April 3, 2005
According to a newly released research brief, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts needs to increase the qualifications of the current workforce and recruit and retain new, qualified teachers and providers to promote children’s school readiness.
Last year, the State created the Department of Early Education and Care to administer Massachusetts’ early education and care system, laying the groundwork for universal access to voluntary, high-quality programs for the Commonwealth’s preschool-aged children. Massachusetts Capacity Study Research Brief: Characteristics of the Current Early Education and Care Workforce, (authored by: Nancy L. Marshall, E.D., Julie Dennehy, M.M., Christine Johnson-Staub, Wendy Wagner Robeson, Ed.D., Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College) provides research-based evidence of the magnitude of the task of workforce development to ensure high quality programs.
Research shows that teachers who have additional training in early childhood education provide higher quality programs. But while many family child care homes meet accepted standards of quality programming – with many of the teachers in centers exceeding the minimal requirements set by the Office of Child Care Services – only 27 percent of family child care providers have a child development associate credential or college degree. Preschool classrooms in Massachusetts’ public schools currently serve fewer than 20 percent of preschool-aged children and these public preschool teachers are required to hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Family child care providers are an important sector of Massachusetts mixed delivery system of early education and care, serving more children than public school preschool programs and Head Start programs combined.
The report further indicates that to effectively recruit and maintain a qualified early education and care workforce, it will be necessary for the Commonwealth to address issues of compensation and turnover. Compensation currently varies by education level and by sector of Massachusetts’ mixed delivery system – within sectors, more-qualified individuals receive higher compensation. However, a center teacher with a bachelor’s degree in the field is paid less than a comparably educated public school preschool teacher. For example, preschool center teachers with a bachelor’s degree in ECE earn an average of $11.91/hour compared to the lowest paid, full-time public school preschool teachers who earn an average of $28/hour.
The low wages associated with employment in centers are directly related to staff turnover. Turnover rates among teaching staff in Massachusetts’ centers is significantly higher than national averages for all employees working in education: directors reported that 26 percent of their teaching staff had left in the previous year. Nationally, the annual turnover rate for 2003-2004 in education services was 9.8 percent.
This research brief was released by the Center for Research on Women at the Wellesley Centers for Women. The National Institute of Early Education Research provided funding for the Massachusetts Capacity Study, of which this research brief is the first product. Strategies for Children has also contributed modest funding for the project.