Kellie Toney is an early childhood educator in Cleveland County. As a recipient of Child Care WAGE$®, she sent the following letter to her North Carolina legislators:
“I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for your support of the WAGE$ program funded through Smart Start. Without this supplement, I would not have had the opportunity to complete my Bachelor’s degree while working as an assistant teacher with Cleveland County Schools. The checks I have received through this program have [gone] towards my tuition and textbooks. Without this program, I likely would not have been able to get through school without student loans. Thank you so much for supporting this program, which played such a vital role in the completion of my Birth-Kindergarten Education Bachelor’s degree. This program truly helps those of us shaping the youngest minds through private child care and public education.”
Kellie began her career in early
childhood education as an assistant teacher in Head Start. “I love children. I
love to be there for all of the ‘firsts’ in learning. When children arrive in
NC Pre-K and Head Start, most have never been in [child care] or spent very
much time learning. I am there to guide them as they begin to write their name,
interact with peers and explore the world around them,” Kellie said.
After some time, Kellie began
wanting a role where she could plan what to teach the children, so she decided
to go back to school to complete her Birth-Kindergarten Education Bachelor’s
degree from East Carolina University.
With high college tuition,
textbooks and transportation expenses, Kellie’s husband had to work overtime to
help her afford to go back to school. They also took out a home equity line to
pay for some of her classes.
Fortunately, through Child Care Connections and a college instructor from Cleveland Community College, Kellie heard about Child Care Services Association’s Child Care WAGE$® compensation program. “WAGE$ helped me to graduate debt-free. With the help of WAGE$ funds and Education Incentive Grants, I did not ever need to take out student loans. I was able to save these funds and used them to pay for textbooks, coursework and required trips to East Carolina University,” Kellie said, “With the WAGE$ funds, we paid back [our] loans and used the remaining funding to pay for new coursework.”
Kellie felt compelled to contact and thank her legislators for their support of Smart Start, which the Cleveland County Partnership for Children, Inc. used to provide WAGE$. “WAGE$ enabled me to continue my education. This in turn benefits my students because I was equipped with the skills and knowledge to better educate my students… I want to ensure funds are available for [all] teachers.”
PED was right – addressing the achievement gap requires much more attention to a child’s earliest years. While Pre-K expansion was recommended, research points to the birth to age 3 period of a child’s life as the time when the largest impact on a child’s development is possible. This period of early childhood must also be taken into account as we plan for the future for all NC families.
PED was charged with reviewing school districts nationwide with high poverty rates and at least average achievement by students to see if there were common strategies that could be used within North Carolina school districts. The project addressed three research questions,
are the characteristics of school districts that have high percentages of
economically disadvantaged students yet demonstrate high academic performance?
policies or practices are high-achieving disadvantaged districts implementing
that may contribute to student performance?
policies or practices could North Carolina implement in order to improve
performance in districts with high percentages of economically disadvantaged
The results were sobering. PED found that local school districts throughout the country struggled in attaining grade level or better student performance. In fact, PED identified only 5% of predominantly economically disadvantaged school districts that also had grade level or better student performance over a 7-year period. Within North Carolina, 45 of 115 school districts were identified as predominantly economically disadvantaged, which is about 39% of North Carolina school districts. Of those 45 school districts, only 7 (about 16%) met the bar of student performance at grade level (or above). While higher than the national average, 16% is nothing to boast about.
What PED found was that within economically disadvantaged school districts where students are performing well (at grade level or above), third grade is an important marker. Student growth occurs after 3rd grade but that efforts to address student competencies before grade 3 are most important in reducing the achievement gap.
PED conducted interviews within 12 economically disadvantaged school districts (comparable to school districts within North Carolina) with grade level (or above) student performance to see if there were any common strategies that led to higher student outcomes. One of the factors that the 12 school districts had in common was a significant investment in public pre-kindergarten (pre-K). Pre-K in two of the school districts (Durant Independent School District in Oklahoma and Steubenville City Schools in Ohio) target both three- and four-year-old children for enrollment. Four of the five North Carolina counties in which case study districts were located had 75% or more of eligible children participating in NC Pre-K.
However, PED notes that current funding enables only 47% of low-income eligible children statewide to participate in NC Pre-K.
The PED report makes two
Recommendation #1. The General Assembly should require low-performing school districts to include an early childhood improvement plan as a component of their required plans for improvement. PED calls for the development of specific strategies aimed at boosting achievement from pre-K to 3rd grade and lists expanding pre-K, improving pre-K quality, ensuring alignment of pre-K curricula with elementary school curricula, developing transition plans, providing professional development that focuses on early learning and providing instructional coaching focused on pre-kK through 3rd grade.
Recommendation #2. The General Assembly should require an assessment of early childhood learning as part of the Department of Public Instruction’s comprehensive needs assessment process for districts.
While those of us who have worked in the early childhood education field are glad to see the recommendations related to pre-K, and agree the NC Pre-K program should be fully-funded so all eligible children have an opportunity to participate, children are not born at age four.
Research shows that pre-K makes a difference in a child’s school readiness, particularly for low-income children. However, that same research also notes that a child’s gains in pre-K are directly related to his or her prior experiences before pre-K.
Neuroscience research shows that a child’s earliest years, from birth to age three, play a critical role in the development of brain wiring that lays a foundation for all future learning. In the first years of life, more than one million neural connections are formed every second.
This wiring frames the architecture upon which all future abilities are built. While people learn throughout their lives, a child’s earliest years are critical because they set the foundation. Genes and experiences help shape a young child’s brain development, which begin long before a child enters pre-K. And, remediation strategies are much more difficult as children (and adults) age.
According to the U.S. Census
Bureau’s latest data, throughout North Carolina:
356,007 children are under age three
465,783 children are under age six who also have working parents (young children residing in two-parent families where both parents work or in a single-parent family where the head of household works)
Young children with working mothers are in child care every week for about 36 hours according to the Census Bureau. Most of these children are not age four; they are not in pre-K. This is why any directive to the General Assembly to address the achievement gap, which rightly calls for addressing the early childhood landscape, has to not only focus on access to pre-K but also must focus on access to high-quality child care and the early childhood workforce that cares for our youngest children.
We applaud PED’s call for low performing school districts to include an early childhood improvement plan and an assessment of early learning opportunities as part of district comprehensive needs assessments. However, early learning is not limited to pre-K settings. High-quality child care programs are important early learning settings at all ages. Any needs assessment and early childhood improvement plans that are derived from such a landscape review must include our youngest children. Child development, school readiness and reducing the achievement gap depend on it.
By Linda Chappel, Vice President, Triangle Area Child Care Resource and Referral Services at Child Care Services Association
This week the Best of The Triangle 2019 was published in INDYWEEK, naming most favorite activities, foods and events voted on by readers and described as the “wisdom of the crowd.” I present the Best of the Triangle as Durham PreK.
In 2018, the Durham County Commission voted to make historic local investments to open access for more 4-year old children to high quality preschool services. At a time when North Carolina’s legislators are talking about funding virtual preschool, Durham is boldly creating face-to-face opportunities for children with local funds.
A primary goal of Durham PreK is supporting the learning and development of young children to improve the quality of their lives now and in the future. We know from years of research that high quality preschool enhances children’s school readiness by providing substantial early learning, which can have lasting effects far into a child’s later years of school and life.
Research finds high quality preschool programs can accomplish this goal by producing large and lasting gains in outcomes such as “achievement, educational attainment, personal and social behavior (e.g., reductions in crime), adult health, and economic productivity.” These gains are broad and last long into adulthood.
The importance of funding pre-K in Durham
At CCSA, our research found there are six low-income preschool children for every one publicly funded preschool space in Durham through programs such as NC Pre-K, Durham Public Schools and Head Start.
Currently, more than 25% of Durham census tracts with more than 50 low-income preschoolers have no publicly funded preschool slots. In a random survey of approximately 2,000 Durham parents, 92% of parents rated cost-free preschool as desirable or essential. 
Durham PreK benefits the community
While a child’s success in school and life
addresses our society’s greater good, children from lower-income households are
often left behind, furthering inequality and setting the stage for the
achievement gap that persists through high school. As a vibrant, growing
community, Durham recognizes the short- and long-term benefits of attendance in
a high quality early childhood program for children, their families and the
These benefits range from reduced need for
special education services or remedial support during the K-12 years to
increased tax revenue and reduced dependency on government assistance in
adulthood. Researchers quantified these benefits and found a return on
investment of $3-$13 for every dollar invested in early childhood. Even at the
low end of this estimate, this is a significant return.
With an abundance of evidence that high-quality universal preschool could reduce the disparities in skills among subgroups of children at kindergarten entry, Durham’s policymakers are focusing considerable resources on the development and expansion of quality preschool programs for 4-year-olds.
Durham PreK will help improve the quality of early education in Durham County by improving classroom instruction, supporting family engagement and building capacity for high quality through practice based coaching, while expanding access to publicly funded preschool services for all the county’s 4-year-olds. A critical component of this initiative is the implementation of preschool classrooms in diverse settings, including public schools and community-based programs. Durham PreK provides teachers and directors with regular coaching and professional development on cultural competence and social-emotional learning and conducts quality improvement activities to enhance children’s classroom experiences.
Unlike many programs around the country,
Durham PreK requires teachers hold a Birth to Kindergarten teaching certificate
and that they be paid at the same salary level as teachers in Durham Public
Schools. Durham PreK places this emphasis on the teachers’ compensation to
attract and retain the most qualified teachers.
Our overall goal in Durham is to improve the quality of and access to preschool programs for more children. We started with an ambitious two-year plan that runs through July 2020. We know this will be a journey that builds each year until we can serve all Durham’s children and ensure their life-long success. Durham PreK plans to stay Best of the Triangle.
 Phillips, D.A., Lipsey, M.W., Dodge, K.A., Haskins, R., Bassok, D., Burchinal, M.R.,…Weiland, C. (2017). Puzzling it out: The current state of scientific knowledge on pre-kindergarten effects, a consensus statement. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. Downloaded July 24, 2017 from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/consensus-statement_ final.pdf
 Durham Supply and Demand Study, Child Care Services Association, (2018). https://www.childcareservices.org/research/research-reports/early-childhood-system-studies/
 Phillips, D. A., et al. (2018). The changing landscape of publicly-funded center-based child care: 1990-2012. Children and Youth Services Review, 91, 94-104; Cascio, E. U. (2017). Does universal preschool hit the target? Program access and preschool impacts. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research; Yoshikawa, H., et al. (2013). Investing in our future: The evidence on preschool education. New York: Society for Research in Child Development and the Foundation for Child Development.
As the President of
Child Care Services Association, a mother and a grandmother, I have been
following the advancement of HB 485, the Virtual Early Learning Pilot program, under
consideration by the North Carolina State Legislature. The 3-year pilot would
allow up to 10 school districts to offer online pre-k to at-risk, 4 year-old
children, at a cost of $500,000 per year for the next three years.
I know that every year,
state legislators are forced to make difficult decisions in allocating state
funding. I can imagine that there is great pressure with these decisions and
that legislators look for ways to save money, while still achieving intended
outcomes. With regard to state pre-k funding and the goal to have all children
throughout North Carolina enter school with the skills to succeed, it is
important for legislators to understand how young children learn and what
school readiness really means.
Decades of research show that the greatest gains made by children in pre-k occur where teacher interactions with children promote critical thinking skills as well as concept knowledge through warm and responsive relationships. This isn’t by chance. It’s by design. It’s in-person. It’s individualized to meet each child where he or she is at to build on strengths and build up areas that are not as strong.
have shown the importance of “instructional, social, and emotional serve-and-return
interactions that occur daily between teachers and children, as well as among
classmates” that result in
developmental gains across early childhood domains (e.g., social and emotional,
language and literacy, critical thinking and physical development). These
interactions “motivate and deepen
learning, enable children to organize and focus their attention and other
capacities needed to learn, and promote peer cooperation and support,”
which comprise the foundation for school readiness. It’s about soft-skill
development as well as concept development related to letters and numbers.
In my career, I’ve had
the opportunity to visit pre-k classrooms and talk to pre-k teachers. Too many
of our at-risk 4 year-olds haven’t been read to; they don’t know that books
contain words and pictures that tell a story, that letters have sounds and that
stories have a sequence – a beginning, a middle and an end. Some have never
held a pencil or colored with crayons or written their name. Some haven’t held
a pair of scissors or developed the dexterity to use a pencil or have ever put
together a puzzle. You would think by age 4, children would know colors and
basic shapes, but some do not.
The same children might know how to watch a video
on a parent’s phone, but they can’t wait their turn or share, they can’t
transition between activities and they don’t know how to use their words to
express their thoughts or feelings in a group setting – to lead, follow or just
get along with peers. They may or may not have consistent rules at home so they
don’t know how to manage themselves appropriately and follow rules in a
classroom. These are soft-skills that are learned in a hands-on experience that
can’t be learned through a computer lesson.
programs also screen children for vision, hearing, speech and physical
development and help identify children who could benefit from early
intervention services in areas where there may be a delay. None of this can
occur through an online preschool experience – at least not in an effective
The NC Pre-K program
works. Studies have found that NC Pre-K raises children’s literacy, math and
social-emotional skills not just for kindergarten entry
but also throughout elementary school and the most recent research shows gains
through middle school.
teachers are asked what school readiness means and what skills are most
important for school readiness, their top responses include: children who can
regulate their impulses, pay attention, listen to and follow directions, be
willing to try different tasks (e.g., have self-confidence), engage in self-care,
get along with peers and have motor skills such as the ability to hold a
Despite the strong
evaluations of NC Pre-K, current funding supports fewer than half of eligible
children. To me, the answer should be to adequately fund NC Pre-K so that 4
year-old children can attend, not divert resources to an online preschool that
misses the mark on what matters most for early childhood development –
effective interactions with children. Not screen time.
There is still time to course correct on state budget issues. We don’t need a 3-year pilot that diverts $1.5 million from additional pre-k seats for children. Let’s put every dollar possible into expanding what works. And, for 4-year old children, that’s a setting that promotes interactions with teachers and peers.
 The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects, Deborah A. Phillips of Georgetown University, Mark W. Lipsey of Vanderbilt University, Kenneth A. Dodge of Duke University, Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, Daphna Bassok of the University of Virginia, Margaret R. Burchinal of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Greg J. Duncan of the University of California-Irvine, Mark Dynarski of the Brookings Institution, Katherine A. Magnuson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Christina Weiland of the University of Michigan. (2017). https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/duke_prekstudy_final_4-4-17_hires.pdf
Week of the Young Child is an annual week-long celebration with themed days hosted by NAEYC to spotlight early learning, young children, their teachers, families and communities. The themes are “Music Monday,” “Tasty Tuesday,” “Work Together Wednesday,” “Artsy Thursday” and “Family Friday.”
For “Artsy Thursday,” Mati Vassallo,
Family Support Bilingual Referral Counselor, visited Chapel Hill Cooperative
Preschool where Kathryn, a 2-3 year old teacher, and Silva, a 3-5 year old
teacher, shared how they celebrate through an annual children’s art show. They
invited families, friends and the community to celebrate and explore the
children’s creative expression.
“This art show is a celebration and a
great example of the work we do here at the preschool. It aligns with our
philosophy of celebrating each individual child, exploring their strengths and
abilities and bringing out their best work,” said Kathryn.
“It’s not only a time…to celebrate the
richness of the children’s work and their creations, but it’s also really a
time to celebrate art and to celebrate community. It goes so much beyond just
the artistic creations in the way that it draws us and everyone together…That
is something we really enjoy and love to do,” said Silva.
For “Family Friday”, Katie Thayer, UNC
intern and Family Engagement Counselor, visited Director Ada Terry and Lead
Teacher Crystal Boycher in the Durham PreK classroom at Childcare Network #57 to discuss their family
engagement strategies. In addition to having a School Improvement Team and
Parent Advisory Board, they send out daily newsletters, invite parents to
volunteer, provide resources to families and host celebrations for their
families and children.
Crystal’s favorite family engagement
activity at Childcare Network #57 is asking the parents to help with school
improvement plans, such as redoing the playground and painting the fence. “We
also invite parents out to visit the classroom. For Week of the Young Child, we
are doing an ice cream social on Friday,” said Crystal.
Save the date for next year’s Week of the Young Child April 13-17.
Written by Edith Locke, CCSA Professional Development Team
The month of May signals the season for commencement
exercises at colleges and universities nationwide. As students walk proudly across
the stage in cap and gown, triumphantly moving the tassel on their mortarboard to
symbolize academic achievement, it is important to recognize degree attainment
roadblocks that the early care and education (ECE) field face.
Why are early educators more deserving of special acknowledgment for degree completion than other non-traditional, working students?
First, one should consider the shared traits of this workforce with college non-completers. The ECE workforce, much like the college non-completer, typically has dependent children, low income, works full-time, attends college part-time and is financially independent from parents.
Despite how closely they mirror college non-completers, degree attainment is not impossible. The 2015Working in Early Care and Education in North Carolina Study reported 63 percent of teachers had a college degree. Additionally, 17 percent of teachers were taking courses in the ECE field with 60 percent of them working towards an associate or bachelor’s degree.
Unfortunately, degree attainment rarely means significant compensation
gains. The median wage for ECE teachers was $10.46 compared to $17.61 starting
wage of public school teachers in North Carolina. Additionally, over 70 percent of the
workforce’s household income was below the $46,784 North Carolina median
household income. Moreover, 39 percent of teachers received some public
assistance in the previous three years.
It is commendable the ECE workforce makes educational advancements despite challenges.
Workforce supports, such as the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® scholarship and Child Care WAGE$® salary supplement programs that help early educators access formal education and reward their retention, are crucial. Research shows degrees are linked to quality care, and maternal education has been linked to better child outcomes. Therefore, support for degree attainment in the ECE field should remain a priority.
Written by Allison Miller, CCSA Compensation Initiatives Team
Worthy Wage Day
May 1 is an important day for teachers, particularly teachers working with our youngest children. It is a day when we recognize the link between quality early care and education and the wages earned by dedicated teachers. It is a day when we should say loudly that early educators do NOT earn enough. That’s what Child Care Services Association (CCSA) has been saying for decades, and we have programs in place to help support the workforce. We know that compensation matters and early educators deserve worthy wages.
Infant-Toddler Educators Typically Earn the Least
We know our youngest, most vulnerable children desperately need stable and engaging relationships with the adults in their lives. Infant-toddler teachers play a critical role in the successful development of the children they serve and yet they typically earn the least in an already underpaid field. How can these teachers stay in their classrooms when they earn $10 per hour on average in North Carolina? And that rate is $1.39 less than the average hourly rate of those teachers working with preschool-aged children. It is clear that early childhood compensation across the board must be addressed.
Parents cannot afford to pay more, so without a significant
public investment, we are left with a huge problem. But we cannot let that
problem keep us from finding solutions. Early educators deserve worthy wages.
Thanks to funding from the NC Division of Child Development and Early
Education, CCSA now offers Infant-Toddler
Educator AWARD$. We provide education-based salary supplements to full-time infant-toddler teachers. With this
enhanced compensation, teachers can better afford to stay in their positions,
giving young children the stability they need.
Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$
Are you an infant-toddler teacher in North Carolina? Would you like to earn $2,000 to $4,000 more each year? AWARD$ is open to eligible teachers in every county across the state. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis, so get yours in now! Find out how to apply here. Supplements depend upon funding availability.
Since 1994, CCSA has also offered the Child Care WAGE$® Program
in participating counties. AWARD$ was modeled on the WAGE$ Program.
Participants have often called their supplements “life changing.” Many talk
about needing the supplements to survive, to meet the basic needs of their
Early educators deserve more. We rely on them to provide
critical care and education to our children. We rely on them so we can go to
work and provide for our own families. We cannot let them down. Compensation
matters. Let’s all loudly support worthy wages for early educators, not just
today, but every day.
Written by Kayli Watson, Spring 2019 Communications Intern from UNC Chapel Hill
Health experts have always stressed eating healthy and being active. Instilling these values at an early age can be the first steps for a longer, healthier life for children. Children enrolled in child care may consume between 50 percent and 100 percent of their Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) while in care. Child care programs have a chance to provide the foundation for a healthy life, in terms of food consumption and levels of activity. Child Care Services Association (CCSA) has worked to create programs to help early care centers in multiple ways, including healthy eating and active play.
CCSA implemented Shape NC to increase the number of children starting kindergarten at a healthy weight. The project promotes healthy eating and active play for children from birth-5 years old by working with child care programs to instill healthy behaviors and create a solid foundation for a healthy life. Shape NC integrates multiple research-based models to provide an in-depth approach to childhood obesity prevention. It combines evidence-based programs to create a comprehensive approach in partnership with the following statewide programs: Be Active Kids®, Preventing Obesity by Design and the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self Assessment for Child Care (Go NAP SACC).
Little Engine Academy in Durham, N.C.
Like other centers, Little Engine Academy benefits from several of CCSA’s programs, including Shape NC. Kathy Smith, the center’s owner, shared how she became involved in early childhood education and created Little Engine Academy. “It was something I always wanted to do,” Smith said, “The previous owners contacted me to say that they were closing and to see if I was interested, and I jumped on the bandwagon thinking it would probably take a month to open. It actually took about three months.” While Kathy has been managing Little Engine Academy since November 2008, the center has only been involved in Shape NC for a year.
Little Engine Academy is also working to add more healthy meals to their menus through various programs. “We like to talk to the kids about what they eat, explain where the food came from and why they should be eating it,” Smith said.
Outdoor Learning Environment
For Smith and the children at Little Engine Academy, one of the most exciting aspects of Shape NC is re-building their outdoor learning environment. “We’re part of the natural learning initiative,” Smith explained, “We’re super excited! That’s one of the things about being part of Shape NC [that is exciting as it] is helping us get to have what is called an outdoor learning environment versus a playground.”
The outdoor area is a space for children to strengthen their cognitive, social and emotional development through playing games with other kids in an environment in which they can explore and learn. Additionally, outdoor play helps kids’ physical fitness as well as sensory skills. Little Engine Academy is excited to create an area for their kids to not only learn and explore but garden and learn exactly how food is grown. Now in its second year, Shape NC will help create these spaces for child care centers through funding and fundraising opportunities in its third year.
CCSA’s Other Resources for Little Engine Academy
Shape NC is not the only resource Little Engine Academy has used from CCSA. Chenille Coston, a teacher at Little Engine Academy, is also participating in a T.E.A.C.H. NC Early Childhood Scholarship as she works to obtain her master’s degree. There also employees who have received wage supplements from the Child Care WAGE$®️ Program. Both Coston and Smith talk about the value of professional development opportunities they have attended. “For me, it’s been really awesome. It’s always good to learn more and they provide a lot of new information for us,” Smith said, “We’ve actually incorporated a lot of things they’ve given us.”
“The trainings [have] provided new strategies that we’ve been able to use in the classroom,” Coston said as she explained a recent strategy they have incorporated to teach the kids movement. The center also participates in CCSA child care scholarships that make attending Little Engine Academy more affordable for parents.
The Future at Little Engine Academy with Shape NC
Parents will continue to be more involved with Little Engine Academy as the school gets closer to its third year of participating in Shape NC. Little Engine Academy is looking for volunteers to help remove playground equipment to make room for the new outdoor learning environment, which they will start fundraising for this summer.
If you’re interested in volunteering with Little Engine Academy to remove their playground equipment contact Jennifer Gioia at 919-967-3272.
CCSA is hosting Shape NC activities this Earth Day Festival Sunday, April 28 from 12 – 5 p.m. at theDurham City Earth Day Festival. Stop by Durham Central Park, 501 Foster St. to enjoy all day performances and tons of fun activities. Learn more here.
Learn more about Shape NC here or call us at 919-967-3272 for more information about the program.
To support the Shape NC project, click here and DONATE
Your gift to fund Shape NC workshops and events in Durham, N.C. will be matched
100% through a Social Innovation Fund Grant.
“Better Together”was the theme of this year’s Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) Institute held in Greensboro, N.C. in March, and Mary Erwin recently shared details of the Institute. A highlight of this year’s conference was the keynote delivered by Dr. Walter Gilliam from the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale. This blog is to keep the keynote information on our minds and in our work.
Delivered in a “TED talk” manner, Dr. Gilliam shared his research on implicit bias with the audience and the implications research has on both policy and practice impacting the early childhood workforce and children in early learning settings.
What is Implicit Bias?
Webster’s dictionary defines it as “bias that results from the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations and feelings, even when these are contrary to one’s conscious or declared beliefs”.
What is the Relationship Between Implicit Bias and Early Childhood Settings?
Dr. Gilliam shared data from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights that found black boys in particular were disproportionately suspended or expelled from preschool. To learn more about whether this may be related to the behavior of the child or the perceptions of the teaching workforce, Dr. Gilliam and his team at Yale conducted a study. Specifically, Dr. Gilliam wanted to see whether implicit biases may play a role in identifying children with challenging behaviors.
Video Observation Study
Dr. Gilliam’s team recruited participants at a nationwide conference of early childhood educators. Early childhood teachers were asked to watch several video clips of preschool children engaged in typical table top activities. The children were racially balanced (one white boy and girl and one black boy and girl). Early childhood teachers were told the study was related to better understanding to how teachers detect challenging behaviors in the classroom. They were told sometimes this involves seeing behavior before it becomes a problem and were asked to press the enter key on a computer keyboard every time they saw a behavior that could become a potential challenge. They were told the video clips may or may not contain challenging behaviors and to press the keypad as often as needed. In addition to the keypad entries, an eye tracking device was used to log the time teachers spent watching the behavior of individual children. (For frame ofreference with regard to the children,they were child actorsand no challenging behaviors werepresent).
Dr. Gilliam and his team found teachers spent more time looking at boys and at black children than girls and white children. In particular, teachers spent more time watching the black boy in the videos. When teachers were asked explicitly which of the children required most of their attention, 42% indicated the black boy, 34% indicated the white boy, 13% indicated the white girl, and 10% indicated the black girl. The race of the teacher did not impact the findings.
Background Information Study
A second part of the study was related to finding out if teachers were provided information about the child’s background, whether that impacted their perception of the severity of the behavior and their ability to impact the child’s behavior. For this part of the study, early childhood teachers were given a brief description of a preschool student with his or her behavioral challenges. The description of child behaviors remained the same, but the name of the child associated with the description changed to reflect stereotypical black and white girl and boy names (Latoya, Emily, DeShawn and Jake).
To test if teachers changed their perceptions of the child’s behavior when given a brief family background summary, some teachers were also given more context related to the child’s home environment (e.g., the child lives with a single mother working multiple jobs and who struggles with depression but doesn’t have resources to receive help; the father is barely around, but when he is around, the parents fight loudly in front of the children, and sometimes violent disputes occur). The study randomized whether the early childhood teachers received background information or not.
Gilliam and his team found that teachers appeared to expect challenging
behaviors more from black children and specifically black boys. Without family
background, white teachers seemed to hold black children to lower behavioral
expectations. In contrast, black teachers held black children to very high
provision of family background information caused different perceptions based
on teacher-child race. For example, when black teachers were provided with
family background information on black children, teachers rated child behavior
as less severe. When white teachers were provided with family background
information on black children, behavior severity ratings increased – potentially
indicating knowing family stressors may lead to feelings of hopelessness that
behavior problems can improve.
The Role of Implicit Bias in Early Childhood Settings
Dr. Gilliam explained that understanding the role implicit bias may play in child care and early learning settings is the first step toward addressing racial disparities in discipline approaches. He explained that interventions are underway throughout the country designed to address biases directly or increase teachers’ empathy for children (which paves the way for more effective strategies related to children’s learning styles and behaviors).
Progress in North Carolina
Carolina is beginning to review and implement strategies to address implicit
bias, give early childhood teachers strategies to promote more effective ways
to address challenging behavior and to support high-quality child care programs
through better teacher-child interactions.
We are exploring infant and toddler mental health consultant evidence-based approaches as well as the use of tools to improve teacher-child interactions through the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), which measures teacher interactions and is paired with specific improvement strategies identified through observational assessments. Overall, practice-based coaching models can impact teacher strategies to better meet the needs of children.