Academic journal article Education

The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised as a Tool to Improve Child Care Centers

Academic journal article Education

The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised as a Tool to Improve Child Care Centers

Article excerpt

Over the past several decades, child care has become an issue of great concern in the field of early childhood development. This is not surprising considering that over half of the children in the United State under the age of six have mothers who are in the work force and require child care for their children, (Boyer, 1993; Spivey, 1998). The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), among other organizations, has sought to establish high quality centers through monitoring mechanisms, such as the NAEYC's accreditation system. In this respect Harms (2000) explained that the "widespread public awareness of recent child care research has served as a catalyst for action" (p. 3). Unfortunately, many children are placed in child care centers that are not considered to be high in quality. In fact, the average rating of child care centers in the United States has been found to be mediocre (Cryer, 1999). This means that many children being cared for away from home are not enrolled in high quality centers. Centers are often described as unsafe, unsanitary, non-educational, and inadequate in regard to the teacher-child ratio for a classroom. In addition, staff members lack training or education in the area of early childhood development, as stated by Barnett (2003): "Poor pay and benefits make it difficult to recruit and hire good early education teachers," which leads to the high turn over rate of teachers and "harms educational quality" (p. 6).

The fact that many children are not receiving quality child care is significant because the benefits of high quality child care centers are numerous. For instance, children attending high quality centers demonstrate advances in cognitive, language, and social skills (Peisner-Feinberg et al., 1999). In the Cost, Quality, and Outcomes Study of Peisner-Feinburg et al (1999), it was shown that quality care in the preschool years has a great impact on future schooling. For instance, high quality care aided in better preparation for formal schooling, positively impacted school performance, helped those children who were at risk of not doing well in school, and had positive effects on children's cognitive and social development. Researchers and practitioners agree that warm, supportive interactions with teachers in safe, healthy and stimulating environments where children's physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development are nurtured constitute the best of conditions (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997).

There are numerous variables that influence the quality level of a center. In addition to teacher salaries, teacher-child ratios, group size, and parent fees, teacher training plays a major role in the quality level of a center (Barnett, 2003; Cryer, 1999; Cryer, Tietze, Burchinal, Leal, & Palacios, 1999; Kellogg, 1999; Philips, Mekos, Scarr, McCartney, & Abbott-Shim, 2000; Spivey, 1998). These issues, which are related to the quality of child care, have caught the attention of leaders in many states. Some states are now offering some type of reward if a child care center goes beyond the basic standards necessary for a license to operate (Harms, 2002). The hope is that the centers will improve the quality of care and improve ratings of "mediocre" to that of "good" or "excellent."

Other states are improving the quality of child care by enforcing tougher regulations. This practice makes a difference. For instance, the "literature has revealed that centers in states with more stringent regulations offer higher quality care, on average, than do centers in states with more lax regulations" (Philips et al., 2000, p. 477). Centers, in these cases, are not given a chance to be mediocre. They must meet these stringent regulations in order to be in operation.

While enforcing strict regulations is one effort to improve the standards in early childhood centers, teacher education is another area of focus. Unfortunately, less than half of all early childhood teachers have obtained a four-year degree in early childhood education and many have no college education at all (Barnett, 2003). …

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