Creating national standards for any industry based upon empirical evidence is possible in analyzing research over the past 50 years in human services. Research completed in human service regulatory science gives a pretty good blueprint in how this can be accomplished. Let’s look at what has been done in early care and education (ECE), and child residential programs.
The key starting point is the unit of analysis which in ECE programs would be the facility: a child care center or home. In other industries, it could be an agency, a factory, a store, a bank, etc…. But back to the ECE example. There will be rules/regulations/standards applied to the facility, i.e., child care center or child care home. These will generally range from health and safety rules/regulations to state of the art program quality standards in most measurement protocols. Assessments will be done with many individual facilities and aggregated appropriately: regulatory compliance with rules and program quality observation tools. It is critical that an instrument based program monitoring system be utilized and not an anecdotal narrative based data collection system. It is too difficult and time consuming to analyze case studies on a large scale. Taking case studies on a sampling basis from the quantitative data base can work and provides a balance between quantitative and qualitative data analysis.
Once these data are aggregated it will be able to determine trends in the data, which rules/regulations are most critical in predicting overall compliance, what are the key quality indicators, which rules or standards that place clients at greatest risk of morbidity and mortality, etc… It is suggested that this be done with multiple samples, these could be done regionally, statewide, nationally, etc. depending on the level of data accessibility. By doing this and utilizing factor analysis it will be able to determine are there any commonalities in the rules/regulations/standards? Generally there is!! Let’s use ECE facilities as an example. In ECE, research went from individual key indicators at the state licensing agency level to generic key indicators (common rules across state licensing agencies) to a national voluntary set of standards (Caring for Our Children Basics). This same blueprint could be used in any industry and it would help to make for more effective and efficient monitoring systems if it were done.
Any industry that is regulated or accredited could follow the above blueprint in moving from individual sites to aggregate data and generating national, international, industry standards to follow based upon empirical evidence. And through factor analyses it would be possible to streamline the rules to a core set of the most predictive key indicators. This is how it was done in the ECE field.
For those individuals who are interested in learning more or pursuing this, take a deeper dive into this blog and the Selected Publications page of this website for details. Also, get in touch with the National Association for Regulatory Administration (NARA) who has consultants who can help design these types of measurement systems (NARA).