Guidelines for Solving Early Child Care and Education Crisis Draw on Research Findings to Improve Quality by 2010

On the heels of the recent White House Conference on Child Care, a major report released today at Yale University offers hard-hitting solutions for improving the quality of early care and education.

“Not By Chance: Creating an Early Care and Education System for America’s Children” presents a vision – to be achieved by 2010 – for making high-quality early care and education programs available and accessible to all children under 5 years old whose parents want to enroll them. The report calls for cooperative, cross-sector partnerships to build a system of high-quality child care.

The “Not By Chance” approach would engage families and communities in defining results and in holding programs accountable for their accomplishments. In turn, all programs would be licensed and staffed with well-trained, credentialed, and appropriately compensated individuals, said Sharon L. Kagan, the report’s principal author and one of the nation’s leading authorities on early childhood development.

The report culminates an in-depth, four-year research and review initiative called “Quality 2000,” which involved hundreds of the foremost national and international scholars, business leaders, policy makers, parents and early childhood practitioners. The report concludes that quality early childhood services are a national necessity that won’t come into being by chance, by a haphazard roll of the policy dice, Dr. Kagan said. To improve services, the nation needs a long-range, visionary plan that is supported by realistic and attainable action strategies.

“The report comes at a critical moment. Only if we regard early care and education as a system – and approach reform systematically – will we solve the quality crisis,” said Dr. Kagan, a senior research scientist at Yale University and a senior associate of Yale’s Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy.

“Studies conducted over three decades have established beyond a doubt the value of quality early care and education,” she said. “There is increasing understanding of the long-term cost savings associated with investments in young children, leading to improved school performance and greater workforce productivity for parents. What’s more, recent brain research has shed light on the opportunities and risks of the early years.”

Widespread evidence of poor-quality child care has resulted in growing concern and impetus for action among parents, business leaders and policy makers, she said.

The report’s eight recommendations provide a comprehensive, long-term view that will replace short-term, piecemeal thinking, according to the authors. The report offers a clear plan for what early care and education could be, supported by detailed, actionable strategies that can be tailored to local and state settings. Highlights include:

* Individual licensing for all staff responsible for children in centers and family child care homes – based on high levels of training and demonstrated abilities.

* Streamlined program licensing, without exemptions, for all programs offering services to the public.

* Increased compensation and benefits for early care and education staff.

* Measures of program quality based on children’s progress.

* Adequate funding to ensure that all children have access to quality early care and education services – requiring new partnerships among business, government, parents and community organizations.

* Increased accountability, community involvement, efficiency and continuity of services for young children and their families through coordinated state and local governance boards.

“Not By Chance” and the Quality 2000 initiative were funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the A.L. Mailman Family Foundation and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

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