Strengthening the Diversity and Quality of the Early Care and Education Workforce Paper Series

Associations between Early Care and Education Teacher Characteristics and Observed Classroom Processes
Anna D. Johnson, Georgetown University
Anne Partika, Georgetown University
Owen Schochet, Georgetown University
Sherri Castle, University of Oklahoma

Early care and education (ECE) teachers are paid strikingly low wages yet are increasingly expected to advance children’s learning by offering high-quality classroom environments. Teachers’ capacities to provide high-quality instruction should be affected by the stressors they encounter and the supports they receive. This study describes ECE teacher supports, experiences, and well-being in a sample of teachers serving 4-year-olds from families with low incomes in a mixed-delivery ECE system in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We find that teachers who reported high levels of teamwork among colleagues and those who reported more wellness supports in the workplace had classrooms that scored higher on observed quality; teachers who reported more depressive symptoms scored lower on observed classroom quality. If these findings are replicated in other samples—using additional measures of ECE teacher supports, experiences, and well-being—they point to areas ripe for investment in ECE teacher professional development and workplace supports.

Professional Development Supports and Teacher Practice in Low-Income Pre-K Programs
Michelle Maier, MDRC
Anne Kou, MDRC

Public investment in pre-K programs across the US has expanded over the past two decades, primarily to increase access to pre-K programs, especially among low-income children and children of color. However, program quality varies across states. One key question policymakers and practitioners have posed is how to create high-quality early childhood educational environments that promote successful outcomes for all preschool-aged children. This study considers the role of professional development supports in helping teachers create high-quality learning experiences for children. It examines three professional development supports that early childhood programs often provide (teacher training, coaching, and common planning time), whether these supports predict various aspects of observed teacher practice, and whether the associations between professional development supports and teacher practice vary based on teachers’ experience. Findings suggest that ongoing coaching is a key form of professional development for supporting classroom quality, that common planning time may be a promising professional development support for teachers, and that programs may need to consider teachers’ experience when planning professional development. These findings inform the field’s efforts to build a competent workforce that meets the needs of diverse groups of young children.

Dos Métodos: Two Classroom Language Models in Head Start
Carola Oliva-Olson, California State University Channel Islands
Dual language learners make up an increasing share of preschool students, but they often perform worse than monolingual students on assessments measuring school achievement. This study compares Head Start classrooms implementing either the dual language model or the English with home language support model. The author examines how the models affect gains in English or Spanish oral proficiency over a school year and how classroom organization and quality affect potential proficiency gains. Students in dual language classrooms showed significantly greater average gains from pretest to posttest in English oral proficiency and Spanish oral proficiency than did students in classrooms using the English with home language support model. The difference was even more pronounced among classrooms with low organization. Findings highlight the need for professional development on language model use to ensure consistency in delivery.

Paper series editor: Heather Sandstrom, Urban Institute principal research associate