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?
In the wake of the widespread civil unrest after the killing of George Floyd, the national conversation about the inequities in the educational opportunities provided white students and students of color has been amplified. Due to racial and socioeconomic segregation, Black students, and other students of color, are more likely to attend poorly funded schools. EdBuild, a non-profit focused on fair and equitable school funding, reports that high poverty school districts that predominantly enroll children of color receive on average, $1,600 less per student than the national average. By their calculations, there is a $23,000,000,000 gap between funding for schools that primarily serve high poverty Black students and those that predominantly serve white students. Schools that predominantly serve high poverty white students, only receive $1440 less per student (EdBuild, 2019).
A few years into teaching early childhood, I applied to work at a school that does incredible work in the local community. I was thrilled to get an interview but realized very quickly that, even though the environment was supportive and the students were wonderful young people, I was much too intimidated to work there.
Decades of evidence indicate that high-quality early childhood education positively affects children. Yet studies reveal that too few programs implement high-quality programming. To date, improvement efforts have primarily focused on what occurs within the classroom. The Ounce of Prevention Fund (Ounce), in partnership with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (UChicago Consortium), strives to broaden the focus of improvement efforts beyond the classroom to organizational conditions that support teachers and the relationships among staff, children, and families.
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.