Thursday, March 8, 2018

DEL examines child care centers in second Cost of Quality phase

The second installment of the Cost of Quality series by the Department of Early Learning (DEL) is now available. Last summer, DEL sent a survey to a sample of licensed child care centers to better understand the costs of operating a center and the costs associated with Early Achievers. The researchers were also trying to determine whether certain characteristics of child care centers are related to the Early Achievers quality rating of those centers. Identifying relationships between Early Achievers quality level and various characteristics of centers will allow DEL to effectively invest in continuous quality improvement at child care centers.

Researchers analyzed the relationship between numerous variables and Early Achievers quality level. Using a variety of statistical methods, researchers identified which aspects of child care center facilities, staff, and operations were associated with higher Early Achievers quality levels. The researchers examined center characteristics, staff, enrollment, and costs and revenue.

The analysis did not uncover a single strategy of improving quality, rather a suite of strategies that lead to high-quality child care. Improving the working environment for employees generally appears to improve the level of quality of the center. Researchers determined that wages and the level of assistant teachers’ education were associated with higher quality levels. Less teacher turnover also contributes to higher quality levels. It appears that centers that create a positive job experience are more likely to be high-quality.

Some characteristics that were indicators of quality included: the amount of indoor and outdoor space per child, how long a center has operated, and how diverse a center’s staff is. Other findings remark on the implications of tuition rates. One would expect that the price of a service would be related to the quality of that service. However, researchers determined that tuition has only a modest, positive relationship with quality. This makes it difficult for parents or guardians to know the quality of the service they are buying. Thus, the transparency Early Achievers offers for quality in child care is an important resource for parents and guardians in the state of Washington.

Phase III will be the next part of the Cost of Quality series and will study licensed family home child care. DEL will deploy the survey at the end of March.

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