Harris, Educational Consultant at Team Agreements, led a lively discussion about how to foster healthy relationships among your staff. They identified a few key areas that make up the foundation of this work. Let’s get into it!