There’s mom. There’s apple pie. And across the country, there is widespread, bipartisan support for early education and early educators.
That’s the finding of a new market research study commissioned by NAEYC (the National Association for the Education of Young Children).
Now NAEYC is working to turn this popular support into transformative action.
The research findings highlight “three discrete yet interconnected areas: (1) the image of the profession; (2) paths to define and grow the profession; and (3) voters’ commitment to investing in the profession,” NAEYC explains on its website.
NAEYC’s market research builds on an Institute of Medicine report called, “Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth through Age 8,” which was released earlier this year.
While the Institute of Medicine report drew on the knowledge of experts, NAEYC sought feedback from voters and early educators. Specifically NAEYC’s research had four parts:
• in-depth, online qualitative interviews with early educators
• a quantitative online survey of early educators
• four focus groups with current educators and those interested in entering the field, and
• a national survey of 950 voters
Among the new study’s findings:
“Majorities of Democrats, independents and Republicans support increased investment in early childhood education.” Specifically, this was true of 94 percent of surveyed Democrats, 80 percent of the independents, and 64 percent of the Republicans. A slide show of the findings is posted here.
“… 6 in 10 voters recognize that a child’s earliest years are crucial for learning and development, and nearly 9 in 10 voters believe that early childhood educators are an integral part of our society, valued at levels similar to firefighters and nurses,” according to an NAEYC press release.
And: “Voters believe both compensation and professional development are critical to ensuring children receive a quality education.” However, 61 percent of voters also say: “early childhood educators are paid too little” and a majority of voters support raising early educators’ wages.
Researchers also found that “72 percent of educators still believe that the community doesn’t respect the importance and difficulty of their work.”
And while many current staff members “would like to make early childhood education their long-term career, 84 percent of early childhood educators identify low pay as a significant challenge to doing so.”
“Educators of color were more likely to report an even greater range of obstacles for staying in the profession, including college inaccessibility and a lack of career guidance, mentoring and training. For example, 51 percent of educators of color cited college affordability as a barrier, compared to 37 percent of white educators.”
Closing the Gap
It will be tough to close the gap between warm-hearted beliefs and actual paychecks. But in a brief called “Advancing the Early Childhood Profession: Next Steps,” NAEYC expresses its commitment to ensuring, “that our nation’s policies and practices catch up with the significant body of research and science about the benefits to children, families, and our society when children have access to high-quality early learning settings with skilled, knowledgeable teachers.”
“A concerted effort is needed to unify the field around a set of shared definitions as a profession serving children birth through age 8. Then the definitions must be implemented in policy and practice through a comprehensive national, state, and local advocacy strategy,” the brief says.
To get this work done: “NAEYC will convene and project manage a national taskforce comprised of chief executives of the membership organizations or networks whose members work with or on behalf of young children birth through age 8, including K-3 focused organizations. Through facilitated discussions, this group will take responsibility for:
• developing guiding principles.
• engaging their national networks for feedback and consensus building, and
• adopting and promoting nationally agreed upon skills, competencies, and qualifications (including recommendations for licensing and certifications) for the profession”
“Highly skilled and well-compensated early childhood educators are essential to ensuring that all children have access to high-quality, developmentally appropriate early childhood education,” Rhian Evans Allvin, NAEYC’s executive director says in the press release. “We’re working to ensure policymakers share this understanding and make needed state and federal investments in the early childhood profession.”