Early Childhood Education

Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (TEACH)


The TEACH (Teacher Education And Compensation Helps) Early Childhood*® Project is a professional development support system for teachers and directors working in early care and education programs or family child care homes with children ages birth through five years. The project is based on a scholarship program that links increased education of teachers and directors with increased compensation, a commitment to their employer, and reduced turnover.

The TEACH Early Childhood Project began in 1990 as a pilot developed by and operated through Child Care Services Association (CCSA), Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The TEACH Project was developed as a reaction to a North Carolina child care workforce study that reported, on average, child care teachers made little more than minimum wage, few had earned degrees beyond high school diplomas, and child care programs did not offer teachers any support for continuing education. The report also noted that the statewide annual turnover rate for teachers working in early care and education was 40 percent. The initial pilot was successful in providing twenty-one scholarships to teachers working in child care centers. Initial funds were provided through a variety of community and family foundations (Child Care Services Association, 2000). In 2004, the TEACH Project was institutionalized in the State of North Carolina and is now available in every county. The North Carolina Project operates on an annual budget of $3.4 million that is funded through federal, state, and private funds.

Since its inception in North Carolina, the project has been adopted by twenty- two other states. It is supported by a variety of state government and community agencies in those states. Currently, twenty-two states have a licensed TEACH scholarship program and they are supported through the TEACH Early Childhood Project Technical Assistance and Quality Assurance Center located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (TEACH Early Childhood Project Technical Assistance and Quality Assurance Center, 2003).

The Project is evidence of public and private partnerships that are initiated by local early care and education advocates. The Project is flexible enough to be adopted by the individual states yet fixed in key areas to maintain the integrity of the program. The adaptation of the Project in other states came after local advocates developed an awareness of the growing problems of poor quality child care in that area. Opportunities to expand this professional development support system have come as a result of the availability of federal funds in the area of Child Care and Development Funds and increases in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families’ funding (Kerlin, 2003).

All TEACH Early Childhood Projects include four components; however, the details of each component may vary among different licensed programs. First, the scholarship is usually a partial one for tuition, books, and a travel stipend for a teacher to attend a credentialing program in early childhood education (state credential, child development associate credential, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree). Many scholarships also include funds for paid release time so the teacher can attend classes during the day, study, or take care of personal business. The cost for tuition and books that is not covered by the scholarship is usually provided by the scholar and their employer. The second component is the requirement of a specified amount of educational coursework that is outlined in the TEACH contract and must be completed in a specified timeframe. Following completion of the required education, the teacher is granted a compensation incentive in the form of a raise or bonus. Some compensation incentives are paid wholly by the TEACH Project, others are paid wholly by the employers, and others represent a mixture of funding between the employer and the TEACH Project. Finally, the teacher makes a commitment to remain in the early care and education field, and most commonly, with their sponsoring child care program, for a specified period of time.

The impact that the TEACH Early Childhood Project has had on the early care and education field varies based on the length of time that a Project has been operating and the amount of funds available to teachers through the Project. In North Carolina, approximately 5,000 teachers participate in the TEACH Project each year, their earnings increase by an average of 10 percent, and the turnover rate for teachers averages less than 10 percent annually. Statewide turnover rates for all early childhood care and education teachers have dropped to 24 percent a year. Similar results have been reported by every state operating a TEACH Project. In addition to the impact on individual teachers, the Project has been a catalyst for system changes that require public policy and law makers to consider professional development of teachers to include not only scholarship money to take college courses, but a complete system that recognizes the difficulty that teachers have in going to school, working full-time, and supporting their own family. Another system that has been impacted is the higher education system as more teachers take college-level courses and demand alternative delivery models, flexible days and times that courses are offered, more variety of courses, and course content that addresses the needs of experienced adult learners. For more information, contact Child Care Services Association at www.childcareservices.org.

Further Readings: Child Care Services Association (2000). T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood®: Celebrating ten years July 1, 1990-June 30, 2000. Chapel Hill, NC: Child Care Services Association; Kerlin, Janelle (2003). The transfer of child care worker education and compensation policy across states: The TEACH. Early Childhood*® Model. The Urban Institute. October 2003. Available online at www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/4l0890_TEACH_Report.pdf. TEACH Early Childhood*® Project Technical Assistance and Quality Assurance Center (2003). What we’ve learned. Providing strategies and solutions for the early childhood workforce. Annual Report, 2002-2003.

Susan Catapano