Programs that have established mandates or significant incentives related to staff qualifications, such as those under the auspices of Head Start or LAUP, appear to have a much higher proportion of teachers that have attained degrees, including Bachelor’s degrees and graduate degrees. Without having data on the compensation levels of individual teachers in these programs, it is not possible to determine whether teachers’ wages are related to educational attainment. However, there is a significant difference in educational attainment between Head Start or LAUP teachers and participants in the two stipend programs. Compared with the workforce in LAUP and Head Start/Early Head Start, the workforce participating in stipend programs such as AB212 or ASPIRE CARES Plus tended to have lower educational attainment levels, in both center-based and family child care home settings. Further, the discrepancy between the educational attainment of workers in center-based vs. family child care homes appears greater than that found among lead teachers, assistant teachers, and family child care providers under the auspices of LAUP or Head Start/Early Head Start. These differences could reflect other characteristics of the workforce in stipend programs, such as the fact that they are still receiving training. But it is also possible to speculate that stipend programs do not provide the kinds of incentives or performance standards that serve to improve the education of this segment of the workforce in Los Angeles County.
Based on the review of annual and evaluation education and training reports as well as the perspectives from the key informant interviews on barriers to accessing education and training, it appears that there are actually two populations that make up the ECE workforce in Los Angeles County. These two population groups could be identified as those who take a traditional pathway of formal education to ECE career, and those who take a non-traditional pathway by virtue of having entered the workforce with few qualifications and are interested or in the process of obtaining education. Each of these two populations has different needs and may require different strategies.
The traditional pathway group may begin their education straight from high school and obtain a degree before working. English is likely their primary language. They tend to be more at ease with accessing the higher education system and are computer literate. They are seen as “traditional” students and most current degree programs are designed with them in mind.
Those on the nontraditional pathway are more often older, women of color, less educated, with a primary language other than English, and already in the workforce before achieving the level of education required for working in high quality programs. They are constrained by work hours and family responsibilities. They tend to be intimidated by the system of higher education and are not computer literate. Family child care providers are a significant segment of this group.
Those considered traditional students have fared better in terms of enrollment and advisement in college and thus have greater access to the classes they need. The non-traditional students are more likely to need and benefit from the aforementioned additional supports implemented in the model programs cited earlier and may have difficulty using the system of higher education as described in the section on barriers. They are more likely to be adversely affected by the attitudes and values of IHEs that set policy and programs regarding access, schedules, and articulation that favor traditional students. Finally, these non-traditional workforce members face more challenges by the increasing demands of their work on conducting structured observations, child assessments, program evaluations, program planning, and maintaining adequate documentation.
As described by some key informants, the goal of improving the workforce through higher standards may conflict with the need to maintain diversity in the workforce that also matches the populations they serve. Some key informant comments alluded to the fear that, as standards and qualifications for the ECE workforce are increased, there is a danger that a portion of the workforce could become disenfranchised from pursuing professional development, which may lead to lower retention of this segment and may ultimately reduce the diversity of the workforce.
While the two workforce populations are distinct in many ways, there are common needs for both segments of the workforce related to developing the skills and knowledge required to provide high quality and effective ECE, as follows:
- More relevant coursework and training through IHEs which addresses intentional instruction and adult-child interaction as well as critical knowledge on working with dual language learners and inclusion of special needs children. More relevant preparation also includes ensuring that students of ECE have high meaningful practicum experiences in high quality environments. Workforce preparation must include training that result in a greater knowledge and understanding of new concepts in the field such as QRIS, screening and assessments, and evaluation tools.
- Clearer professional development pathways and information on these pathways. This relates to what courses should be taken, where they are available, which courses transfer, where training is available and if the training is aligned with course content or competencies.
- Financial support to complete and continue formal education and training is critical. The cost of education continues to rise and, as demonstrated in the section on compensation, individuals in this field have limited incomes to cover the expenses of a college education. The stipend programs have been an effective, if limited support in this area.
- Higher compensation when higher qualifications are met. This could be the most effective incentive short of mandates. Based on the limited database available, it does not appear that education is the driver behind compensation. Years in the field appeared to be more closely aligned with increases in compensation. This can be partially explained by the broad range of funding sources that support various ECE program or service types, including parent fees that will vary from community to community.
Pay scales are contingent on the type and amount of funding each program receives and the policies of individual employers. Typically, Head Start has more funding per child than CDE funded programs; income to non-funded programs varies depending on the level of fees charged to parents; family child care operates similarly to private centers setting fees based on the market in which they operate.
There are proven incentives and strategies that help address current deficits in the current system of professional development, but they are limited by funding and scope. Stipend programs have been effective in assisting a portion of the workforce to continue formal education and attain degrees. The model programs described have tested strategies such as the cohort approach, specialized advisement, and contextualized coursework to ensure ECE workforce can succeed in the system of higher education and receive appropriate training.
There is no single comprehensive individual-level database for information on the ECE workforce such as the characteristics of the ECE workforce and their attainment of educational qualifications and certifications in Los Angeles County. Moreover, not having a primary repository will make it very difficult to track changes in the workforce, or the impacts of investments and strategies on the qualifications of the workforce. The opportunity for tracking exists with the data gathered thus far and through the continuation of the California Early Care and Education Workforce Registry (the Registry).
Click here for limitations regarding our research.