Two general approaches to measuring child care quality were described in this report. Process quality refers to children’s experiences in child care settings. Some process measures focus specifically on caregivers’ behaviors with children. Others include global ratings that incorporate physical facilities and age-appropriate child activities as well as caregiver behavior into their evaluation. Multisite studies suggest considerable need for improvement of process quality in the United States. Although less than 10 percent of process quality has been categorized as “inadequate” or “poor,” most settings have been characterized as only “fair” or “minimal.” These observations indicate the need for systematic efforts to improve a substantial portion of child care in the United States.
A second way of measuring child care quality is in terms of structural and caregiver characteristics, such as child:adult ratio, group sizes, teacher formal education, and teacher specialized training. There is an extensive research literature linking structural and caregiver characteristics to process quality. A review of regulatory standards in the 50 states shows that few states have adopted standards that are consistent with the recommendations of professional organizations. Furthermore, reports from nationally representative surveys indicate that average group sizes and ratios exceed recommended standards. Recent evidence suggests a decline in the educational background of staff during the 1990s, perhaps as a result of low wages. Thus, it appears that child care structural and caregiver characteristics are in need of improvement. They can be improved if additional resources are allocated. This could occur through a combination of increased subsidies for care, especially to low-income families; federal standards and/or increased state standards for both physical settings and caregiver training and child:staff ratios, improved information to parents on the quality of providers, and/or direct provision or expansion of child care in schools.
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"table1.pdf" (pdf, 43.75Kb)
"table2.pdf" (pdf, 43.32Kb)