Should I Enroll My Child In Preschool or Childcare? Early Childhood Programs Mistakenly Separated
What is the difference between my child attending preschool or childcare? This question probably has been asked a billion times, and mostly the responses to this question have been traditionally the same. Today, I want to give a different perspective to this common question in order to point out how important the quality of program is for the child versus the options of preschool versus childcare.
First we must let go of the two models of childcare that have been mistakenly separated. That there is traditional childcare and then there is early childhood education.
What Are The Indicators Of a High Quality Early Years Learning Program?
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), has established a Code of Ethics that all Early Childhood Professionals should value highly. Being licensed by the State to operate a early years program is definitely the first step and should be done, especially if it is the law. However, offering a high quality program is exceeding State Licensing Requirements.
The NAEYC has set 10 Standards for early years programs. The Standards are the foundation of the NAEYC'S Accreditation system for early childhood programs that are center based.
Standard 3: Teaching
Standard 4: Assessment of Child Progress
Standard 5: Health
Standard 6: Staff Competencies, Preparation, and Support
Standard 7: Families
Standard 8: Community Relationships
Standard 9: Physical Environment
Standard 10: Leadership and Management
In the “Michigan Early Childhood Standards of Quality for Infant and Toddler Programs,” It states, “Regardless of the source of the program’s resources, the components of high-quality early childhood programs are well established (e.g., well-qualified staff; evidence-based practices; include a major emphasis on relationships between children and adults in the program; maintain strong family partnerships, reflective supervision, ongoing professional development) and do not differ based on the program’s sources of support.”
What Is Evidence Based Practices?
Childcare & Early Education Research Connections defines evidenced based practices as "A practice, regimen or service that is grounded in evidence and can demonstrate that it improves outcomes. Elements of evidence-based practice are standardized, replicable and effective within a given setting and for a particular group of participants".
A Landmark Early Years Program
The High Scope Perry Preschool Study (1962-1967), is a study of a preschool program that gives us a great example of what indicators to look for in a high quality early years program. The collection and data reporting of this study was well done and can now assist early years programs as a guide to evidenced based practices and how to assess the program to make improvements. One of the focus groups in the study were 3 - 4 years old, whose parents were low income and did not receive any government benefits for childcare. For more in depth information about what other factors were involved in the study, the problems the program faced and the positive outcomes that the program was able to manifest for the children and their families, and also the community please visit Social Programs That Work.
In this summary of the High Scope Perry Preschool Study. It points out that family relationships were vital to the programs success, although all teachers were certified elementary teachers it was their early childhood training that was most relevant in their work with the children who were enrolled in the program, and lastly this model could be replicated in settings that have low teacher ratio and mixed ages.
It is important to note that Studio One uses this study as it's guide to implement a high quality early years program. The effectiveness of the High Scope Perry Preschool Study gives us evidence based practices to achieve similar positive outcomes for the children and their families, and the community where we serve.
In 1973, the Child Development Associate Consortium now known as Council for Professional Recognition set out to help prepare teachers who worked in Head Start Programs that were going to be teaching in communities that were different then theirs. The Child Development Associate Consortium sought out to use Diversity as the framework for teachers preparation.
"In this spirit, “colloquies”—gatherings of minority groups—were created to review the CDA® and its process. These colloquies were the African-American Colloquy, the American Indian Colloquy, the Chicano Colloquy, the Asian Colloquy, and the Puerto Rican Colloquy."
The colloquies then created task forces.
"Through their research and evaluation, the Black Advisory Task Force provided the foundation for what the CDA® is today, which ultimately defined what hundreds of thousands of early educators were expected to know and be able do. Rooted in a diversity framework, the contributions of the Black Advisory Task Force resulted in six powerful legacies for the field of early care and education. They taught us that early childhood teacher education should include: 1.) Multiple sources of evidence about teacher competence 2.) Family engagement 3.) Observation of a teacher’s practice 4.) Academic training 5.) Work experience 6. ) Career Pathway "
- The African American Pioneers: Legacy Influence
on Early Childhood Teacher Preparation
To learn more about the members of the Black Task Force and how the CDA Training Program for early childhood educators still sustain their legacy visit here.
Why the History Lesson?
It is important to know the foundational framework for which standards and indicators of high quality early learning programs are based on. The preschool vs childcare is a new age mindset belief about what early childhood education is. And when Preschool or Childcare is used it more so to describe targeted age groups for the early years program that they offer. Using these descriptive terms definitely has contributed to some of the confusion of what actually is a high quality early years program. However, all early years programs that are of high quality put teacher competency, child/ family/community relationships, and evidenced based practices at the forefront to be able to assist in the growth and development of a child in their early childhood. Early Childhood is defined as the years between birth and the age of 8. When we consider this definition and the standards that have been set for high quality early years program we can then begin to understand that preschool and childcare are one in the same.
Questions to ask when seeking to enroll your child in a high quality early years program are
A. Curricula/ Leadership
1. What curriculum does the program use?
2. How does the curriculum meet State Standards for Early Years Program?
3. How do you involve the family in planning of lessons?
4. What community work has the program done?
5. How does the Program Director support the staff?
B. Teacher Competency
4. When was the last teaching training you and/or your staff have completed?
5. Do you observe and document my child on a daily basis?
6. Do you do assessments? If so, what type?
7. How much experience does the teacher have that will be interacting with my child?
8. How are transitions from one activity to the next done?
9. How is discipline handled? Is it Evidenced Based?
C. Child Interaction
10. Will the teacher have time to spend one on one time with my child throughout the day?
11. How many different teachers/ staff will my child interact with daily?
12. Staff turnover rate?
D. Physical Environment/ Well Being
13. Does it have child sized furniture, and materials for the child that are accessible to them?
14. How are toys or materials cleaned when children mouth on on it ( become soiled) ?
15. What is the cleaning schedule of the environment?
16. What is the exclusion policy for illnesses?
No matter the age of the child in a high quality early years programs these questions should be asked. And even if your child is already enrolled in a program these questions are never too late to ask. If the program director, licensed in home childcare provider, or a preschool teacher are able to answer these questions chances are you have found a program that is striving to meet high quality early learning standards, or are already meeting these standards. No need to transition your child from a "childcare" to a "preschool" program, because they are already in a high quality early years program, or in a program that is on a journey to provide a high quality early years program.
The Bottom Line
Childcare is early childhood education and a high quality early years program can be delivered to children in all types of environments. Asking the question Childcare vs Preschool diminishes the legacies and efforts of early childhood professionals and leads us away from answering the more pressing question.... How can we make high quality early learning programs accessible to all children?
The Agency continues to be on a mission to provide high quality childcare that is accessible, and affordable for all families in the communities where we serve, Please join us on our mission!