||SPACES FOR CHILDREN RESOURCES
PRIMARY INDICATORS OF PROGRAM QUALITY
Compiled by Louis Torelli, M.S.Ed.
Spaces for Children
Childcare Facility Design
"Parental choice between low quality programs is no choice."
The overall size of the group has been found to be a powerful determinant of program quality. The National Day Care Study (1979) found that in groups of more than seven infants, 11 toddlers and 18 preschoolers, children displayed more crying, apathy, and aimless wandering, less conversation, less interaction, and less focused play. Caregivers engaged in more management behavior with children, and there was less cognitive and language stimulation. In smaller groups, children were more cooperative, more likely to engage in spontaneous verbalization, and more responsive to initiatives by adults and peers. Smaller groups were also related to higher scores on standardized tests.
Adult : Child Ratio
The fewer the number of children cared for by an adult, the more optimal the caregiving and teaching. Appropriate ratios (see chart) have been associated with increased verbal interaction and adult facilitation. With inappropriate ratios, caregivers have been found to be more prohibitive and controlling. Children were more apathetic, spent less time in intellectual activities and had shorter conversations. (NDCS, 1979)
Program: Family Relations
Quality childcare includes the family. "The relationship between parent and child is of utmost importance for the child's current and future development, and should be supported by caregivers." (APHA/AAP, p. xxv, 1992) Parents should have input concerning their child's care and education. Teachers should have regular communication with families which includes the sharing of child development knowledge, insights, and resources. (DAP, p.12)
Caregivers who have had specialized training in early childhood education engaged in more appropriate caregiving and provided more social interaction and cognitive and language stimulation. Children whose caregivers had specialized training were more cooperative, more persistent, less frequently uninvolved, and scored higher on standardized tests.
The National Childcare Staffing Study (Whitebook, 1990) found the most important predicator of the quality of care children receive, among the adult work environment variable, is staff wages. Child care teaching staff earn less than half as much as comparably educated women and less than one-third as much as comparably educated men in the civilian labor force. The average hourly wage for childcare teaching staff in 1988 was $5.35 ($9,363 annually). Children attending lower quality centers and centers with more staff turnover were less competent in language and social development. Better quality centers had: higher wages, better adult work environments, lower teaching staff turnover, better-educated and trained staff, and more teachers caring for fewer children.
"When teachers have professional knowledge in early childhood education, the children in their care demonstrate better social skills and greater language and intellectual abilities. Early Childhood programs that offer higher wages and benefits are better able to attract and retain more qualified personnel. As a result, children in these programs demonstrate higher levels of social and language development. Each of these areas is critically important to ensure school readiness and academic success."
Continuity of Care/Primary Care
"Trustworthy relationships with a small number of adults and an encircling, benevolent, affective atmosphere are essential to the healthy development of children." (APHA/AAP, p. xxv, 1992) Childcare centers should promote the policy of having caregivers move up the age range, so that they care for the same children from infancy to preschool. (NCCIP, 1992)
Physical Environment: Arrangement and Amount of Space
"The quality of the physical space and materials provided affects the level of involvement of the children and the quality of interaction between adults and children." (NAEYC, Accreditation p. 25) "In more spacious centers, children spent less time observing and more time involved in focused play." (Holloway, S., & Reichart-Erickson. M., 1988)
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