First 5 Humboldt Recommendations for Quality Early Learning Efforts in California
Recommendations for State Infrastructure to Develop an Early Learning System:
1a. Existing statewide early learning systems must be aligned to properly support quality early learning. This recommendation includes child care licensing, resource and referral agencies, higher education, and other systems with critical roles in early learning.
2a. Early learning must be developed as an aligned and cohesive system that is connected to and can articulate into the k-12 system. This requires aligning the many disjoint programs and initiatives that currently serve 0-5 year olds.
3a. Building an early learning system requires state-level legislation and policies with sustained funding streams. Continuity and coordination of policies and funding from statewide leaders are needed to allow for the development of an aligned system that provides universal access to high quality early learning experiences and addresses both rural and urban needs.
4a. State wide laws and regulations pertaining to child care licensing and community care licensing must be rewritten and redesigned to allow families and providers easy access to regulations such as Title 22 and Title 5.
5a. Data must be harnessed to make system-building decisions. The California Department of Education and First 5 California should play a strong role in creating a consistent set of data quality standards and a data dictionary so that intervention, dosage, and outcomes can all be quantified consistently and aggregated.
6a. Implement a universal kindergarten readiness screening and build a unique child identifier system. This will enable critical statewide conversations about early leaning, as well as provide teachers with reliable measures to support students.
7a. Quality efforts must address the whole early childhood systems. As an early learning system is developed, all areas, including health, parent education and engagement, social-emotional support, early learning, and income disparity, must be included and supported.
8a. Income eligibility guidelines to qualify for subsidy care programs need to be expanded and updated. Current income ceilings to qualify for California State Preschool and other subsidy care programs exclude many needy families and do not adequately take cost of living into consideration. This increases the divider for children with access to high quality preschool and other early learning programs, and contributes to an already troubling school readiness gap.
Recommendations to Develop QRIS as Part of an Early Learning System:
1b. The QRIS matrix must demonstrate that higher tiers correspond to improved child outcomes. Validation of the matrix and a compelling child outcome study are essential to full implementation of the system, and necessary to achieve the trust, buy-in, and investment of QRIS implementers, educators, and parents.
2b. Appropriate tiered incentive should be established to recognize quality. Once the matrix has been validated and ratings have been shown to contribute to child outcomes, the Partnership recommends establishing appropriate tiered incentives, above and beyond base compensation, to recognize educators for increasing levels of quality.
3b. The QRIS system should provide financial support for programs with lower tier levels that are working to increase their tier level that would enable them to be eligible for a stipend.
4b. There must be a place for all types of educators in a mixed service system. The matrix requirements should be assessed for barriers to participation, including elements that are disproportionately difficult to implement for non-subsided educators, as well as equivalency options such as NAEYC accreditation.
5b. A resourced and integrated statewide QRIS must be developed. The Partnership recommends the development of a consistent and comprehensive framework for QRIS that supports all educators, is integrated with all of the state systems that contribute to quality, and is robustly resourced.
Recommendations for System Changes to Support Workforce Development:
1c. Raise the subsidy reimbursement rate to equal 100% of the Regional Market Rate, which should be updated annually. The infant-Toddler rate should be adjusted to reflect the cost of a 1:2 staff to child ratio. Inadequate reimbursement rates are creating substandard workforce conditions tend pay for the teachers that California is relying upon to care for children while they are in the most significant stages of brain development.
2c. Early Childhoods education compensation must be raised to match K-12 compensation. The extremely low salaries of early educators destabilize the workforce and create disincentive for prospective teachers to enter the early childhood education field.
3c. A 0-8 teaching credential should be developed. This credential would prepare new teachers to teach in both pre-kindergarten and early elementary settings, serving to create a continuum of developmentally appropriate education.
Recommendations for Higher Education to Support Workforce Development:
1d. Higher education institutions should offer accessible degree coursework in early childhood education that is aligned to quality standards and adequately prepares students to successfully achieve high QRIS ratings. This could include offering more flexible course schedules and options; providing language, scholarship, and professional development supports; collaborating to align coursework across institutions; and incorporating instruction to students on QRIS and its tools.
2d. Statewide policy barriers to early education degree attainment must be eliminated. State-level organizations working on early childhood should engage with the governing bodies of higher education to collectively change these policies, including making classes available in languages reflective of the workforce, increasing the availability of funding to support those seeking early childhood degrees, and offering four-year early childhood education degrees at community colleges.
3d. Loan forgiveness should be offered for working at state funded preschools.
Recommendations for QRIS Assessment Sustainability:
1e. The California Department of Education and First 5 California should allocate funding and staff time to conduct a collaborative statewide review of assessment with QRIS counties. The focus of this should be to gather data on assessments and outcomes; define the appropriate use, periodicity, and role of assessment in the matrix and the quality improvement pathways; and evaluate the sustainability and cost effectiveness of using proprietary assessment tools.
2e. The California Department of Education should allocate funding for tools and training required for QRIS.
Recommendations for the Roles and Sustainability of Coaching in QRIS:
1f. Coaching needs to be part of a broader network of quality improvement supports to most effectively contribute to raising quality. Most critical among these is adequate workforce development through higher education and hands-on training, so that teachers are appropriately prepared when they enter the field. The role of coaching should be to enhance the skills of an already educated workforce.
2f. Coaching should be embedded into quality improvement initiatives. High quality coaching should be built into future quality early learning initiative and funded appropriately, including the specific needs of coaching in large rural communities.
3f. Coaching should remain a flexible and personal component of quality improvement. Funding for coaching should be incorporated into an early learning system, but it shouldn’t be tied to specific coaching types or requirements.
4f. Statewide guidelines on coaching should be developed. These should standardize the way in which coaching is defined so that the field has a common language and shared understanding of the purpose of coaching in a QRIS, but should not prescribe coaching types, focuses, or dosages.