Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Raising Early Educator Quality Likely to Benefit Latinos

This week a few items crossed my desk and got me thinking about how improving the quality of early educators is likely to benefit both Latino preschoolers and those Latinos (mostly Latinas)  entering early education as a career.

In August, the inspector general’s office of the federal Department of Health and Human Services released a report saying that 81 percent of Early Head Start teachers now hold at least the minimum credential, a Child Development Associate (CDA), which requires 120 hours of class time and 480 hours of supervised professional experience with children. More than half of those teachers who didn’t yet have a CDA were in the process of earning one. Some centers reported trouble finding qualified teachers to hire; the Center for Law and Social Policy suggests that could be a result of Early Head Start’s rapid expansion thanks to stimulus funds.

At the same time, there’s a debate about how best to train early educators. Many experts agree that a CDA is not enough training to guarantee highly qualified teachers and the field’s typical salaries arguably encourage low-quality teaching and high turnover. The average preschool teacher in the United States earns only $23,870 annually, compared to $51,009 for public elementary and secondary school teachers. Some say the solution is for early educators to earn bachelor’s degrees and higher, just like K-12 teachers do, and that they should be on public school teacher salary scales with incentives to take more coursework.

Others argue that we should redesign early educator training from the ground up. In a recent Brookings paper, Sara Mead and Kevin Carey argue for the creation of “charter colleges” of early education. They argue that research has not proven bachelor’s degrees to guarantee educator quality, that most early-childhood degree programs don’t provide the skills early educators most need and that undergraduates with demographic profiles similar to many entering the early childhood field (low-income and minorities of all kinds, including Latinos) have low rates of college graduation.

Mead and Carey cite Texas School Ready as a potential model for the training such colleges could offer. The program is run by an offshoot of the University of Texas at Houston and works with thousands of Texas preschool classrooms to help them ensure their children leave ready for kindergarten.

I’d like to see some reporters take a look inside both their local CDA training programs, often run through community colleges, and watch the graduates at work in local preschool programs to see how they do when they enter the field. Here in the Chicago area, the Erikson Institute is working with community colleges to increase and improve their pre-service work with aspiring early educators on how to teach math. Are there similar efforts elsewhere? How are they faring?