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Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation (2015)

Chapter:10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems

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Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
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10

Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems

This chapter examines three important factors that contribute to workforce development and quality professional practice for educators who work with children from birth through age 8: requirements to qualify for professional practice, evaluation of practice quality, and program accreditation and quality improvement systems. Each of these factors is examined in turn in the sections that follow.

STANDARDIZING QUALITY: REQUIREMENTS TO QUALIFY FOR PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE

Standards for requirements to be qualified to practice are one tool for contributing to the quality of professional practice among those responsible for the care and education of young children. These standards typically are set through systems that establish and administer either legal licenses to practice or credentials, certificates, or endorsements that may be a legal requirement, a condition for funding, or voluntarily adopted by an employer as a condition of employment or augmentation of baseline qualifications. In addition to these systems for individual practitioners, standards for requirements may be set through systems that establish licensing or funding criteria for a program or center.

Current systems vary widely in what is required, depending on what agency or institution has jurisdiction or authority to set qualification requirements; who administers both required and voluntary qualifications; and the professional role, the practice setting, and the age ranges of children

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

served.1 The following section describes this variety of requirements and examines its implications in light of findings from the science of child development that every setting is a learning environment for young children, and every professional who works with these children has a similarly complex and important role in fostering child development and early learning. The subsequent section then delves in more depth into the issue of variability in degree requirements across professional roles.

Current Qualification Requirements for the Care and Education Workforce

Each of the 50 states (as well as U.S. territories) sets its own qualifications for public school teachers, as well as for teachers, assistant teachers, and directors in licensed early childhood programs and for regulated family childcare centers and home-based childcare providers. Table 10-1 provides an overview of the typical differences in qualification expectations across professional roles and settings. In public school systems, educators are required to be individually licensed or certified. By contrast, in settings outside of elementary schools, with the exception of some prekindergarten programs, it is much rarer for educators to be required to be individually licensed or certified (Kleiner, 2013). In most of these settings, state licensing standards for the program or center set the basic level of health and safety requirements for facilities and the education qualifications for teaching and administrative staff. Most of these programs also are supported by federal, state, and/or private funds that prescribe widely varying expectations for preservice and ongoing training, as well as certification. The exceptions are Head Start and Military Child Care, which set uniform national requirements for teachers and other personnel. Varying qualifications across different types of settings reflect the varying historical purposes of early care and education programs: programs originally conceived primarily as childcare support services for working parents generally set lower teacher standards than those originally designed to provide early education (such as preschools and public prekindergarten programs) (Whitebook, 2014).

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1 Terminology indicating that an educator has obtained the required knowledge and experience to be qualified for teaching varies within and across settings and sectors. In school systems, states use one or more terms—“certification,” “license,” and “credential”—to indicate that a teacher is qualified. In early care and education, a “license” generally indicates that a program, center, or school meets standards rather than referring to educator qualifications, which are more commonly described by the terms “certification” and “credential.” Such documentation of qualifications is not required for most early childhood educators, and the education and experience required to qualify for various certificates and credentials vary depending on setting, funding source, and regulatory agency (Whitebook, 2014).

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

TABLE 10-1 Overview of Differences in Qualification Expectations for Early Childhood Settings and Early Elementary Settings

  K-12 Schools Early Childhood Settings
Licensure/Certification

All public school teachers must be licensed or certified through traditional or alternative programs recognized by the state (Exstrom, 2012).

Only 23 states require all charter school teachers to be licensed or certified through traditional or alternative programs; 14 states require only a certain percentage of teachers in a charter school to be licensed or certified; 4 states and the District of Columbia leave decisions about licensure or certification to the individual charter school (Exstrom, 2012).

Private school teachers typically are not required to be certified or licensed.

Individual teacher certification is uncommon for most lead teachers, although it is more common for those who work in public prekindergarten programs (Kleiner, 2013).a

Almost all state-funded prekindergarten programs require certification, licensure, or endorsement; some require the same licensure for prekindergarten teachers as for early elementary teachers (Exstrom, 2012).b

Certification is not routinely linked to successful completion of a degree in many states.

 
Qualifications

Education requirements are relatively uniform across districts and states.

All public school teachers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and provisional or actual certification before they begin teaching.

Typically, successful completion of approved degree or credential programs aligns directly with certification requirements.

Teacher qualifications vary widely based on program types and funding requirements—from little or no education to a bachelor’s or higher degree.

Each state sets its own teacher qualifications for early care and education (ECE) programs, with the exception of Head Start and Military Child Care, for which teacher qualifications are set by the federal government.

In 2012, of the 568,000 center-based teachers and caregivers serving children 3-5 years old, 45.1 percent held a bachelor’s degree or higher, 17.4 percent held an associate’s degree, 24.3 percent had completed some college, and 13.2 percent had completed high school or less (NSECE, 2013).

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×
  K-12 Schools Early Childhood Settings    
Qualifications (continued) The vast majority (93 percent) of elementary and middle school teachers held at least a bachelor’s degree in 2012 (Department for Professional Employees and AFL-CIO, 2013).c Among those, nearly 48 percent held a master’s degree or greater (Department for Professional Employees and AFL-CIO, 2013). State-Funded Prekindergartend Head Start All Other Center-Based Programse
  • 58 percent of programs require a bachelor’s degree for all lead teachers (Barnett et al., 2012, p. 11).
  • 85 percent of programs require specialized prekindergarten training for lead teachers (Barnett et al., 2012, p. 11).
  • 29 percent of programs require assistant teachers to have a competency-based certification (Barnett et al., 2012, p. 11), such as the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential (CPR, 2013d).f
  • At least 50 percent of Head Start teachers nationwide must have a bachelor’s or advanced degree in early childhood education, OR a bachelor’s or advanced degree in any subject and coursework equivalent to a major relating to ECE, along with experience teaching preschool-age children (Office of Head Start, 2012).
  • 66 percent of Head Start teachers working with preschoolers held at least a bachelor’s degree in 2013 (Office of Head Start, 2013a).g
  • 17 states require less than a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) credential.
  • 14 states require a high school diploma or GED.
  • 10 states require clock hours in ECE, credits, or a credential less than a CDA.
  • 7 states require a CDA credential. • 1 state requires an associate’s degree in ECE or a related field.
  • 1 state requires a bachelor’s degree in ECE or a related field (Child Care Aware of America, 2013).
Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×
      No experience is required for teachers with an associate’s, bachelor’s, or higher degree in ECE. Degrees in other fields require experience, as determined by the grantee. In 41 states, no prior experience is required to be employed as a teacher in licensed childcare programs (Barnett et al., 2011).

a About one-quarter of teachers in public and private preschools are required to meet individual licensing requirements.

b Only charter preschools in one state and in Washington, DC, do not require some type of certification for prekindergarten teachers. Certifications in some states are different for prekindergarten teachers who work in school-sponsored and not-school-sponsored settings.

c There were 1,981,280 elementary and middle school teachers employed in the United States in 2012.

d Aggregated data reported throughout this table are based on 52 state-funded preschool programs (Barnett et al., 2012).

e The category “all other center-based programs” includes privately operated childcare and preschools funded by parent fees and/or Child Care Development Fund subsidies. These programs represent a diversity of qualifications for teaching staff.

f The CDA credential is a competency-based national certification earned by early childhood educators, often those who work as assistant teachers.

g Twenty-seven percent of Early Head Start teachers working with infants and toddlers held at least a bachelor’s degree in 2013 (Whitebook, 2014).

SOURCE: Adapted from Building a Skilled Workforce (prepared for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) (Whitebook, 2014).

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

State Public School Licensure for Educators of Children from Birth Through Age 8

State public school licensure systems encompass professional roles that entail working with young children. These systems use a number of different age ranges and combinations of grade levels: some extend from birth through age 5 or up to age 8, while others cover ages in public school settings, extending from prekindergarten or kindergarten to as high as sixth grade or higher in the same license. Many states also have multiple licenses that include some segment of the birth through age 8 range; for example, some states have both a birth through age 8 license and a kindergarten through sixth grade license or a prekindergarten through third grade license and one for kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade (Bornfreund, 2011; Crandall et al., 2014).

As of summer 2014, 27 states and the District of Columbia offered public school teachers’ licenses beginning at birth, with some states offering more than one such license. Table 10-2 shows the earliest-age license available across states.

TABLE 10-2 Earliest Points of Available Public School Licensure Across States in 2014

B-Age 4 B-K/Age 5 B-2nd Grade B-3rd Grade/ Age 8 B-5th Grade B-6th Grade
Florida Connecticut Delaware Alabama Georgia New York
  Kansas Nevada Arizona   Wisconsin
  Kentucky New York Colorado    
  Maine Rhode Island Idaho    
  North Carolina   Illinois    
  Wyoming   Iowa    
      Minnesota    
      Missouri    
      New Hampshire    
      New Jersey    
      New Mexico    
      North Dakota    
      South Dakota    
      Vermont    
      Wisconsin    
      Wyoming    

NOTE: B = birth; K = kindergarten; Pre-K = prekindergarten.

SOURCE: Crandall et al., 2014. The University of Arkansas conducted a study through a contract with the National Academy of Sciences that examined the early childhood public school teacher licenses available in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data were collected in summer 2014 through Internet searches and telephone interviews for each of

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

Of the configurations of licenses available, a birth to age 8/third grade license is the most prevalent (16 states). The next most prevalent is birth through kindergarten/age 5 (6 states). The remainder of the configurations include birth through second grade (4 states), birth through fifth grade (Georgia), birth through age 4 (Florida), and birth through sixth grade (2 states).

Compared with a prior scan conducted in 2009 (Jones et al., 2009), some changes have occurred over time in the available licenses that apply to the birth through age 8 range. Two states (Alabama and New Jersey) have added licensure beginning at birth since 2009, and a third state (Arkansas) is planning to do so in 2015. In the 2009 scan, Alabama was listed as offering an early childhood certificate covering prekindergarten to grade 3; today the state offers an early childhood education license that covers birth through age 8. New Jersey now offers an early childhood education license that covers birth through third grade, while in 2009 it offered a prekindergarten through third grade certificate. In addition, the Arkansas Board of Education, which currently has a K-6 license, is slated to roll out its birth through kindergarten licensure in fall 2015.

Pre-K-3rd Grade/Age 8 Pre-K Pre-K-K Pre-K-2nd Grade Pre-K-6th Grade
Alaska Mississippi Michigan Massachusetts Oregon
California Pennsylvania West Virginia   Texas
Hawaii West Virginia      
Indiana        
Louisiana        
Maryland        
Montana        
Nebraska        
New Jersey        
Ohio        
Oklahoma        
South Carolina        
Tennessee        
Virginia        
Washington, DC        

the licensing entities. In all cases, telephone interviews were held to confirm the information. However, such data are fluid because they are based on policy decisions that can change as a result of several possible factors.

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

Conversely, some states that previously had a license from birth have since dropped it. Five states—Indiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oregon, and West Virginia—were identified in 2009 as offering licensure for public school beginning at birth; as of 2014, each offered licensure only beginning at the prekindergarten level. Three of these five states have not abandoned regulation for those involved professionally with infants and toddlers; rather, they now offer different certification programs. The Oregon Department of Education, for example, now offers birth through age 3 early intervention and age 3 through school entry early childhood special education certification for those involved in early intervention work. Massachusetts now offers certificates for professionals working in various roles within the childcare sector. Nebraska’s early childhood certificate for those working with children under age 3 can be used for childcare settings and is available for those trained at a minimum of the Child Development Associate credential or bachelor’s degree level. Two of the states, however, no longer cover the age span from birth to preschool. The West Virginia Board of Education does not have purview over birth certifications, so it no longer issues licenses covering that age span. Additionally, Indiana now offers a “generalist” early childhood license covering preschool through grade 3 and an early and middle childhood license for teachers of kindergarten through grade 6 (Crandall et al., 2014).

Implications and Consequences of Overlapping State Qualification Standards

In addition to variations in licensure across states, one clear trend is that overlap in state licensure is common. This means that prospective educators can, for example, choose to qualify for a birth to third grade license or a K-8 license (Bornfreund, 2011; Crandall et al., 2014). One of the consequences of this overlap in qualification systems is the possibility that none of the available standards captures the full range of competencies needed for teaching children from birth through age 8. Few states have systems set up in such a way that prospective educators wishing to teach in prekindergarten through third grade only have the option of acquiring a license that is inclusive of early childhood. Because the earliest age span covered in some states ends at or before kindergarten, kindergarten teachers typically obtain a license that extends to the upper elementary grades instead of one focused specifically on the early grades. They are therefore unlikely to have any specific training in early childhood. Florida, like many other states, has overlapping licenses for the early grades and offers an example of the consequences. According to Bornfreund (2011, p. 11):

Teachers seeking a pre-k-third license are expected to identify the sequence

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

of development for typical children as well as to identify atypical development. But teachers seeking a K-6 license are not. Instead, K-6 teacher candidates appear to be expected to exhibit a deeper knowledge and understanding of content areas including math, science, and social studies than pre-k-third candidates (Florida Department of Education, 2011). Ideally, states should set standards that encompass the best of both worlds, requiring teachers in pre-k, kindergarten and the early grades to gain both a strong grasp of math and science content plus developmental knowledge and pedagogical skills.

The structure of licenses also influences how education schools prepare prospective educators. According to Bornfreund (2011), states with overlapping licenses tend also to have overlapping teacher preparation programs. In New Jersey, for example, prospective educators can pursue a prekindergarten through third grade early childhood degree or an elementary degree covering kindergarten through fifth grade. In many states, licenses for these two grade-level spans can be obtained simultaneously in the same program. As a result, these programs may focus on the grades in the middle of this span and neglect the earlier and later grades (Bornfreund, 2011). Take the example of Rider University, whose dual track entails taking the elementary track plus three early childhood courses. Although the course descriptions convey appropriate content, they do not entail field experience in prekindergarten through third grade settings. A student teaching experience is included, but this need not take place in the early grades (Bornfreund, 2011).

Another potential consequence is that licensure structures, in combination with hiring practices, may incentivize educators to obtain the broadest possible degree and license, thereby foregoing more specialized training to prepare them for specific settings and professional roles. Bornfreund (2011, pp. 10-11) illustrates this point by citing the case of Georgia:

Georgia offers another example of the problems that can come with overlap. The state’s birth-kindergarten (B-K) license was created about five years ago to strengthen the early childhood profession. However, prospective teachers who are considering teaching pre-kindergarten or kindergarten can also attain Georgia’s P-5 license, which allows them to teach from pre-k through fifth grade. The P-5 license makes teachers more marketable to elementary school principals seeking versatile candidates who can be re-located to multiple grade levels. It also would be more likely to lead to the higher salary and benefits that come with a public school job. With a B-K license, the odds are long that teachers could find jobs with a professional salary unless they were hired by a principal specifically looking for a pre-k or kindergarten teacher who valued their B-K experience over versatility. Teachers in infant and toddler centers, as well as many in preschools, are paid far less than public school teachers.

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

Prospective educators are likely to pursue the license that makes them less likely to be subject to disparities in compensation and as employable as possible. Hiring decisions can be driven by the grade-level divisions in public school buildings, and the need for flexibility in being able to place educators in different grade levels over time. This may match the groupings of some licenses better than others. In an elementary school that has kindergarten through fifth grade, for example, an individual with a K-5 license may be a more appealing candidate than one with a birth through age 8 license who is not qualified to teach in fourth and fifth grade. Further, elementary school principals hiring teachers may not fully grasp the differences between preparation for early childhood and elementary educators. Moreover, they may move weaker teachers from an upper elementary grade to an earlier grade so that stronger teachers will be in those grades that are subject to state tests and school accountability (Bornfreund, 2011; Fuller and Ladd, 2013; Goldring et al., 2014).

Unfortunately, little evidence is available on which licensure standards ensure the most effective educators and produce better outcomes for young children. As a result, there are a number of considerations to be weighed in determining state licenses. Some believe that a birth through third grade, or at least prekindergarten through third grade, license is best aligned with how the science of child development and early learning supports the need for consistency and continuity in instructional practices for educators working with young children in this age range. However, this approach does not align well with practice settings. For example, understanding the foundations of development across the age span is key for any care and education professional regardless of setting. However, when it comes to more specialized competencies, educators planning to work in most public school systems will not be working with infants and toddlers, while those interested in working with infants and toddlers will not be working with children in the early elementary grades. Thus there is a rationale for a license that matches age span to setting, with reform not so much in the age span as in the content of the requirement to ensure that expectations for knowledge and competencies are more consistent across roles and settings and align more fully with research on child development and instruction for young children.

Another, similar consideration is flexibility in employment options, from the perspective of both the educator and the principals and administrators who hire and distribute staff. One potential option is a base license that would ensure common competencies across a broader age and grade span but would be accompanied by a required endorsement or certification ensuring specific competencies for subset ranges within that span. An educator might start a career with one endorsement, but could acquire another midcareer if asked to shift between earlier and upper grades.

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

Nongovernmental Credentialing Systems

Child Development Associate (CDA) credential The CDA credential, administered by the Council for Professional Recognition, is a national accreditation system that provides credentialing for the early childhood workforce. The credential is available for professionals in a number of settings and across the age range from birth to age 5: infant/toddler (birth to age 3) and preschool (3-5) endorsements for center-based programs; birth to age 5 endorsement for family childcare programs; and families with children from birth to age 5 endorsements for home visiting programs. Professionals working in bilingual settings also can earn a bilingual specialization to promote the development of children in a dual language environment (CPR, 2013c).

This credentialing system is intended to ensure that early childhood professionals have the competencies needed to work with children from birth through age 5. The six competencies goals of the CDA credential described by the Council for Professional Recognition (CPR, 2013a) are to

  • establish and maintain a safe, healthy learning environment;
  • advance physical and intellectual competence;
  • support social and emotional development and provide positive guidance;
  • establish positive and productive relationships with families;
  • ensure a well-run, purposeful program responsive to participant needs; and
  • maintain a commitment to professionalism.

The CDA credential may contribute to some aspects of quality and may be beneficial for child outcomes. Specifically, professionals with the credential and with limited formal education may act more positively with children and make more opportunities to engage in play with language than those without knowledge and previous coursework in early childhood education. A 2006 study found that children with CDA-credentialed teachers achieved greater gains in nonstandardized measures than children without a CDA-credentialed teacher, particularly in rhyming and naming letters, numbers, and colors. On standardized measures for language and math, however, there was no evidence that the CDA credential had any impact. The authors suggested that the Council for Professional Recognition review the CDA credentialing process and make the changes needed to improve outcomes, which could mean focusing more strongly on language and math (Early et al., 2006). Other authors recommended that the CDA credential’s contributions to quality be further examined (Tout et al., 2006).

In June 2013, the Council for Professional Recognition launched a

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

revised CDA credentialing process, developed after feedback was received from professionals and practitioners in early childhood education as well as CDA instructors. The updated system is intended to simplify the credentialing process for candidates. While some components, including competency goals, remain unchanged, certain aspects are new. The updated system includes a CDA professional development specialist who provides the candidate with coaching and facilitates reflection. The professional development specialist also conducts a verification visit with candidates that entails reviewing the required professional portfolio, observing the candidate with children, and reflecting on areas of strength with the candidate.

Those holding a high school diploma (or equivalent) and high school students enrolled in an early childhood education technical program are eligible to apply for the CDA credential. Candidates must complete 120 hours of child development courses at any time prior to submitting the application, as well as 480 hours of direct experience working with children. Candidates can take the CDA exam at any time (CPR, 2013b).

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), founded in 1987, describes the knowledge and competencies of educators across 25 subject areas and developmental stages (NBPTS, 2014a). Competencies for generalists working in early and middle childhood are included (NBPTS, n.d.). The NBPTS report What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do details five core propositions (NBPTS, 1989):

  • Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
  • Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
  • Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
  • Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
  • Teachers are members of learning communities.

The NBPTS offers a voluntary certification for education professionals, and licensed teachers with a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 3 years of teaching experience in an accredited early childhood, elementary, middle, or secondary school are eligible to apply. The application process includes a computer-based assessment through which the candidate must demonstrate content knowledge of developmentally appropriate practices. Candidates also must submit a portfolio including work on differentiation in the classroom, video recordings of teaching practices, and evidence of effective

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

and reflective practices. Support and financial assistance are available to candidates, varying by state (NBPTS, 2014b).

As of 2014, more than 110,000 teachers across the nation had earned the NBPTS certification; 4,000 earned it in 2013-2014 alone. This number, however, is a small fraction of the number of professionals working in classrooms (NBPTS, 2014c). A 2004 study found that education professionals in affluent and advantaged districts are more likely than those in other districts to apply for the NBPTS credential because of incentives such as the district’s covering the application fee and offering salary increases for those who become certified. It also is not evident that low-quality teachers are being encouraged to apply for the credential (Goldhaber et al., 2004).

According to a report of the National Research Council (NRC) (2008a) the NPBTS certification has varying impacts on student achievement. Some studies show achievement gains on standardized exams for students with NBPTS-certified teachers, whereas others show no impact at all. The report identified only one study that looked at impact on student outcomes beyond achievement on state standardized tests, such as attitudes and motivation in the classroom, which may reflect quality and effectiveness of teachers (NRC, 2008a).

Conclusions About Qualification Requirements for Educators

The requirements and expectations for educators of children from birth through age 8 vary widely for different professionals based on their role, the ages of the children with whom they work, and the practice setting. Requirements also vary depending on what agency or institution has jurisdiction or authority for setting qualification criteria. The result is a varied mix of licenses and certifications that represent legally required qualifications for the workforce and voluntary certificates, endorsements, and credentials that funders or employers may adopt as requirements or that professionals may pursue to augment and document their qualifications.

Differing qualification requirements drive differences among professional roles in terms of education, training, hiring prospects, career pathways, and infrastructure for professional learning during ongoing practice. As a result, different qualification requirements also drive differences and inequities in the quality of professional practice in different settings. This landscape is dissonant with what the science of child development and early learning reveals about the core competencies that all care and education professionals need and the importance of consistency in learning experiences for children in this age range. Greater coherence in the content of and processes for meeting qualifica-

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

tion requirements would improve the quality of professional practice within settings and the consistency and continuity of quality learning experiences for children as they grow from birth through age 8.

Little evidence is available on which systems of qualification requirements lead to the best outcomes, or on whether national credentials produce more effective teachers and better outcomes for children. As a result, policy makers and others who determine qualification requirements need to make choices that include consideration of practice setting and employment flexibility in designing qualification systems. Any of the available choices can be implemented with adherence to the principle of ensuring that requirements reflect consistent expectations for the core knowledge and competencies needed by all care and education professionals who work with children from birth through age 8.

Degree Requirement

While there is wide consensus across states and types of schools that early elementary educators should obtain at least a bachelor’s degree, a similar “educational floor” is not consistently in place for educators working with younger children (Whitebook, 2014). Almost all rigorous studies of early childhood programs that have shown large effects have come from programs with licensed teachers who have bachelor’s degrees (Barnett, 2008). However, as with many areas of education research, existing research on the relationship between the education level of educators and the quality of instruction or children’s learning and development is inconclusive.

Early and colleagues (2007) analyzed data from seven previous studies of prekindergarten programs and found null or contradictory associations between the bachelor’s degree or other features of teachers’ education attainment and classroom quality or child outcomes. Some studies found positive associations, while others found no association or negative associations. They conducted 27 analyses across studies to examine the relationship between the degree attainment of the lead teacher and classroom quality and children’s academic outcomes. They report that only eight of those analyses showed any evidence of association: six in the direction of a positive association and two in the direction of a negative association. In an unpublished working paper, Kelley and Camilli (2007) present a review of 32 studies, with a separate analysis for 18 comparative studies. They found that a college education had a modest, but positive, relationship with classroom quality and children’s learning and development.

Two studies published more recently than those included in these multistudy analyses have also examined this question. When Mashburn and col-

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

leagues (2008) compared the relative significance of “structural” quality in preschool programs (e.g., teacher’s education level, class size, adult–child ratio) to “process” quality (e.g., quality of instruction, teacher–child interactions, classroom climate), they found that only the latter was significantly related to children’s learning and development. Vu and colleagues (2008) conducted an analysis of California’s state-funded preschool programs to examine the relationship between teachers’ education and classroom quality in the context of other variables, such as program setting (i.e., childcare centers, Head Start, public schools) and program leaders’ qualifications. They found that a bachelor’s degree was associated with higher quality instruction for teachers who worked in childcare and Head Start programs, but not for those in public schools. The authors theorized that public school systems may have the capacity to offset lower education by providing more supports, such as supervision and classroom materials.

In New Jersey, a natural experiment arose when high-quality preschool education, with a requirement for educators with a bachelor’s degree and early childhood certification, was mandated in 31 districts. Prior to implementation, overall observed quality, including factors such as classroom interactions supporting development and learning, was low in private preschool programs. Yet after educators in these programs had the time and financial support to meet the educational and certification requirements (and their compensation was raised to match the qualification standards), observed quality increased, with most private programs rating good or excellent and no difference in quality levels found between private programs and public schools (Barnett, 2011; Frede et al., 2007, 2009). The Abbot preschool program in New Jersey is a well-documented example of successful implementation of a requirement for all lead prekindergarten teachers to have a minimum bachelor’s degree (Barnett et al., 2012).

While these findings from existing studies offer a range of results, the authors’ conclusions are not entirely inconsistent. Even in analyses that found weak or no relationships between educators with a bachelor’s degree and classroom quality and child outcomes, none of the researchers conclude that higher education does not matter, and in fact have stated that their findings should not be construed as indicating that teacher education is not important for quality. Early and colleagues (2007, p. 575) themselves caution that their findings “should not be interpreted as an indictment of the role of education in high-quality programs.” Similarly, the interpretation of Mashburn and colleagues (2008, p. 744) was that structural quality characteristics like teacher’s education may have indirect impacts on children’s learning and development by creating a classroom environment in which quality instruction is more likely. They offer that “teachers with higher credentials may indeed influence children’s outcomes, to the extent

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
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that these qualifications lead to higher quality emotional and instructional interactions that children experience in classrooms.”

There are several reasons why the evidence is difficult to interpret clearly. The design, scale, and original purpose of the studies used in the existing analyses vary greatly, and were typically not designed explicitly to determine the level of education required to ensure high-quality and effective early learning; rather, teacher education is one among several variables studied (Barnett, 2011; Burchinal et al., 2008; Whitebook and Ryan, 2011). As a consequence, it is difficult to determine whether teacher education alone or other variables affect quality and outcomes, and in reporting the analyses described above each of the author groups acknowledges variables they were not able to take into account, often because data were either unavailable or inconsistently reported in the original studies. Similar challenges, and similar inconsistency of findings, are seen in the research literature on teacher qualifications in K-12 education, a system in which all teachers nonetheless are required to have bachelor’s degrees (Barnett, 2011; Early et al., 2006, 2007).

In addition, as noted by the researchers themselves and others, the available studies were not able to take into account factors that affect teacher education and teaching environments, such as the quality and content of the college degree or early childhood major; working conditions that the educators experience, such as access to ongoing professional learning, adequate instructional materials and facilities, effective leadership, and commensurate compensation; the educator’s years of experience; and state and local policies that could promote or hinder effective practice (Early et al., 2007; Hyson et al., 2009; NRC and IOM, 2012; Whitebook and Ryan, 2011). These other variables in question are not insignificant. For example, degree programs vary widely, which means they do not all consistently lead to the same desired quality of practice. In addition, degree requirements set by state or program policies may or may not specify an early childhood focus with a basis in developmental science that includes subject-matter content and pedagogical strategies (Whitebook et al., 2012).

Indeed, one area of agreement emerges across these study authors and perspectives from other researchers in this field. While not ruling out the importance of education levels, the authors of these studies conclude that college education or a specialization in early childhood education alone is not a guarantee of better instruction and improved child outcomes. This assessment is echoed by many who have interpreted the available evidence across studies (Hyson et al., 2009; NRC and IOM, 2012; Whitebook and Ryan, 2011; Zigler et al., 2011). As noted above, many other factors that affect quality practice cannot be ensured solely through the acquisition of a degree. The quality of teachers’ prior learning experiences in higher education and the quality of their ongoing professional learning and work-

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

ing environments all play important roles in enabling effective teaching and learning. These factors are discussed in more detail elsewhere in this report—in particular, in the preceding chapter on higher education and ongoing professional learning and in the chapter that follows on workforce status and well-being.

The confluence of factors that affects practice quality indicates that policy reforms to address levels of education are unlikely to be as effective as desired unless they also address other interrelated factors. In addition, changes to degree requirements may have effects for those working in early learning settings beyond simply increasing their level of education. It has been suggested that benefits of raising education standards for early care and education professionals could extend beyond improved quality of professional practice to include support for higher compensation; easier recruitment of well-qualified candidates to a wider range of professional roles; and reduced staff turnover, resulting in a more stable workforce (Bueno et al., 2010).

Furthermore, there are consequences of the current disparities in expectations for educators. Lower educational expectations for early childhood educators than for elementary school teachers perpetuates the perception—and policies that reflect the perception—that educating children before kindergarten requires less expertise than educating K-3 students, which makes it difficult to maximize the potential of young children through the early learning programs that serve them. Furthermore, there is also now considerable variation among professional roles working with younger children because a degree is increasingly being required in some early childhood settings as a result of requirements in Head Start and other settings and because more states and municipalities now have publicly funded prekindergarten programs that require educators to obtain preschool through early elementary certification.

These disparate policies create a bifurcated job market in which educators who are more able to seek higher education that qualifies them for better-compensated positions leave programs that serve young children to work in schools with older children, or leave less well-resourced preschool and childcare settings for better resourced ones. This not only introduces disparities for the workforce, it also means inequities for children across and within states and local communities, potentially perpetuating a cycle of disparity in the quality of the learning experiences of young children. Children in early care and education settings that should be equivalent may be experiencing a learning environment with an educator whose background ranges from a master’s degree to no or very little college education (Barnett et al., 2013).

Finally, the implications of more widely requiring a bachelor’s degree for educators need to be carefully considered. There would be an inevitable

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

and considerable resource need in order to train and employ more college-educated professionals in these roles (Barnett, 2011). The ability to meet such a requirement would also in large part depend on the capacity of the higher education community to provide quality programs for prospective and current early childhood care and education professionals. As discussed in Chapter 9, improvements needed in the higher education system include, among others, sufficient numbers of full-time early childhood–trained faculty who are knowledgeable about the current research and evidence-based practices, appropriate course offerings, application of appropriate accreditation criteria for higher education programs, and articulation programs between 2- and 4-year colleges (Bueno et al., 2010; Hyson et al., 2009). Another factor to consider regarding the ability to meet the requirement of a bachelor’s degree for those typically employed in early childhood settings is the tuition and other costs for a degree, especially when compared with their income, as well as the time required to complete the training while employed full time (Bueno et al., 2010). It is also important to recognize that many higher education and credentialing systems are undergoing significant changes with the advent of online courses and other technology-driven changes, a trend that could have implications for mitigating the challenges facing educators seeking additional qualifications.

Conclusions About Degree Requirements

Challenges to interpreting the existing research about the relationship between the education level of educators and the quality of instruction and children’s learning and development arise from variability in their design and purpose and the extent to which other variables—such as the quality of the degree-granting program; state and local policies; and features of the practice setting, such as the work environment, curriculum, educator supports, ongoing professional learning opportunities, collaboration among educators, and compensation—can be taken into account in interpreting the findings. The available studies alone are insufficient to enable conclusions as to whether a bachelor’s degree improves the quality and effectiveness of educators, whether for early childhood settings or for K-12 schools.

The consistency in education expectations that would result from requiring educators who work with children from birth through age 8 to have a minimum of a bachelor’s or equivalent degree, with qualifications based on core competencies, could contribute to improving the quality of professional practice, stabilizing the workforce, and achieving greater consistency in learning experiences and optimal outcomes for children. However, a policy requirement for a degree implemented

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

in isolation, without addressing other workforce development considerations, would be insufficient to yield these improvements.

Qualification Requirements for Leadership

Given the complexity of early childhood development, the sophisticated knowledge and competencies needed by care and education professionals to be effective, and the important role of the work environment in supporting quality practice, leadership in birth through age 8 settings (administrators, program directors, family childcare owners, coordinators, principals, superintendents) needs to have an understanding of developmental science; of instructional practices for educators of young children; and for how this knowledge should guide decision making on hiring, supervision, evaluation of educator performance, and the development of portfolios of available professional learning supports. Yet there is currently wide variation in the expectation for these leaders (see Table 10-3).

Leadership in Early Childhood Settings

The current standards and expectations for directors in early childhood settings are insufficient for the knowledge and competencies needed to lead in learning environments for young children. Education and certification requirements for directors are inconsistent across states. Twenty-eight states recognize the administrative competency of center directors by issuing a director or administrator credential. In almost all of these states, the credential is voluntary (Bloom et al., 2013). In fact, only four states require a center director to have a degree at any level (Bloom et al., 2013). In 10 states, an individual with a high school diploma or lower educational attainment, with no coursework in early childhood education, can become a center director (Child Care Aware of America, 2013). Only five states (California, Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, and Texas) require even one college course related to administration or business before the position of director of a licensed childcare center is assumed (Bloom et al., 2013). While the majority of directors hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, that percentage decreased from 72 percent in 2001 to 66 percent in 2008 (McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership, 2013).

The Illinois director credential has served as a model for qualification requirements. As of 2013, 520 early childhood professionals held this credential. The core knowledge and skill areas of the credential have been adapted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to define the competencies needed for effective program administration (Bloom et al., 2013; McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership, 2012). As of 2016, the Illinois director credential will be em-

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

TABLE 10-3 Overview of Differences in Qualification Expectations for Leadership in Early Childhood and Early Elementary Settings

K-12 Schools Early Childhood Settings
K-12 school principals are required to have an administrative credential and/or a master’s degree and some teaching experience (Whitebook et al., 2009).

Often no distinction is made between qualifications for an elementary school and a high school principal.

Only one state, Illinois, requires principals of K-12 schools that operate prekindergarten programs to obtain certification across the span of prekindergarten through grade 12 that includes content and field experiences integrating early childhood education (Brown et al., 2014; Leadership to Integrate the Learning Continuum, 2015; Rice and Costanza, 2011).a

Qualifications for directors or administrators vary by state, ranging from no set requirements to a bachelor’s degree (Barnett et al., 2012.
  • 11 states have no requirements for directors.
  • 13 states require a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential.
  • 5 states require a CDA credential plus credits.
  • 9 states require clock hours, with an average of 92 hours and a range of 30-135 hours.
  • 2 states require credits, with a range of 9-12 credits.
  • 7 states require other credentials: 5 states require a director credential, 1 state requires a vocational certificate, and 1 state requires a national director credential.
  • 2 states require an associate’s degree.
  • 1 state requires a bachelor’s degree.

A Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) is one strategy for increasing the qualifications of directors (McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership, 2012).

  • Nine states require directors to hold an administrator credential to achieve one or more star levels in their QRIS.
  • Seven states have embedded the Program Administration Scale in the quality standards of their QRIS or as a tool to measure whether standards have been met.

a The prekindergarten through grade 12 principal certification also covers special education and English language learners. Nonmandatory training for principals and other early care and education administrators is encouraged in New Jersey and other states.

SOURCE: Adapted from Building a Skilled Workforce (prepared for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) (Whitebook, 2014).

bedded in the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). At the national level, 24 states have a director credential or enhanced director qualifications embedded in QRIS.2

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2 A regularly updated summary of state director credential initiatives and quality rating requirements for early childhood administrators can be found on the McCormick Center’s website (http://McCormickCenter.nl.edu/category/research-resources-library/director-qualifications [accessed November 9, 2014]).

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

Leadership in Elementary Schools

Current policies for training or certifying elementary school principals also are not well aligned with the interests of early elementary educators and students. Even though most principals work in elementary schools and the science clearly indicates the importance of the early years for future academic success, public education policies tend not to emphasize early childhood development for elementary school principals. The use of broad K-12 principal licensure allows flexibility across schools and grades in hiring principals, but is not beneficial for the potential contribution of principals to leadership in education for young children. The science of child development and of developmentally appropriate practices becomes just one of an extremely broad range of competencies and expectations. This broad licensure also reduces the specificity of practicum or internship experiences such that they include limited time in early elementary settings and little or no time in prekindergarten settings, even as an increasing number of school systems are implementing prekindergarten programs. Some policies even ascribe a lower status to elementary school principals relative to those in middle and high schools. For example, the average salary for elementary school principals is more than 5 percent lower than that for middle school principals and almost 12 percent lower than that for high school principals (Herbert, 2011). Elementary school principal positions are often seen as “entry level.” Another challenge to principals’ contributing to continuity in learning experiences is the reliance in some cases on community education programs to administer preschool programs. Removing this responsibility from elementary school principals because of their overly broad position description is counter to supporting greater continuity in high-quality learning experiences for children.

Conclusions About Leadership Qualifications

The importance of leadership is unequivocal, yet the expectations for leaders in settings for children from birth through age 8 do not accord with the responsibilities of these leaders for fostering early learning and development. Current expectations and policies for education and certification of elementary school principals are not well aligned with the interests of early elementary educators and students and the need to understand childhood development research and best practices in instruction in preschool and the primary grades. Current education and certification requirements and expectations for directors in early childhood settings outside of school systems are inconsistent across states, credentialing is largely voluntary, and the current standards do not adequately reflect the knowledge and competencies needed to lead in learning environments for young children.

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

It is important that policies on qualification requirements and the available and expected professional learning for leadership in birth through age 8 settings (administrators, program directors, family childcare owners, coordinators, principals, and superintendents) be structured to ensure that they have an understanding of developmental science; of instructional practices for educators of young children; of how to integrate this knowledge into their instructional leadership; and of how to use this knowledge to guide decision making on hiring, supervision, evaluation of educator performance, and the development of portfolios of professional learning supports for their settings.

EVALUATION OF PRACTICE QUALITY

Current Systems for Evaluating Educators of Children from Birth Through Age 8

As with other aspects of professional learning, evaluation systems used to support continuous quality improvement vary greatly across professional roles and settings for children from birth through age 8 (see Table 10-4 for an overview).

Outside of federally funded Head Start programs or school-based programs, structured systems for evaluation are nearly absent in early childhood settings, with evaluation policies being set program by program. Structured systems for evaluating programs and centers have historically focused on program quality assurance, with educator performance as a component (program quality systems are discussed in a subsequent section).

In public school systems, the past few years have seen a sea change in state and district policies for evaluating the effectiveness of educators and other professionals who work with children. These reforms have been prompted in part by federal initiatives such as Race to the Top and requests for waivers to No Child Left Behind requirements, and in part by states’ own legislators and governors. At both levels, the general intent is to develop more meaningful evaluation methods that improve professional practice and child outcomes by differentiating effective from ineffective instruction, creating a stronger link to student performance, and informing professional development. The most significant changes include the following:

  • The inclusion of some measure of student achievement or growth as part of the professional evaluation rating—Forty states and the District of Columbia now require such measures in teacher ratings (NCTQ, 2013).
Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×
  • The inclusion of some measure of instruction quality as part of the teacher evaluation rating—Forty-four states and the District of Columbia now require classroom observations as part of an evaluation for all teachers (NCTQ, 2013).
  • The use of teacher evaluation ratings to make high-stakes decisions about compensation (15 states), tenure (19 states), and dismissal (23 states) (NCTQ, 2013).

In states that have implemented these policies, these reforms apply to all K-3 teachers who work in public school systems. They typically apply also to educators who work with children who have not yet entered kindergarten, especially prekindergarten teachers in state-funded programs or those who teach in other early learning settings that require a public school teaching license (e.g., teachers in state-funded prekindergarten programs or early childhood special education programs) (Connors-Tadros and Horowitz, 2014). Those who work in programs not formally connected to the public education system, such as childcare and home visiting, usually are not subject to these evaluation policies. Nor do the policies apply to Head Start programs unless those programs are administered by school districts that consider their Head Start teachers to be public school employees. In other words, these policies, where applied, affect all educators of children who are aged 5-8 and some educators of children who are aged 3-4 and in some cases, even younger.

The discussion that follows examines the extent to which educator evaluation reforms reflect research on how children learn and develop and on the professional knowledge and competencies needed to support them effectively. Even though current policies typically do not apply to professionals who work with young children but are not licensed by the state’s public education system, the questions raised in this discussion can be applied to their evaluation as well.

Challenges and Reforms in Evaluating Educators of Young Children

Children within the birth through age 8 age range learn in different ways from those of their older peers. As described in Chapters 4 and 6, younger children tend to thrive with environments and learning experiences that are designed intentionally by educators to encourage students to explore their interests, initiate their own inquiries, and at the same time progress along specific learning and developmental trajectories. In such environments, children’s competencies and skills can be taught directly, but young children may acquire them more successfully if they are also taught in an interdisciplinary way, so that, for example, an art activity is also connected to language, math, and socioemotional learning. Younger

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

TABLE 10-4 Overview of Differences in Evaluation Systems for Early Childhood and Early Elementary Settings

K-12 Schools Early Childhood Settings

States are adopting more rigorous systems, with increased reliance on student performance as a significant measure (NCTQ, 2013).

States may mandate a particular system, provide a model, or allow districts discretion in evaluation policies.

States vary in how they use teacher evaluation results, but the results increasingly are tied to compensation, firing, layoff, and tenure decisions (Thomsen, 2014a,b).

Evaluation historically has focused on program quality, with observed teacher interactions being an important component.

Evaluation policies are set by program guidelines rather than by states. All states and territories have early learning guidelines for children aged 3-5, and 45 states and 4 territories have such guidelines for those aged birth to 3; 49 of the 56 states and territories have developed core knowledge and competencies for early educators working with children from birth to 5 (National Center on Child Care, 2014; Whitebook, 2014); 38 states and the District of Columbia have established Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRISs); and 11 states and territories are developing a QRIS (QRIS National Learning Network, 2014; Schmit et al., 2013).

Increasing emphasis on educator performance related to child outcomes in prekindergarten and Head Start is complicated by issues of assessing young children, the collaborative nature of early childhood teaching, and recruitment and retention challenges (LeMoine, 2009; Meisels, 2006; Regenstein and Romero-Jurado, 2014).

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×
  • 27 states require an annual evaluation of all teachers (NCTQ, 2013).
  • 40 states and the District of Columbia use student achievement on standardized tests as a factor in teacher evaluation (NCTQ, 2013).
  • 15 states use unannounced observations of teachers (NCTQ, 2013).
State-Funded Prekindergarten Head Start All Other Center-Based Programs
  • School-sponsored: most prekindergarten teachers are evaluated similarly to K-3 teachers according to district policy, but criteria for evaluation related to student performance in “untested” grades have yet to be determined in many states.
  • Not school sponsored: varies by the design of the public preschool program.
  • Head Start, not school sponsored: the CLASS™ Teacher-Child Observation Instrument is used periodically in a sample of classrooms in all Head Start programs. Results are calculated for the grantee, not by classroom, and used to determine whether the grantee must recompete for funding (Office of Head Start, 2013b).a
  • Varies by state and program; typically, there are no teacher evaluations (NSECE, 2011).b

a Section 641A(c)(2)(F) of the Head Start Act (the Act) requires that the Office of Head Start’s monitoring review process include the use of “a valid and reliable research based observational instrument, implemented by qualified individuals with demonstrated reliability, that assesses classroom quality, including assessing multiple dimensions of teacher-child interactions that are linked to positive child development and later achievement.” The Act also states, in Section 641(c)(1)(D), that such an instrument should be used as part of the system for designation renewal. Grantees with average CLASS™ scores below the established minimum on any of the three CLASS™ domains or receiving scores in the lowest 10 percent of the grantee pool assessed in a given year are required to recompete for funding.

b Forthcoming data from the National Survey of Early Care and Education will include information about whether teachers receive formal review and feedback on performance at least annually.

SOURCE: Adapted from Building a Skilled Workforce (prepared for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) (Whitebook, 2014).

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

students also demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and understanding of concepts in different ways from those of their older peers. Their skills are more likely to be evidenced in their everyday behaviors than in verbal or written explanations, given that children at these ages are still learning basic verbal and writing skills. Not surprisingly, then, instructional strategies and interactions that work well for children in this age span look different from those that are effective for older students.

Thus, applying the current paradigm for evaluation reforms to those who work with children within the birth through age 8 age span requires addressing a number of challenges that are unique to this group of professionals. More specifically, tying their evaluation results primarily to student performance and observations of instructional practice requires different strategies from doing so with educators of older children. Because of the variable nature of learning and development during these years, triangulating assessment data with other sources of evidence from multiple methods and at multiple times may help educator evaluation systems derive a more reliable and valid measure of student achievement or growth during this age span (Epstein et al., 2004; Goe et al., 2011; Snow, 2011).3 Nonetheless, most states that have implemented these reforms have not developed research-based policies or guidance for evaluating this population of professionals. Only 18 states and the District of Columbia have explicit policies on how to incorporate measures of student performance into evaluations of teachers in any untested grades and subjects, much less for prekindergarten through third grade in particular (NCTQ, 2013). Finally, it is important to examine the extent to which current reform efforts reflect the research—both established and emerging—on how children learn and develop during this period and on what professionals need to know and be able to do to help them be successful in the short and long terms.

Using Student Achievement to Evaluate Educator Performance

Measuring student achievement or growth in prekindergarten programs and in primary grades presents challenges distinct from those of measuring students’ achievement in older grades (see the discussion of child assessment in Chapters 5 and 6) (Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, 2010; NEGP, 1998; NRC, 2008b). States that have incorporated measures of student performance into their evaluation policies typically rely on statewide standardized test results to evaluate educators from third through

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3 For guiding questions for designing various components of teacher evaluation systems, see http://www.lauragoe.com/LauraGoe/practicalGuideEvalSystems.pdf (accessed March 24, 2015).

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

eighth grade.4 However, standardized tests typically are not administered statewide for children before third grade, nor is it advisable to use them for this age group for high-stakes purposes, such as decisions about educators’ rating, compensation, or tenure (NEGP, 1998).5 These tests assume an ability to focus and be sedentary for an extended period of time and a certain level of manual dexterity and literacy skills that younger students have not yet developed. Moreover, young children’s performance on a task on a particular day (or at a particular moment) is variable and highly susceptible to environmental factors, which makes obtaining an accurate and reliable assessment of their ability challenging (Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, 2010; NEGP, 1998; NRC, 2008b). The typical rate of learning and development during the preschool years also is highly variable (National Early Childhood Accountability Task Force, 2007). Young children who may appear to be “behind” by a certain standard may be well within the normal range of development and catch up with or exceed their peers later. Finally, many students at this age may not be familiar with “tests” and their purpose, and may lack the skills and motivation to perform that older children have (Epstein et al., 2004).

For these reasons, the National Education Goals Panel has stated that “the younger the child, the more difficult it is to obtain reliable and valid assessment data. It is particularly difficult to assess children’s cognitive abilities accurately before age 6.” The panel also recommended that child assessments not be used for high-stakes accountability purposes for students, schools, or educators until the end of third or fourth grade (NEGP, 1998). These cautions against high-stakes uses of assessment results for young children remain relevant. Indeed, the lack of consensus in state and local education systems on the appropriate assessments and outcome data to use as part of the evaluation of preschool and K-3 educators suggests that implementers of evaluation reforms continue to struggle with the issues raised by the National Education Goals Panel and need more research on which guidance can be based.

Because of these challenges, children at these ages commonly are assessed through everyday observation and documentation of their behaviors and performance against clear performance benchmarks or indicators or through one-on-one assessments of specific skills, both of which require the educator to interact with students in small groups or individually (National Early Childhood Accountability Task Force, 2007; NEGP, 1998; Snow,

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4 Some states or districts measure student growth by comparing their end-of-year performance on state tests with the previous year’s results. With this approach, third-grade test scores may not be used to evaluate third-grade teachers, since states typically do not require statewide standardized testing for second grade.

5 In fact, using standardized tests to measure student achievement or growth is feasible with only about one-third of the K-12 teaching profession. See Prince et al. (2009).

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

2011). When this approach is used to evaluate an educator’s performance, however, it creates an inherent conflict of interest for the educator. Because of the challenges described above, combining educator-engaged approaches with assessments that children can complete independently is less feasible for younger than for older children.

In addition, young children’s socioemotional development and their growth as effective learners (e.g., ability to focus, self-regulate, persist) are as critical for success as their proficiency in academic content areas such as literacy and math, a balance that continues to be important into the later elementary grades, high school, college, and beyond (Educational Policy Improvement Center, 2013; Farrington et al., 2012; Hein et al., 2013; NAEYC-NAECS/SDE, 2003; NRC, 2008b, 2012). Yet measures of student achievement used in educator evaluation systems tend not to take these skills into account for children of any age, potentially missing a significant aspect of educators’ competencies as professionals.

To be sure, valid and reliable standardized tests of children’s learning and development during the prekindergarten through grade 3 continuum do exist—for certain purposes. Screening tools have been validated, for example, that produce reliable data suggesting that a child may have a developmental delay or disability. Similarly, valid diagnostic tools exist with which to identify specific delays or problems a child may have in different domains of learning and development. There are also validated assessments for this age group that measure growth and achievement in certain domains of learning and development and can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of instruction or interventions. However, policy leaders making decisions about the selection of assessments for educator evaluation purposes should keep in mind that assessments are valid and reliable only for the purposes for which they were designed. Professional associations and expert panels alike have warned against using assessments for purposes for which they have not been validated. Most recently, the Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education stated, “In all cases, assessment instruments and procedures should not be used for purposes other than those for which they have been designed and for which appropriate validation evidence has been obtained” (Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education, 2013). This conclusion has been echoed by the NAEYC, the National Education Goals Panel, and the NRC (NEGP, 1998; NRC, 2008b; Snow, 2011).

In addition, when the use of child assessments leads to high-stakes consequences for educators (of any age group), it is of paramount importance that what is attributed to the educator and his or her instruction be as precise as possible. Learning and development are a product of many factors inside and outside the classroom and the school, so using multiple measures of children and the environment in which they live and learn is

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

critical. For example, an NRC report concluded that any high-stakes use of student assessments in K-12 systems needs to be contextualized with data on the learning environment, the children themselves, and the supports to which the school and educators have access. According to the group, teacher evaluations should not be based on student assessments “without also knowing about access to resources, to professional development, to mental health consultation, to supervision, and so on” (NRC, 2008b, p. 356).

Given the above challenges and limitations, states and districts are adapting their approaches. To derive a measure of students’ achievement or growth in prekindergarten through grade 3 in the absence of standardized test data, states and districts have relied largely on the following strategies (Bornfreund, 2013; Gill et al., 2013; Goe, 2011; Marion and Buckley, 2011; Prince et al., 2009):

  • Student learning objectives (SLOs)—SLOs are goals that educators set for their students—either as a class or as subgroups—based on understanding of the students’ competency levels in various learning and developmental areas. SLOs often are developed in collaboration with principals and sometimes with other educators of the same grade. Once SLOs have been identified, educators work with principals and other colleagues to develop an assessment strategy. Assessment can use a commercially available or locally created instrument that relies on assessing children through standardized tasks (i.e., direct assessment), or an authentic assessment process that collects evidence of students’ competency through everyday observations and documentation of students’ work and performance.
  • Curriculum-based assessments, other commercial measures, or locally developed assessments—Some states and districts have chosen to adopt a common assessment for each grade within the prekindergarten to grade 3 continuum and use the data to represent the student performance or growth portion of the educator’s evaluation. As with SLOs, these products can rely on direct assessment methods or authentic assessment approaches. Typically, existing assessments for these grade levels are designed for screening, diagnostic, and formative purposes, not for high-stakes educator evaluation.
  • Shared attribution—In some districts and states, the student performance measure is derived from a school-wide indicator of achievement or growth, such as growth in reading or math proficiency at the end of third grade. The assumption is that prekindergarten
Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

through grade 3 educators contributed collectively to the third graders’ progress or lack thereof.

Observing Professional Practice

Evaluating prekindergarten and early elementary educators’ practice through observation requires a body of knowledge about teaching, learning, and child development different from that needed for observing educators of older students. Yet the most common observation instruments currently used by states and districts for educator evaluation purposes were developed and validated with educators of older students. Many use the same instruments for all educators, including those in prekindergarten through grade 3. The extent to which these instruments can identify effective practices and distinguish them from poor instruction in K-3 classrooms is mainly assumed rather than based on rigorous research (Kane and Staiger, 2012).

For this reason, some states, such as Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, are adapting existing instruments or providing guidance for observers to help them identify effective or ineffective strategies, interactions, and instruction for prekindergarten through grade 3 students. Effective observations of prekindergarten through grade 3 educators require instruments and observers (e.g., principals) that are sensitive to research-based interactions and instructional strategies that are appropriate for this age group, such as those highlighted by statements of core competencies from the NAEYC, the NBPTS, and the Council of Chief State School Officers (Prince et al., 2009).6 Observation instruments may be inappropriate for prekindergarten and early elementary educators if they do not include evidence or examples of practice that reflect effective instructional strategies and other core competencies critical in early elementary classrooms (Pianta, 2012).7

A number of observational tools have been developed for use in younger children and have been adopted in many early care and education settings. These tools support the collection of observational data on child–educator interactions, environmental settings, and quality of instruction (Guernsey and Ochshorn, 2011). A few states allow districts and schools to use such observation tools that were designed and validated for earlychildhood classrooms for evaluating prekindergarten through grade 3 edu-

_____________

6 For broader discussions of the need to train and support principals to conduct teacher evaluations effectively, see Grossman (2011) and Jerald (2012).

7 See http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/report/2012/05/15/11650/implementing-observation-protocols (accessed March 24, 2015) for guiding principles on choosing or designing observation instruments.

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

cators (Connors-Tadros and Horowitz, 2014). However, doing so requires that principals and other administrators learn how to use multiple tools, and to conduct observations in K-3 classrooms they may need specialized training in best practices and research on early learning to evaluate these educators’ practices effectively, provide appropriate feedback, and offer ongoing support (Szekely, 2013).

Conclusions About Evaluation/Assessment of Educators

Many states and districts are recognizing the need to adapt methods for measuring the performance of educators. Based on the science of child development and early learning and its implications for professional competencies, however, the current accommodations are not sufficient, and indeed may produce unreliable data about children’s learning and development and the quality of instruction for those who work with children in the preschool and early elementary years. Current reforms focus on student outcomes in one or two content areas instead of capturing the full range of competencies and skills that are important to the developmental nature of early learning. In addition, evaluation systems do not consistently capture important educator competencies such as assessment, trauma-informed practice, family engagement, and interprofessional practice. As a result, current evaluation policies and systems may reinforce and reward a narrow view of “effectiveness” while missing best practices that should be fostered and recognized in the early learning profession.

Developing and implementing more appropriate educator evaluation systems will require a shift from the current reform paradigm. It may not be feasible to incorporate every element of a fully comprehensive approach. But to make informed decisions about priorities in the reform of evaluation systems, district and state leaders would benefit from taking stock of which outcomes and practices their current evaluation policies value, which they omit, and how these decisions affect educators’ professional growth and students’ learning and development.

More research and development is needed to inform the design of student assessment strategies and professional evaluation for professionals working with young children. Assessment and evaluation methods need to be capable of effectively distinguishing high-quality from poor practice, providing data to inform improvement efforts, and being integrated with professional learning strategies.

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

PROGRAM ACCREDITATION AND QUALITY IMPROVEMENT SYSTEMS

Accreditation and quality improvement systems with a focus on the quality of the center or program are increasingly being employed in early childhood settings. Given the importance of the professionals working in a setting to the quality of the learning environment, these systems can drive standards for their education requirements and other qualifications, as well as include assessments of and in some cases feedback for these professionals. When designed and implemented well, these quality assurance efforts have the potential to bridge early learning standards, program quality standards, and core competency standards for professionals. They can serve to foster both a quality learning environment for children and an appropriate workplace environment that supports quality practice among care and education professionals. Therefore, quality assurance efforts can serve as a lever to affect individual practitioners’ knowledge, skills, and behaviors even though these efforts are not always thought of in conjunction with or strategically coordinated with professional learning systems. Examples of these systems include national voluntary accreditation systems for family childcare and childcare centers, as well as state and local QRISs (see Box 10-1).

Professional learning can be incorporated in the context of quality assurance systems such as QRISs if their scope and intent are extended to include rating standards that are linked more comprehensively and closely to instructional practices and child outcomes and coordinated with efforts to improve the quality of professional practice. A 2014 report calls for a review and expansion of the conceptual framework for QRISs to include not only the child outcomes that are central to those systems but also outcomes related to increasing family engagement and the professionalization of the early care and education workforce and improving early care and education systems (Zaslow and Tout, 2014).

Coaching in the context of a QRIS is another opportunity to align with broader professional learning aims. The intent of this coaching can be related to the rating process by either preparing providers for the rating, facilitating the rating process, or improving the rating. Often the coaching is focused on overall quality improvement rather than enhancement of specific content areas, skills, or curriculum. Coaching in the QRIS context frequently lasts longer than non-QRIS coaching. Data are not currently available on the impact of coaching on program-level or child outcomes (Isner et al., 2011).

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

BOX 10-1
Examples of Accreditation and Quality Assurance Systems

National Accreditation for Childcare Centers, Preschools, and Kindergartens

Childcare centers, preschools, and kindergartens must complete a rigorous four-step review process to earn accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), including an on-site visit by a trained NAEYC assessor. Programs use more than 400 criteria to demonstrate that they are meeting the 10 NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards (NAEYC, 2006). The NAEYC accreditation lasts for 5 years, during which programs must submit annual reports and are subject to unannounced visits by assessors to ensure that they remain in compliance. The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies offers support to programs seeking the NAEYC accreditation (National Early Childhood Program Accreditation, 2013).

Accreditation for Family Childcare

To receive accreditation from the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC), family childcare providers must first undergo an in-depth review process. This process includes proof of licensing, observation by an NAFCC representative, review of family childcare records, a written self-evaluation by the provider, a parent review of the provider’s self-evaluation, and interviews with the provider (NAFCC, 2014).

Quality Rating Improvement Systems (QRISs)

QRISs for early care and education have been developed and implemented at the state and local levels for more than a decade. The goal is to improve outcomes with respect to children’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development and to make quality programs more transparent to parents, funders in the public and private sectors, and other interested parties. The approach in general is to assess multiple indicators of program quality and combine them into a single summary rating, although there is considerable variation in the structure of QRISs across jurisdictions (Karoly, 2014).

Perspectives from the Field

Quality Rating Improvement Systems can be levers for change if they offer more than a “checklist.” If paired with resources to improve quality, they could serve as an opportunity for reflection and continuous improvement and as more of an opportunity to ensure that best practices are actually seeing wider use.

————————

See Appendix C for additional highlights from interviews.

Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
×

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Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
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Suggested Citation:"10 Qualification Requirements, Evaluation Systems, and Quality Assurance Systems." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/19401.
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Children are already learning at birth, and they develop and learn at a rapid pace in their early years. This provides a critical foundation for lifelong progress, and the adults who provide for the care and the education of young children bear a great responsibility for their health, development, and learning. Despite the fact that they share the same objective - to nurture young children and secure their future success - the various practitioners who contribute to the care and the education of children from birth through age 8 are not acknowledged as a workforce unified by the common knowledge and competencies needed to do their jobs well.

Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8 explores the science of child development, particularly looking at implications for the professionals who work with children. This report examines the current capacities and practices of the workforce, the settings in which they work, the policies and infrastructure that set qualifications and provide professional learning, and the government agencies and other funders who support and oversee these systems. This book then makes recommendations to improve the quality of professional practice and the practice environment for care and education professionals. These detailed recommendations create a blueprint for action that builds on a unifying foundation of child development and early learning, shared knowledge and competencies for care and education professionals, and principles for effective professional learning.

Young children thrive and learn best when they have secure, positive relationships with adults who are knowledgeable about how to support their development and learning and are responsive to their individual progress. Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8 offers guidance on system changes to improve the quality of professional practice, specific actions to improve professional learning systems and workforce development, and research to continue to build the knowledge base in ways that will directly advance and inform future actions. The recommendations of this book provide an opportunity to improve the quality of the care and the education that children receive, and ultimately improve outcomes for children.

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