Ramping Up Early-Childhood Programs Should Be Done With Care
It's important to offer early-childhood education programs but if President Barack Obama's proposed expansion of Head Start comes to fruition, policymakers must be careful to ensure the quality of teachers in the rush to hire them, warns RAND Corporation Associate Director of Education Brian Stecher.
Simply put, programs without such educators won't make nearly the intended impact, he wrote in a new RAND commentary.
The President announced he budgeted $75 billion over the next ten years to improve early childhood education via federal-state partnerships earlier this week, money subject to approval by Congress. If approved, the move that would mark the largest expansion of early childhood programs in 50 years.
But the federal government and states should take heed of lessons learned in California, Stecher wrote.
"California's attempt to rapidly reduce class size led to a significant increase in the hiring of teachers without full credentials—from 1.8 percent to 12.5 percent by the second year of the program," Stecher wrote in a commentary for the Santa Monica, Calif.-based think tank.
There are several ways to ensure a pipeline of qualified teachers prior to any hiring, he wrote.
For one, teachers should be offered additional training prior to certification and professional development once in the field.
Other recommendations include creating career paths so that educators can advance in the field and increasing salaries so that the jobs attract more candidates.
"Ensuring there are enough qualified teachers is essential if an expanded early-childhood education program is to have the greatest possible effect on children," Stecher wrote.