Policy Brief on Professional Development and Early Educator Compensation
Do we want less crime in the future?
Do we want a strong economy that is competitive in a global world?
Do we want lower rates of teenage pregnancy?
Do we want lower rates of welfare dependence?
Do we want fewer children needing special education services?
Do we want more students graduating high school and going to college?
Most people would answer YES to all of these questions. Luckily, investing in early childhood education can help make all of that happen.
Some of the best economists in the country have researched the economic benefits of investing in young children and found it to be one of the best economic investments we can make. Economist Art Rolnick was the vice president and director of research of Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and currently is the co-director of Human Capital Research Collaborative ("Human capital research," 2012 ). Rolnick looked into the research and found that the average annual rate of return on investment for early childhood education is 16%, which is a lot higher than the annual rate of return for the stock market at only 5.8% (Rolnick, 2010). Rolnick is not the only economist to make this case. Many others have crunched the numbers and come back with similar results; most notably, Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman has made the economic case for investing in early childhood education. He found an annual rate of return for society of investments in high quality early education for at- risk children to be between 7% and 10% (Heckman, Moon, Pinto , Savelyev & Yavitz, 2010).
Research has shown that humans and other mammals are programmed to see their young children as very cute and want to take care of them (Angier 2006). Indeed, anyone who has worked with young children often has 1,000s of anecdotes about how cute they can be. However, let’s temporarily forget how cute and precious young children are and look at them as an economic investment. As previously, economists have found that investing in young children by giving them high quality early education and experiences is a wise investment. Furthermore, if we can think of children as investments, we want you to think of teachers as investment fund managers:
Would you want someone who was managing your investments to have a minimal amount of training, education, and experience?
Would you want someone who manages your investments to be making less than thirty thousand dollars a year?
Would you want a high turnover rate at the company that managed your investment with more experienced and educated staff frequently leaving the firm and less experienced staff taking their place?
The answer to all those questions is most likely NO, but that is exactly the situation we face as teachers whose job it is to maximize the future potential of young children.
Current qualifications to become an infant, toddler, or preschool teacher in Massachusetts:
Level I Certification: Infant-Toddler or Preschool Teacher
· You must be at least 21 years of age or have a high school diploma AND;
· You must have completed a three-credit course in Child Growth and Development. This course is also called Child Psychology or Developmental Psychology.
Work Experience Needed:
· You must have 9 months of supervised work experience ("EEC professional certification," 2013).
The qualifications for becoming a Lead Teacher are slightly more stringent, and if you would like a more detailed overview of the qualification standards, please consult the link to the State’s website in the works cited page below. With these low standards to become a teacher also come very low salaries. The job website Monster.com puts the HIGH END of the range of Preschool Teacher salaries around $30,000 (Monster.com Careerbenchmarking Tool). Salaryquest.com puts the average salary for a teacher at one of the biggest early childhood center chains, Bright Horizons, at $29,000. In comparison, the average salary for investment fund managers is between $80,000 and $120,000 dollars, and even the average salary for an Elementary School Teacher can range from $32,000 dollars to $68,000. Research shows that better educated and experienced teachers and low teacher turnover rates are more likely to produce better outcomes for children, but the early education industry is losing well-prepared teachers at a high rate and replacing them with less qualified teachers; furthermore, higher salaries have shown to help retain well-trained staff members (Cochran, 2007). This leads us to 2 questions:
How can we make sure that the people teaching and taking care of our young children have education, training, and experience necessary to maximize our young children’s potential?
How can we recruit well-trained teachers, support them in their professional growth, and compensate them enough so that they can and want to stay at their jobs?
¨ To maximize teachers’ capacity to help young children reach their full potential.
¨ To keep people in the field longer, give them incentives to want to stay in the field, and reduce high teacher turnover rates.
¨ To give other teachers more targeted professional development and feedback to improve their teaching practice.
¨ To give teachers opportunities to make more money and grow professionally.
¨ To do this in a way that is politically and economically feasible in the current climate.
Proposed Plans To Reach Those Goals
¨ Currently there is no step between Lead Teacher and Director.
¨ We will create a new designation called “Mentor Teacher License.”
¨ To become a “Mentor Teacher,” one would need at least 5 years teaching experience, a bachelor's degree , and at least one class in mentoring/coaching.
¨ Mentor Teachers would observe and give constructive feedback to other teachers.
¨ They would periodically lead professional development for staff (we will keep the state’s current requirement of 20 hours of PD, but the Mentor Teacher would be able to target it to more specific needs than an outside consultant).
¨ Mentor teachers would get paid by the department of ECE to give this PD at ECE Centers and Home Day Cares. The amount of money earned by the teachers providing the trainings will most likely be based on available funds, but a starting goal could be to pay Mentor Teachers $200 for each hour PD they give staff. Thus if a Mentor Teacher gives two 1-hour trainings a month, they could earn an additional $4,800 a year which would offset the cost of furthering their education.
¨ Proposed Soda and Candy Taxes would help fund this program.
¨ This program would give incentive to teachers to stay in the field and continue their education.
Assessment of Politics
Our program and policy idea is narrow in scope for a variety of reasons; between Race To The Top, PQ Registry, QRIS, NAEYC, No Child Left Behind, Common Core Standards and a million other policy initiatives and buzz words being thrown around in early childhood education and education in general, the last thing many directors, teachers, and even parents might want to hear about is another big program that will just cause more paper work red tape and may or may not actually benefit children. Furthermore, national and state institutions have spent time already organizing professional standards, and “the more diverse a state’s preschool system, the more complex it will be to enforce common standards for professional development.” (Whitebook, 2003). Complicating the matter of professional development further is that there is inconclusive evidence whether getting a Bachelor Degree is effective in terms of improving child outcomes. “A more efficient alternative is to recruit and select preschool teachers who display the caring qualities, verbal proficiencies, and engagement with children that are known to advance development” (Zigler, 2011). Thus, this program already prescreens people by trying to improve the educational and professional development of those who have already prescreened themselves as wanting to work with children, and these teachers most likely already have many of the nurturing qualities needed to work with young children.
The other main reason our program is narrow in scope is cost; A larger program that might increase all early educators’ pay or give them loan forgiveness might be too costly at this time, which would result in the program being a non-starter. That is why our proposal would give incentives for teachers to further their education, which in turn will benefit everyone who they mentor in their work.
Actions To Win Approval of The Recommendation
The minutia of early educators’ professional development is not a “sexy” political issue like gun control, health care, or immigration, so it may not garner much media attention. Additionally, state congressmen/women and the governor are not likely going over these matters with a fine-toothed comb. That is why, in order to enact these changes, we will target both middle level policy makers such as Tom Weber and others in the Department of Early Education and Care and low level policy makers such as the directors of ECE centers and owners of home day cares. We will do this by emailing, calling, and mailing our policy proposals to Tom Weber and The Department of Early Education and Care directly as well as compiling a list of directors in the state and emailing them individually to look over the policy ideas and contact the department of ECE if they agree concur to advocate for the changes. We will also use modern social media like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to contact early educators themselves to inform them of the policy proposals and how to get in touch with the Department of Early Education and Care if they agree with the proposals. Hopefully, the latter tactic might start a grassroots campaign among early educators to reform professional development, licensing, and compensation practices.
Angier, N. (2006, January 3). The cute factor. New York Times.
Cochran , M. (2007). Finding our way . Washington D.C. : Zero To Three
Department of Early Education and Care, (2013). Eec professional certification.
Retrieved from website: http://www.mass.gov/edu/birth-grade-12/early-education-and-care/workforce-and-professional-development/educator-certifications/early-education-care-professional-certification/eec-professional-certification.html
Heckman, J., Moon, S. H., Pinto , R., Savelyev, P., & Yavitz, A. (2010, July ).
A new cost-benefit and rate of return analysis for the perry preschool program: A summary. Retrieved from http://jenni.uchicago.edu/papers/Heckman_Moon_etal_2010_NBER_wp16180.pdf
Human capital research collaborative staff biography: Art rolnick . (2012 ).
Retrieved from http://humancapitalrc.org/staff/rolnick.cfm
Monster.com Careerbenchmarking Tool. (2013). Child care teacher salaries.
Recruiter.com (2012). salary for investment fund managers.
Rolnick, A. (2010, October 10 ). Interview by M.S. Sniderman [Web Based Recording].
Stop investing in stadiums..start investing in kids an interview with art rolnick., Retrieved from http://www.clevelandfed.org/forefront/2010/09/ff_2010_fall_05.cfm
Whitebook, M. (2003). Early education quality: Higher teacher qualifications for better living
environments: A review of the literature.
Zigler, E., Gilliam, W.S., & Barnett, W.S. (eds.). (2011). The pre-K debates: Current
controversies & issues. Baltimore, MD: Paul H Brookes Publishing Co.