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Journal Article

The Early Care and Education Workforce

Deborah Phillips, Lea J. E. Austin and Marcy Whitebook
The Future of Children
Vol. 26, No. 2, Starting Early: Education from Pre Kindergarten to Third Grade (Fall 2016), pp. 139-158
Published by: Princeton University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43940585
Page Count: 20
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The Early Care and Education Workforce
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Abstract

In this article, Deborah Phillips, Lea Austin, and Marcy Whitebook examine educational preparation, compensation, and professional development among the early childhood workforce. Their central theme is that these features look very different for preschool teachers than they do for the elementary school teaching workforce. Most teachers of kindergarten through third grade can count on clear job requirements, professional development opportunities, workplace supports such as paid planning time, and a transparent and rational salary structure based on qualifications and experience. These teachers often earn a wage that approaches the median income in their communities. For most preschool teachers, Phillips, Austin, and Whitebook write, the situation is very different. Job requirements and qualifications vary wildly from program to program and from state to state. Professional development is both scarce and inconsistent. Compensation often fails to reward educational attainment or training; in fact, many preschool teachers are among the lowest-paid workers in the country. Poor compensation fuels turnover, which means that society loses investments in professional learning, and produces economic insecurity and stress among preschool teachers. The crux of quality in early childhood education lies squarely in the interactions that transpire between teachers and children, the authors write. Thus it's long past time, they argue, to recognize prekindergarten through third grade as a continuum that requires a seamless system of professional learning and compensation tied to qualifications, including education. To move beyond incremental improvements in the quality of early care and education, they conclude, empirical research, intervention, and policy alike should focus on the preparation, professional development, compensation, and wellbeing of early childhood teachers.

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