Using Science for Formulating ECE Public Policy

Here are three examples (all dealing with staff to child ratios) of using science in an innovative way to help formulate and guide early care and education (ECE) policy and standards/rules/regulations.

-> The use of developmental play patterns in determining staff child ratios. When caring for young children, toddlers are the most difficult to care for in groups. The reason being that toddlers do not form cohesive groups but rather engage in “herding” behavior. These “herds” are difficult to corral because of short attention spans and parallel play. So, does it make sense when promulgating standards that we reduce the relative size of the group and have fewer children to the teaching staff. Generally staff to child ratios are based upon the chronological age rather than the developmental age or developmental play patterns of the children.

-> In addressing the trilemma of child care (affordability, quality, accessibility) is it possible to alter the staff child ratio for those individual classrooms where we have a very highly qualified teacher (BA or MA in ECE) and increase the staff child ratio by one child. The increased tuition that comes with the extra child being enrolled would translate into a salary increase for the very highly qualified teacher in that respective classroom. In so doing, we address affordability, accessibility and quality in one fell swoop.

-> In determining staff child ratio compliance with the specific number of children to teaching staff in a group or classroom try utilizing a new metric called “contact hours”. “Contact hours” determines the number of children in a classroom or group setting and looks at that group with the number of teaching staff present over time. By asking 6 very basic questions, it is possible to calculate the area of a trapezoid to determine via this new metric “contact hours” if the group or classroom is in compliance or not with the specific staff child ratio for the respective age group by the area of the trapezoid. The other intriguing aspect of “contact hours” is that it can be calculated remotely or virtually without needing to do on site observations.

These are just three examples of how we can begin to use science to help us determine empirically how best to design and implement ECE standards/rules/regulations. If you are interested in any of these three examples, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I can provide additional documentation.

About Dr Fiene

Dr. Rick Fiene has spent his professional career in improving the quality of child care in various states, nationally, and internationally. He has done extensive research and publishing on the key components in improving child care quality through an early childhood program quality indicator model of training, technical assistance, quality rating & improvement systems, professional development, mentoring, licensing, risk assessment, differential program monitoring, and accreditation. Dr. Fiene is a retired professor of human development & psychology (Penn State University) where he was department head and director of the Capital Area Early Childhood Research and Training Institute.
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