The New Normal for Early Care and Education

As we begin a new year and reflect on where early care and education (ECE) is headed, we may need to acknowledge a new normal for the field. I am sure many of my colleagues in ECE will not be happy with what I am about to share but I have always been driven by empirical data and this is what I am observing in the ECE field at this point.

We are all disappointed with the lack of action at the federal level to revamp the ECE system into a much improved and enhanced system. The opportunity was there at the beginning of the pandemic and there was a great deal of debate and discussion but it led nowhere. We are left with an ECE system having difficulty in finding adequately trained staff on a daily basis. If anything, the ECE field looks worse today then it did three years ago and that is saying alot.

So what can we do? I would suggest that we go back to the basics. The original philosophy of licensing and regulatory science is “do no harm”, let’s begin there. We need to make sure that all our children are in healthy and safe environments. We need to revisit the child care trilemma and focus on the availability and affordability side of the equation and put quality on the back burner again. I hate suggesting this but we have no other choice at this point or the system is going to implode. We need to make certain that our children do not lose any additional ground which has been so evident during the pandemic.

Once we have re-established a solid base, then and only then, we can begin to address quality of services via regulatory science, quality rating and improvement systems, and professional development of ECE staff: an Early Childhood Program Quality Improvement and Indicator Model. We do have several excellent examples that I have had the fortune to be part of which should provide some guidance, such as broader adoption of Caring for Our Children Basics as the core set of rules/regulations/standards for the ECE profession. Full implementation of the new Head Start Monitoring System and the full roll out of the iLookOut Learning Platform for ECE staff.

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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