Early Childhood Education
Early Care and Education Programs, Administration of
In keeping pace with labor market trends, the demand for child care and early education services during the past two decades has surged. Data reported by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2003 shows there are more than 2.3 million preschoolers who receive care in “organized facilities” such as child-care centers, preschools, or federally funded Head Start programs. These organized programs come in all shapes and sizes, and differ according to philosophy, mission, service delivery mode, and legal auspices. While most are subject to regulation at the local and state level, program-licensing standards vary widely among jurisdictions, making it virtually impossible to describe their practices with a taxonomy that can be universally applied.
A frequently used method for classifying early care and education programs is by funding source—public or private. Examples of publicly funded programs include state-prekindergarten programs housed in public schools, federally funded Head Start programs, military-sponsored programs, and local parks and recreation programs. Privately funded programs may be sponsored by social service agencies, hospitals, independent proprietors, corporate partners, or faith-based organizations. Over the past few years, the line between public and private funding has blurred as more and more early care and education programs have blended funding from multiple sources, both public and private.
Early childhood programs may also be classified according to their legal structure—for-profit or nonprofit. For-profit programs may be independent proprietary centers, partnerships, corporate chains (e.g., KinderCare, La Petite Academy), or employer-sponsored (e.g., Bright Horizons Family Solutions). Nonprofit programs may be independent or associated with a social service agency, community organization, institution of higher education, or hospital.
Programs also differ in the nature of their services, the clientele they serve, and their philosophical orientation. They may operate part day or full day, part year or year round. They may serve infants, toddlers, preschoolers, or school-age children before and after school. And they may emphasize different educational philosophies and curricular approaches such as Montessori, High/Scope, or Reggio Emilia.
Administrative Roles and Functions
Because the range of program models and governing auspices is so broad, a discussion concerning the administration of early care and education programs befittingly places the program administrator as the focal point. The nomenclature referring to program administrators is varied and includes director, manager, principal, and supervisor. The most common designator is center or site director.
Just as variations in the organizational structure of early childhood programs span a wide range of possibility, program administrators likewise assume roles that encompass a spectrum of functional accountability. Generally, the breadth of roles assigned to administrators is tied to the size and governing auspice of their program. Some administrators work at a single site and are responsible for all policy and procedure decisions of their programs while others are employed in more layered settings where policy is set by a governing board, management group, or government entity.
In a large program that serves many families, the administrator may oversee the work of an administrative team including assistant directors, educational coordinators, office assistants, bookkeepers, and food service personnel. In a small program, the administrator usually has direct involvement in day-to-day tasks such as record keeping, visitor reception, meal preparation, and supervision of teachers. In fact, many directors of small programs also teach, spending a portion of their workday in the classroom.
Directing different types of programs requires varying levels of administrative sophistication, and the scope and complexity of the administrative role certainly affects the repertoire of competencies needed to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the early care and education organization. Administrating early care and education programs includes both leadership and management functions. Leadership functions relate to the broad view of helping an organization clarify and affirm values, set goals, articulate a vision, and chart a course of action to achieve that vision. Management functions relate to the actual orchestration of tasks and the setting up of systems to carry out the organizational mission.
The administrator’s role in an early care and education program is both central and complex. One way to understand the range of competencies needed to administrate a program is to look at the task performance areas that encompass the director’s role. Core competencies identified as essential for effective early childhood program administration fall into ten knowledge and skill areas (Bloom, 2000). These are not discrete categories; there is conceptual as well as practical overlap.
Personal and professional self-awareness. Effective administrators are reflective practitioners keenly aware of the variables that impact their sense of personal and professional fulfillment. They grasp adult and career development theory and are able to apply it in their professional interactions. They also understand how to flex their leadership style to accommodate the personality typologies, dispositions, and work styles of diverse teaching and support staff.
Administrators are routinely called upon to resolve ethical and moral dilemmas. In these cases, they draw on their own awareness of the beliefs, values, and philosophical convictions on which their programs stand and evaluate different courses of action in relation to the profession’s code of ethical conduct. They are able to articulate a philosophy of management, set personal goals to reduce stress and avoid burnout, and develop strategies to help staff achieve a balance between personal and professional obligations.
Legal and fiscal management. Early childhood programs are essentially businesses, and successful administrators function much like the unit managers of their corporate counterparts. They are savvy financial managers who possess skill in budgeting and cash flow management. They are knowledgeable about bookkeeping methods, accounting terminology, and bank relations. They are well informed about federal, state, and local sources of revenue and seek out grant-writing and fundraising opportunities.
Additionally, effective administrators work with legal counsel to ensure organizational compliance with the many regulations that govern early childhood programs such as licensing standards, building codes, and laws relating to health and occupational safety. They have a working familiarity of legislation relevant to contracts and negotiations, insurance liability, and labor law. In their professional relationships with families, administrators regularly encounter situations that require their facile understanding of confidentiality, child protection, and antidiscrimination laws pertaining to the services provided by their programs.
Staff management and human relations. Early childhood programs are labor-intensive operations and people are the essential ingredient in delivering high- quality services to children and their families. Successful administrators understand the importance of cultivating trusting relationships. They hire, supervise, and motivate staff to high levels of performance. They implement strategies based on their understanding of group dynamics, individual communication styles, and techniques for conflict resolution. They are adept at relating to board members and staff of diverse racial, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.
Through their command of different supervisory and group facilitation styles, effective administrators exercise skill in consensus building and team development through shared decision making. They mentor those they lead and are committed to staff performance appraisal methods that foster program growth through an individualized model of staff development.
Educational programming. Leadership is central to the role of early childhood administrators. They must be knowledgeable about current curriculum models and assessment practices that are consistent with quality indices and are antibias in nature. They design and implement programs that are appropriate for the ages and developmental levels of the young children in their care. They implement grouping practices that support the inclusion of children with special needs and ensure continuity and stability for all children. Effective directors are aware of the benchmarks for high-quality programming such as program accreditation and are committed to meeting those standards.
Program operations and facilities management. The facilities that house early care and education programs play an important role in supporting the relationships and interactions that take place within their bounds. Effective administrators plan and design learning environments based on the principles of environmental psychology and child development. They know how to furnish and maintain safe, inviting, and developmentally stimulating environments that accommodate the diverse needs of children and adults.
The early childhood administrator’s knowledge and skill in establishing program policies and procedures helps ensure their centers meet state and local regulations as well as professional standards pertaining to the general health and nutrition of children and the occupational safety of program staff. This understanding also provides for efficient inventory control systems and well-thought-out emergency and risk management procedures.
Family support. In addition to providing for young children, many early childhood programs place a parallel emphasis on parent education or other forms of outreach to families. Such a family-responsive approach often means that the services of a program extend beyond the walls of the center facility. To effectively carry out their responsibilities, directors must rely on their understanding of family systems, parenting styles, and cross-cultural diversity. They embrace parents as valued partners in the educational process and implement program practices that support families of diverse cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Marketing and public relations. Early care and education programs are business enterprises and no enterprise can be sustained without a stable clientele and a steady influx of new customers. Successful administrators are strategic marketers whose programs profit from effective promotion, publicity, and community outreach activities. Their business plans are designed to attain maximum enrollment. In all that they do, effective directors communicate their program’s philosophy and promote a positive public image to parents, business leaders, public officials, and prospective funders. They conduct routine assessments to determine community needs and promote linkages with local schools. Their programs are promoted to the public on paper, through broadcast media, and over the Internet through attractive brochures, Web sites, handbooks, newsletters, press releases, and carefully placed advertising.
Advocacy. Advocacy is a natural outgrowth of administrative leadership, since early childhood program directors have firsthand exposure to the needs and concerns of the children, families, and the communities they serve. Effective administrators are persuasive advocates for their cause and know how to explain issues with clarity and eloquence. They are cognizant of legislative processes, social issues, and public policy affecting young children, their families, and program staff. They know how to evaluate program effectiveness by identifying organizational problems, gathering data to generate alternative solutions, and applying analytical skills to the solution of those problems. In addition, they initiate community collaborations for efficient and cost-effective service delivery and mobilize others to advocate for better child and family services.
Oral and written communication. In both writing and speaking, effective early childhood administrators know how to synthesize complex information and communicate cogently and succinctly to a variety of different audiences. This ability requires mastery of the mechanics of good writing for organizing ideas, grammar, punctuation, and spelling, as well as effective oral communication techniques for establishing rapport, active listening, and voice control. Administrators function in an environment where opportunities abound for putting their communication skills into practice, whether it be through informal and formal written correspondence, an article contributed for journal publication, a formal presentation to a board of advisors, or a workshop presented at a professional conference.
Technology. The vast majority of early care and education programs today use computer technology to streamline administrative processes. The marketplace is replete with vendors who have developed administrative software offering turnkey solutions for a wide array of applications such as monitoring child admissions data, enrollment and attendance records, and staff scheduling. They offer financial management tools to support revenue tracking, banking, payroll, disbursements, and the preparation of regular financial statements. Additionally, some third-party software programs aid marketing efforts by tracking prospect inquiries and managing a program’s waiting list.
To make the most of these technology resources, effective early childhood program administrators possess a working knowledge of computer hardware and software and are skilled users of word processing, spreadsheet, data management, and presentation applications. Their use of Internet technology fosters even greater efficiency via timely e-mail communication or by availing their programs to quality-enhancing online resources that strengthen daily practices, professional development, and advocacy initiatives.
The Link-Administrator Qualifications and Program Quality
Most administrators of early care and education programs have been promoted to their positions because of exemplary performance as classroom teachers. Few have had specialized training in leadership or program management before assuming their positions. Few states require any administrative training for directors as a prerequisite for the position. For many directors, their own experience in the form of learning while doing (the “trial and error” approach) is what they rely upon to build administrative competence. Others put together a patchwork system of course work and in-service professional development to acquire the knowledge and skills they need. While approximately 75 percent of directors have baccalaureate degrees, directors with a specialized degree in early childhood leadership or management are rare.
Strong evidence has accumulated that directors of early care and education programs are the “gatekeepers to quality,” setting the standards and expectations for others to follow (Bloom, 1992). In a number of powerful ways the director influences the climate of a center both as a workplace for the teaching staff and as an educational and nurturing environment for young children. Without quality systems in place at the organizational level, high-quality interactions and learning environments at the classroom level cannot be sustained. The knowledge and skill of the administrator and his or her commitment to ongoing professional development have a profound impact on the quality of services a program can deliver.
Not surprising, survey data support the notion that many early childhood administrators enter their administrative roles with little or no preparation for the job. Only one-half of directors indicate that their perceptions matched reality when they assumed their current job and just one-fourth say they were well prepared for their new role (MTCECL, 2003). Equally troubling, only 12 percent of programs indicate they have a formal leadership succession plan in place. Those programs were more likely to be associated with a for-profit chain or a for-profit employer-sponsored program.
A mounting body of research has confirmed that the director’s level of formal education and specialized training are two of the strongest predictors of overall program quality. Years of directing a child-care center, on the other hand, is not a potent predictor of overall program quality. Pretests and posttests of teaching practices and overall organizational climate in the centers of directors who have participated in leadership training has shown significant improvement compared with directors who have not participated in such training. The evidence is compelling; leadership training not only improves administrators’ self-efficacy and perceptions of themselves as leaders, it also results in demonstrated improvements in the quality in their centers (Bella and Bloom, 2003).
Current Issues Confronting Early Childhood Administrators
Historically, the field of early childhood has always been closely tied to changes in society. Like a barometer, early care and education programs respond to changes in the social, political, and economic climate of the country. In addition to growing demand, several major trends represent new challenges for today’s early childhood program administrator. These trends impact the way all programs conduct their business, regardless of services provided, agency affiliation, or governing auspices.
Emphasis on quality and accountability. Greater demands for accountability are creating additional pressures for quality assurance evaluation and performance management systems that monitor, document, and report on center efficiency and quality of care.
Welfare-to-work legislation. Federal initiatives are putting more parents into the workforce. These newly employed adults not only add to the demand for quality child care but also require different kinds of support and service relationships.
Shortage of qualified early childhood staff. Staff turnover and retention issues continue to plague early childhood programs. Finding qualified staff who are caring, motivated, and committed to early childhood as a career remains a challenge.
Increased competition for financial resources. Competition for adequate levels of funding is demanding greater entrepreneurship and innovation and more intense linkages and integration between social service delivery agencies and early care and education organizations.
The increasing complexity of the external environment has elevated the need for strong leadership in the administrator’s role. The trend toward blended funding streams, coordinated delivery systems, community-based planning, collaborative data collection, service delivery networks, and other systemic changes has created demands on early childhood administrators for knowledge and skills not previously needed. More than ever, the field of early childhood education needs program administrators who are willing to make a serious commitment to the profession and to their ongoing personal and professional development to achieve the goal of providing high-quality services to children and their families. See also Classroom Environment; Antibias/Multicultural Education; Preschool/Prekindergarten Programs; Teacher Certification/Licensure.
Further Readings: Bella, Jill, and Paula J. Bloom (2003). Zoom: The impact of leadership training on role perceptions, job performance, and career decisions. Wheeling, IL: The McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National-Louis University; Bloom, Paula J. (1992). The child care center director: A critical determinant of program quality. Educational Horizons 70 (Spring), 138-145; Bloom, Paula J. (2000). How do we define director competence? Child Care Information Exchange (March), 13-18; Culkin, Mary, ed. (1999). Managing quality in young children’s programs— The leader’s role. New York: Teachers College Press; Hearron, Patricia F., and Verna Hildebrand (2003). Management of child development centers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education; Kagan, Sharon L., and Barbara Bowman, eds. (1997). Leadership in early care and education. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children; McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership (2003). Leadership transitions—what do directors experience? Research Notes (Fall), 1-2; U.S. Census Bureau (2003). Who’s minding the kids? Child care arrangements: Spring 1999 (PPL-168). Available online at http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/child/ppl-168.html.
Paula Jorde Bloom and Douglas Clark
Early Child Development and Care
Early Child Development and Care is a multidisciplinary publication that serves psychologists, educators, psychiatrists, paediatricians, social workers and other professionals who deal with research, planning, education and care of infants and young children.
The journal provides English translations of work in this field that has been published in other languages, and original English papers on all aspects of early child development and care. Published eight times per year by Routledge, the journal also contains book reviews, conference reports and other items of interest. For more information, please visithttp://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/03004430.asp.
Early Childhood Connections Journal of Music- and Movement-based Learning
Early Childhood Connections Journal of Music- and Movement-based Learning is a quarterly publication focusing on best practices, current theories, and applied research influencing the field of early childhood music education. Guided by a belief in the fundamental contributions of music and movement to healthy growth and development, this journal posits an eclectic approach that entertains multiple stances and curricular approaches. Issues are often thematic and have included topics such as Music and Autism, Musical Parenting, and Children at Play. First published in 1995 by the Foundation for Music-based Learning, Early Childhood Connections includes invited articles, book and research reviews, and peer-reviewed submissions from a wide variety of writers; music educators and researchers, psychologists, developmental specialists, teacher educators, professional musicians, and parents have all been featured. Worldwide views are represented in International Perspectives issues that appear almost annually, often including papers delivered at global conferences. For more information, see www.ecconnections.org.
Early Childhood Education Journal (ECEJ)
The mission of Early Childhood Education Journal (ECEJ) is to provide an international forum in which to share information, insights, research, and policy with implications for early childhood educators worldwide. Early Childhood Education Journal is a peer-reviewed, scholarly, and interdisciplinary journal that publishes original articles written by professionals with a shared commitment to the education and care of young children. Articles selected for publication in Early Childhood Education Journal represent a skillful blend of theory, research, and practice. Published six times per year, Early Childhood Education Journal is available in print format as well as electronically archived issues of the journal (full text and fully searchable). Guidelines for authors and instructions for obtaining a free sample copy are posted on the journal’s homepage at http://www.kluweronline.com/issn/1082-3301. Additionally, the publication uses a sophisticated and completely electronic system of manuscript submission and review called Editorial Manager© (http://ecej.edmgr.com/). The sponsor of the journal is Kluwer Academic Publishing, the second-largest professional publisher in the fields of science, technology, and medicine in the world.
Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales (ERS)
Among the most frequently utilized environment rating scales (ERS) in the United States are four developed by Thelma Harms, Richard M. Clifford, and Debby Cryer at the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. These scales, each designed for a different segment of the early childhood field, are described below.
• Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ECERS-R), Updated (2005), T. Harms, R. M. Clifford, and D. Cryer: This scale is designed to assess group programs for preschool-kindergarten-aged children, from 2 1/2 through 5 years of age. The total scale consists of forty-three items and is commonly referred to as the ECERS-R. The ECERS-R is also available in Spanish.
• Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ITERS-R), Updated (2006), T. Harms, D. Cryer, and R. M. Clifford: This scale is designed to assess group programs for children from birth to two-and-a-half years of age. The total scale consists of thirty-nine items and is commonly referred to as the ITERS-R. The ITERS-R is also available in Spanish.
• Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale (FCCERS), (2006), T. Harms, D. Cryer, and R. M. Clifford: This scale is designed to assess family child-care programs, usually conducted in a provider’s home. The total scale consists of thirty-eight items. This scale is a revision of the Family Day Care Rating Scale (FDCRS, 1989).
• School-Age Care Environment Rating Scale (SACERS), (1996), T. Harms, E. V. Jacobs, and D. R. White: This scale is designed to assess group care programs for school-age children, 5 to 12 years of age, during out-of-school time. The total scale consists of forty-nine items, including six supplementary items for programs enrolling children with disabilities. It is commonly referred to as the SACERS.
Two resource books that provide in-depth information in text and photographs—All About the ECERS-R (Cryer, Harms, and Riley, 2003) and All About the ITERS-R (Cryer, Harms, and Riley, 2004)—are available to help with interpretation of the scales.
All four scales have the following features in common:
• They have items to evaluate: Physical Environment; Basic Care Routines (including health and safety practices); Curriculum; Interaction; Schedule and Program Structure; and Parent and Staff Support.
• The scales are suitable for use in evaluating inclusive and culturally diverse programs, half day and whole day programs.
• The scales have proven reliability and validity.
• They use the same format and scoring system, a 7-point Likert scale with indicators for (1) inadequate, (3) minimal, (5) good, and (7) excellent.
Following is a sample item from the ECERS-R.
32. Staff-child interactions*
1.1 Staff members are not responsive to or not involved with children (e.g., ignore children, staff seem distant or cold).
1.2 Interactions are unpleasant (e.g., voices sound strained and irritable). *
1.3 Physical contact used principally for control (e.g., hurrying children along) or inappropriately (e.g., unwanted hugs or tickling).
3.1 Staff usually respond to children in a warm, supportive manner (e.g., staff and children seem relaxed, voices cheerful, frequent smiling).
3.2 Few, if any, unpleasant interactions.
5.1 Staff show warmth through appropriate physical contact (e.g., pat child on the back, return child’s hug).
5.2 Staff show respect for children (e.g., listen attentively, make eye contact, treat children fairly, do not discriminate).
5.3 Staff respond sympathetically to help children who are upset, hurt, or angry.*
7.1 Staff seem to enjoy being with the children.
7.2 Staff encourage the development of mutual respect between children and adults (e.g., staff wait until children finish asking questions before answering; encourage children in a polite way to listen when adults speak).
* Notes for Clarification
Item 32. While the indicators for quality in this item generally hold true across a diversity of cultures and individuals, the ways in which they are expressed may differ. For example, direct eye contact in some cultures is a sign of respect; in others, a sign of disrespect. Similarly, some individuals are more likely to smile and be demonstrative than others. However, the requirements of the indicators must be met, although there can be some variation in the way this is done.
1.2. Score this indicator “Yes” only if many unpleasant interactions are observed throughout the observation or during one part of the observation. If only one or two brief instances are observed, and most interactions are neutral or positive, score “No.”
5.3. Sympathetic response means that staff notice and validate a child’s feelings, even if the child is showing emotions that are often considered unacceptable, such as anger or impatience. The feelings should be accepted although inappropriate behaviors, such as hitting or throwing things, should not be allowed.
A sympathetic response should be provided in most, but not necessarily all, cases. If children are able to solve minor problems themselves, then teacher response is not needed. The observer needs to get an overall impression of the response of the staff. If minor problems persist and are ignored or if staff responds in an unsympathetic manner, give no credit for this indicator.
The ERS are designed to assess process quality in an early childhood or school age care setting. Process quality is defined in the ERS as consisting of the various interactions that go on in a classroom between the staff and children, among staff members, between staff and parents, among the children themselves, as well as the interactions children have with the many materials and activities in the environment. Also included are those features such as space, schedule, and materials that support these interactions. With the ERS, process quality is assessed primarily through observation and has been found to be more predictive of child outcomes than judging quality based on structural indicators such as staff to child ratio, group size, cost of care, and even type of care (e.g., child-care center or family child-care home) (Whitebook, Howes, and Phillips, 1995).
Central to these four ERS is the belief that, in order to provide care and education that will permit children to experience a high quality of life while helping them develop their physical, social/emotional, and cognitive abilities, a quality program must provide for the three basic needs all children have:
• Protection of their health and safety;
• Support in building positive relationships and social/emotional resilience; and
• Opportunities for stimulation and learning from experience.
No one component is more or less important than the others, nor can one substitute for another. It takes all three to create quality care. Each of the three basic components of quality care manifests itself in tangible forms in the program’s environment, curriculum, schedule, supervision, and interaction; and can be observed. These are the key aspects of process quality that are assessed in these environment rating scales.
The ERS define environment in a broad sense and guide the observer to assess the arrangement of space both indoors and outdoors, the materials and activities offered to the children, the supervision and interactions (including language) that occur in the classroom, and the schedule of the day, including routines and activities. The support offered to parents and staff is also included. One classroom is assessed at a time, thus providing an in-depth picture of the ongoing quality of care. An assessment usually takes at least three hours of observation in a classroom, followed by a short interview with the teacher.
The scales have good interrater reliability and validity and have demonstrated in numerous studies to be good predictors of child outcomes, thus making them suitable for research and program evaluation. Since they were developed in close collaboration with realistic field-based sites, they are also widely used in program improvement efforts. Each scale has a training program; the ECERS-R, ITERS-R, and FCCERS-R training programs include an interactive videotape.
Research and program evaluation uses of the ERS have been extensive since 1980 when the original ECERS was published. Most major U.S. studies of the effects of early childhood programs on child development outcomes have used one or more of the ERS, including the National Child Care Staffing Study (White-book, Howes, and Phillips, 1989), the Family and Child Experiences Study (FACES) (1997), the Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes Study (1995), and the Pre-Kindergarten Study (2005). The FDCRS was used in The Study of Children in Family Child Care and Relative Care (Galinsky et al., 1994). In each of these studies, a significant relationship was found between higher scores on the ERS and more positive child development outcomes in areas considered important for later school success. Children in programs scoring high on the ERS were more competent socially as well as cognitively and verbally. The effects of higher quality early childhood experiences, as indicated by high ERS scores, have now been shown to last at least through the second grade of elementary school (Peisner-Feinberg et al., 1999). Research is continuing to evaluate longer-lasting effects.
The Environment Rating Scales in Program Improvement
The ERS are used in a variety of ways in program improvement efforts, including self-assessment by center staff and family child-care providers, preparation for credentialing and accreditation, and voluntary improvement efforts by state licensing and other agencies. The following examples are from the United States:
• The state of Arkansas has trained personnel who do assessments and provide training and technical assistance so that child-care centers and homes can increase their quality scores on the ERS. The Federal money allotments for improving child care are linked to measurable program improvement on the scales. A unique feature of the Arkansas program is that parents who select child-care facilities with an average of 4.5 or higher on the ERS are eligible for two times the state child-care tax exemption. Thus both parents and providers are being rewarded for quality improvements that benefit the children.
• North Carolina has a program called “Partnerships for Inclusion” which has been effective in on-site consultation with child-care staff to include children with disabilities in programs for typically developing children. The ERS are used as a basis for their consultants. This has enabled many children who require early intervention services to be served in inclusive programs.
• Many counties involved in the state of North Carolina’s quality improvement program, Smart Start, require training on and use of the scales in self-assessment before a center or family child-care home may apply for a grant. This ensures that the staff will order equipment, materials and/or request training based on needs that have been objectively substantiated.
• North Carolina currently uses scale scores as part of their 5 star Rated License System. Centers and family child-care homes are awarded either one or two stars based on compliance with licensing standards. Programs may voluntarily apply for an additional three stars based on a set of quality measures including teacher and director education, and level of process quality as measured by the appropriate environment scale. Only the lowest level of licensing is mandatory. However, an additional fee is paid to the provider of subsidized care for each additional star earned voluntarily in this tiered reimbursement program.
• Tennessee uses the ERS for a yearly program evaluation to create a “Report Card” that must be posted with the license, so child-care consumers have access to reliable information on the quality of child care they are selecting for their children. Technical assistance and training are available if requested by providers.
• Other states, including California, The District of Columbia, Delaware, Massachusetts, Montana, Mississippi, Kansas, Oregon, Kentucky, New Mexico, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio and Nebraska have also initiated quality evaluation and improvement programs using the ERS. Each state is tailoring its use of the scales to its individual needs and resources.
• All the U.S. military services have been using the ERS routinely in their child-care centers and family child-care homes for program improvement and monitoring. The military child development system was recognized by Executive Order of the President in 1998 for its high quality.
• The ERS are widely used by programs as they prepare for various national accreditation and credentialing programs. This is due to the fact that the scales use a format with indicators at four levels of quality from inadequate to excellent that provide a blueprint for gradual change. The content of the scales is completely supportive of the various national credentialing and accreditation programs.
Use of the ERS in Other Countries
It is also interesting to note that the ERS have been used in research studies and program improvement efforts in many other countries including Canada, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Iceland, Portugal, England, Spain, Austria, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Hungary, Greece, and Japan. The scales have proven reliable and valid in each country with relatively minor adaptations. No doubt there are cultural differences among these various countries, yet each of these countries adheres to a core set of child development values and early childhood practices common to most modern industrialized countries (Tietze et al., 1996). It has been shown that in England, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Austria, higher scores on the scales are related to more positive child development outcomes (Petrogannis and Melhuish, 1996, European Child Care and Education Study Group, 1997).
• In Canada, the ERS are available in both English and French. In many of the provinces, they are used as a voluntary part of the licensing visit. The license is given for compliance with a licensing checklist, composed mainly of health and safety items. During the visit, the licensing consultant also completes one of the ERS and, with the voluntary cooperation of the caregiver, sets improvement goals for the program. The scales are used over a longer period in intensive consultation with programs that show problems during the licensing visit.
• In Sweden, several projects are using the Swedish translation of the ECERS for program improvement. For example, in Stockholm, the staff working together in a classroom independently completes one subscale of the scale each month, then discusses their scores under the leadership of their head teacher, who is a fully trained preschool teacher. The staff makes and carries out its own improvement plans. A study of this low cost program showed substantial gains in quality.
• In Germany, the translations of the ERS are presently being used in many areas to evaluate the quality of child care and kindergarten programs. Reports are provided to administrative agencies and to center staff, as a basis for program improvement. In addition, the scales are being considered as part of planning a program accreditation system.
For further information on the ERS, visit www.fpg.unc.edu/~ecers.
Further Readings: Burchinal, M. R., J. E. Roberts, R. Riggins, S. A. Zeisel, E. Neebe, and D. Bryant (2000). Relating quality of center-based child care to early cognitive and language development longitudinally. Child Development 71(2), 339-357; Buysse, V., P. W. Wesley, D. Bryant, and D. Gardner (1999). Quality of early childhood programs in inclusive and noninclusive settings. Exceptional Children 65(3), 301-314; Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes Study Team (1995). Cost, quality and child outcomes in child-care centers: Key findings and recommendations. Young Children 50(4), 40-44; Cryer, D., T. Harms, and C. Riley (2003). All about the ECERS-R—A detailed guide in words and pictures. PACT House Publishing, Kaplan Early Learning Company; Cryer, D., T. Harms, and C. Riley (2004). All About the ITERS-R—A detailed guide in words and pictures. PACT House Publishing, Kaplan Early Learning Company; Galinsky, E., C. Howes, S. Kontos, and M. Shinn (1994). The study of children in family child care and relative care: Highlights of findings. New York: Families and Work Institute; McKey, Ruth (2002). What are we learning about program quality and child development? (FACES Study Team). Head Start Bulletin 74, 38-39; Peisner-Feinburg, E. S., M. R. Burchinal, R. M. Clifford, M. L. Culkin, C. Howes, S. L. Kagan, and N. Yazejian (2001). The relation of preschool child-care quality to children’s cognitive and social developmental trajectories through second grade. Child Development 72(5), 1534-1554; Phillipsen, L. C., M. R. Burchinal, C. Howes, and D. Cryer (1997). The prediction of process quality from structural features of child care. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 12(3), 281-303; Pre-Kindergarten Study Team (2005). PreKindergarten in the United States. Early Developments. FPG Child Development Inst., 9(1); Tietze, W., D. Cryer, J. Bairrao, J. Palacios, and G. Wetzel (1996). Comparisons of observed process quality in early child-care and education programs in five countries. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 11(4), 447-75; Whitebook, M., D. Phillips, and C. Howes (1995). National Child Care Staffing Study Revisited: Four years in the life of center based child care. Child Care Employee Project.