February 2, 2017
Unifying the Early Childhood Profession
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recently launched a two-year initiative called Power to the Profession (P2P), which seeks to unify the early childhood profession and develop a consistent structure for competencies, qualifications, standards, and compensation for all those who work in the early learning field. This work intends to positively impact the quality of child care and early education settings, as well as academic and social emotional outcomes for the children they serve.
P2P is based on NAEYC’s public opinion research, which sought to understand public perceived value of the profession, identify what obstacles prevent educators from committing to the profession long term, and develop messaging to increase support for early childhood education and educators. This research, which was published in a 2015 report, Early Childhood Educators: Advancing the Profession, details opinions from educators, potential educators, and American voters. NAEYC’s research found that voters are convinced of the value of early education and also believe that educators are underpaid for the valuable work that they do. This research also indicated that low pay and benefits are the largest obstacles to the recruitment and retention of early educators. The messages that resounded the most with those surveyed were around brain development, importance of educators as role models, and ensuring readiness for K-12 education.
Concern for well-compensated and highly trained workforce is further supported by a report released in June 2016 by the US Department of Health & Human Services and the US Department of Education called High-Quality Early Learning Settings Depend on a High-Quality Workforce. According to this report, low wages for child-care workers, preschool teachers and Head Start teachers is undermining interest in and efforts to improve the quality of early childhood education in every state. In 32 States, the median annual earnings for a child care worker is below poverty for a family of three (i.e. $20,090 according to the 2015 poverty threshold). In all states, child-care workers with median annual incomes qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits. Wages differ based on setting and the age of the child.
At the same time, required credentials for early childhood educators have increased. Currently preschool initiatives in 32 states require a Bachelor’s degree with a concentration in early childhood for all lead teachers, and 45% of all preschool teachers hold a Bachelor’s degree. But, as the report points out, “Without a significant increase in annual earnings for teachers working with our nation’s youngest children, there is little incentive for attaining higher credentials and seeking higher levels of education.”
The report calls for greater parity in compensation for all of those who work to shape young minds, and provides a look at some examples of state efforts to improve parity in pay as well as assist teachers in attaining Bachelor’s degrees. It also includes useful state-by-state infographics about compensation to help early childhood advocates make the case.
Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is proud partner of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). NAEYC is a professional membership organization that works to promote high-quality early learning for all young children, birth through age 8, by connecting early childhood practice, policy, and research. The association comprises nearly 70,000 individual members of the early childhood community and more than 300 regional Affiliate chapters, all committed to delivering on the promise of high-quality early learning. ACS currently provides technical assistance for five NAEYC state affiliates across the country that were chosen by NAEYC to conduct outreach and engagement with the early childhood field and inform the P2P process. More information about NAEYC’s work to expand the early childhood profession can be found here.