University of Virginia study: Child-care ratings are often not connected to learning outcomes

19 Sep

Child-care and preschool apparently fall into the category of we know good child-care when we see the effect. The National Network for Child Care says in INGREDIENTS FOR QUALITY CHILD CARE:

A quality environment is well planned and invites children to learn and grow. Centers and family day care homes that had a “neat, clean, orderly physical setting, organized into activity areas and oriented to the child’s activity” were found to have good child development (Clarke-Stewart, 1987, p. 113). Most states require 36 square feet of room per child for indoor areas, while 100 square feet per child is recommended outside (Gotts, 1988). There should be enough materials and equipment available that are developmentally appropriate for children of different age levels. Activities planned by the caregivers must also be developmentally appropriate and allow for imaginative play. Play opportunities that enhance children’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development are another indicator of high quality programs (Bridgman, 1988). Children need to be given time to play and explore using concrete materials in order to enhance their natural curiosity and intellectual development.

A University of Virginia study finds that many rating systems don’t aid in finding quality child-care.

Christine A. Samuels reported in the Education Week article, Child-Care Rating Systems Earn Few Stars in Study: Tool said to fall short in predicting quality:

A new study on child-care rating systems appears to bolster concerns among some in the early-learning field that the ratings generated by those systems are only tenuously connected to learning outcomes.
The researchers, who were from several universities, found that children attending highly rated pre-K programs did not have significantly better results in math, prereading, language, and social skills when they finished the programs, compared with the children attending lower-rated programs.
The findings, published last month in the journal Science, could have implications for states as they work to tie their ratings to real-world outcomes.
Researchers were studying “quality rating and improvement systems.” As a result of federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants, funding from states, and foundation support, nearly every state has or is creating such a system, known by the shorthand QRIS. About 13,000 child-care programs in 20 states have been rated through a QRIS. Most of the systems use symbols such as stars to represent levels of quality. But those systems draw in so many elements that a center’s rank may end up with a distant connection to teacher-child interactions, which are known to be a strong predictor of how well children do in preschool and afterward, said Terri J. Sabol, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University and the study’s lead author.
“My biggest take-away is that states need to simplify their rating systems,” Ms. Sabol said in an interview. “There’s something really appealing about having these five-star systems, but that comes at a cost because those stars don’t mean a lot for child outcomes.”
Gladys Wilson, the president and CEO of Qualistar Colorado, an organization that rates child-care centers in that state, said the rating system has had the benefit of providing a clear path to continuous improvement for care providers. The “improvement” aspect of a QRIS is as important as the ratings themselves, she said.


Can Rating Pre-K Programs Predict Children’s Learning?
1. T. J. Sabol1,*,
2. S. L. Soliday Hong2,
3. R. C. Pianta3,
4. M. R. Burchinal2
+ Author Affiliations
1. 1Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.
2. 2Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.
3. 3Center for the Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA.
1. ↵*Corresponding author:
Early childhood education programs [e.g., prekindergarten (pre-K)]—characterized by stimulating and supportive teacher-child interactions in enriched classroom settings—promote children’s learning and school readiness (1–3). But in the United States, most children, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, attend programs that may not be of sufficient quality to improve readiness for school success (4). States are adopting Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRISs) as a market-based approach for improving early education, but few states have evaluated the extent to which their QRIS relates to child outcomes. We studied the ability of several QRISs to distinguish among meaningful differences in quality that support learning.

See, Child-Care Quality Rating and Improvement Systems in Five States

Here is the press release from the University of Virginia:

States’ Methods for Rating Preschool Quality Fail to Predict Children’s Readiness for Kindergarten
Published on 08/22/13, in News [1] » Press Releases [2]
Website Addresses Used in the Document
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Aug. 22, 2013 — According to findings published today in the journal Science [3], publicly funded pre-kindergarten classrooms that received the highest marks in quality rating systems used by the majority of states are no better at fostering children’s school readiness than classrooms with lower ratings.
However, researchers at the University of Virginia, Northwestern University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill isolated one factor of the many used in the rating systems that did make a difference in school readiness: the quality of teacher-student interactions.
Preschool ClassEven before President Obama promised to work with states to “make high-quality preschool available to every child in America” during his February 2013 State of the Union Address, national debate was taking place to accurately define “high-quality preschool.”
“A primary purpose of preschool is to advance children’s learning and development in preparation for kindergarten; this is especially true for disadvantaged children who are mostly served by publicly funded programs,” said Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and founding director of U.Va.’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning. “Yet these findings demonstrate that current program quality evaluation models don’t predict the very thing that public pre-K programs are being designed and funded to produce.”
The paper, “Can Policy-Relevant Ratings of Pre-K Programs Predict Children’s Learning?” is co-written by Pianta; Terri J. Sabol, postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern; Sandra L. Soliday Hong, postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina; and Margaret R. Burchinal, senior scientist at the University of North Carolina.
These researchers used data from two studies of nearly 3,000 children in 703 state-funded pre-kindergarten classrooms from nine states, representing a variety of pre-kindergarten models in use across the United States. Using this data set, investigators calculated the extent to which various features of program quality included in each of nine different states’ Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, or QRIS, actually predicted children’s readiness for kindergarten at the end of their year in pre-K.
A Quality Rating and Improvement System is a method for collecting and compiling information on program features presumed to measure program quality. Higher ratings should equal higher quality. To the extent that enrollment in high-quality pre-K programs is a means of fostering children’s success in school, then children attending higher-rated programs should perform better on measures of kindergarten readiness. To determine readiness, children’s learning and development were evaluated by assessing gains in academic skills, language skills, social skills and problem behaviors in the pre-kindergarten year.
The researchers selected the five most commonly used measures of quality used in multiple states’ QRIS: staff qualifications, physical environment, class size,teacher-child ratio and qualities of interactions between teachers and children. They combined these indicators to calculate overall quality ratings using formulas from the QRIS systems used in nine states.
Results demonstrated that whether a child was enrolled in a highly rated program was unrelated to their gains in learning during pre-K or their readiness to begin kindergarten.
While the aggregate ratings, with many measures, didn’t predict children’s learning, the researchers were able to pinpoint a single measure that would identify quality pre-K classrooms and consequently, which students would learn more.
“Children who were in classrooms with higher ratings based on observed interactions between teachers and students were more prepared for kindergarten,” Sabol said.
This study suggests that states ought to make changes in the ways they rate the quality of pre-K programs. Rating systems should focus on rating the quality of teacher-child interaction in order to assess and improve the components that matter most for children’s learning, Sabol said.
“Quality pre-K education can make a real difference for children,” Pianta said. “Yet when we measure program quality, we must focus on the features that actually make that difference for children. The major policy models being used for evaluation relate neither to children’s learning gains in the pre-K year nor to school readiness. Of all the features of preschool programs that can be measured, observations of teacher-child interactions may be most valuable.”
Website Addresses Used in the Document

Your toddler not only needs food for their body and appropriate physical activity, but you need to nourish their mind and spirit as well.
There are several good articles which explain why you do not want your toddler parked in front of a television several hours each day. Robin Elise Weiss, LCCE has a very good explanation of how television can be used as a resource by distinguishing between television watching and targeting viewing of specific programs designed to enhance learning. In Should Babies and Toddlers Watch Television? Weiss comments about the effects of young children and television. MSNBC was reporting about toddlers and television in 2004.

In the MSNBC report, Watching TV May Hurt Toddlers’ Attention Spans the following comments were made:

Researchers have found that every hour preschoolers watch television each day boosts their chances — by about 10 percent — of developing attention deficit problems later in life.
The findings back up previous research showing that television can shorten attention spans and support American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that youngsters under age 2 not watch television.
“The truth is there are lots of reasons for children not to watch television. Other studies have shown it to be associated with obesity and aggressiveness” too, said lead author Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a researcher at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle.
The issue is whether prolonged television watching affects a child’s brain development.

See, How to Have a Happier, Healthier, Smarter Baby

Parents and caregivers must interact with their children and read to them. Television is not a parental substitute.

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