Selected Journal Articles and Policy Reports
Staffing Challenges at Virginia Child Care Centers: Differences by Centers’ Subsidy Participation Status
Doromal, J.B., Weisner, K., & Bassok, D. (2022). Available from SEE-Partnerships
This data brief describes centers’ ongoing challenges with staffing during the pandemic. Findings are presented separately for centers that do and do not participate in Virginia's Child Care Subsidy Program (CCSP). The CCSP is a voluntary voucher program that serves families who otherwise could not afford the high costs of child care or are facing other challenges. Subsidy reimbursement rates are often lower than what centers charge families paying tuition and often fail to fully cover the cost of providing care, so centers participating in CCSP may struggle more with sustaining their sites’ operations, including paying, recruiting, and retaining teachers. This is problematic as these centers tend to serve more children living in poverty who stand to benefit from stable, reliable care. Across the Commonwealth, many child care centers are struggling to hire teachers, leading them to shut down classrooms or turn families away. Yet, staffing challenges are particularly pronounced at centers that accept child care subsidies. Subsidy reimbursement rates often do not provide sufficient funding to cover the full cost of providing care, including the wages needed to recruit and retain teachers. Centers in the subsidy program reported average hourly wages that were nearly $3 lower for lead teachers than the wages reported by centers not in the CCSP, possibly due to insufficient subsidy reimbursement rates. Indeed, at centers accepting subsidies, 75% said hiring was very challenging, and 66% reported serving fewer children and having to turn families away—far higher rates than centers not in the CCSP.
Hard-to-Staff Centers: Exploring Center-Level Variation in the Persistence of Child Care Teacher Turnover
Doromal, J.B., Bassok, D., Bellows, L., & Markowitz, A.J. (2021). Working paper available here
High rates of teacher turnover in child care settings have negative implications for young children’s learning experiences and for efforts to improve child care quality. Prior research has explored the prevalence and predictors of turnover at the individual teacher level, but less is known about turnover at the center level – specifically, how turnover varies across child care centers or whether staffing challenges persist year after year for some centers. This study tracks annual turnover rates for all publicly funded child care centers that were continuously operating in Louisiana from the 2015-16 to 2018-19 school years (n=575 centers). We document high and variable turnover rates across centers throughout the state: The annual mean turnover rate was 40%, and each year nearly one-third of centers experienced high turnover, that is, lost more than half of their teachers. About 27% of centers experienced high turnover for multiple years in our panel, while 44% of centers did not experience high turnover in any year. Our findings underscore concerns that sustained staffing challenges may hinder efforts to provide high-quality child care.
The Divergent Experiences of Early Educators in Schools and Child Care Centers during COVID-19: Findings from Virginia
Bassok, D., Michie, M., Cubides-Mateus, D.M., Doromal, J.B., & Kiscaden, S. (2020). Virginia PDG B-5 Evaluation Report. Available from SEE-Partnerships
When COVID-19 arrived in the United States in March 2020, Virginia’s school-based early childhood education (ECE) programs all shut down by state order. Child care centers, in contrast, made independent decisions about their operations. This report summarizes May 2020 survey findings from over 1,600 Virginia early educators, highlighting major differences in the experiences of teachers in school-based versus center-based settings during the coronavirus pandemic. School-based ECE teachers quickly moved to virtual teaching for the remainder of the school year. Many were concerned about lower quality interactions with the children they serve. In contrast, child care teachers experienced center closings, job loss, reduced hours, new cleaning and social distancing regulations, and shifting populations of children. Child care lead teachers were five times more likely than school-based lead teachers to live in a household receiving unemployment benefits. Two of every five child care teachers in our sample struggled to access food, and over a third could not afford to pay for their medical needs.
Helping Parents Navigate the Early Childhood Education Enrollment Process: Experimental Evidence from New Orleans
Weixler, L., Valant, J., Bassok, D., Doromal, J.B., & Gerry, A. (2020). Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 42(3), 307-330. doi:10.3102/0162373720922237
Enrolling in publicly funded early childhood education involves searching for programs, applying, verifying eligibility, and registering with the program. Many families do not complete this process, despite demonstrated interest. In this study, we assessed support for families as they verify eligibility as a means for increasing enrollment completion rates. Working with district administrators, we randomly assigned families to receive either (a) the district’s usual, modest communications; (b) the usual communications plus weekly text message reminders with a formal tone; or (c) the usual communications plus weekly personalized, friendly text message reminders. Text message reminders increased verification rates by seven percentage points (regardless of tone), and personalized messages increased enrollment rates for some groups. Exchanges between parents and administrators revealed the obstacles parents confronted.
The Role of Program Closures in Understanding Systemwide Quality Improvements in Child Care
Doromal, J.B. & Bassok, D. (under review). Working paper available upon request.
Many center- and home-based child care programs in the United States operate on thin margins and struggle to stay open and serve children. Despite substantial policy interest in expanding the availability of high-quality child care programs, researchers typically do not consider how this instability among programs relates to trends in aggregate quality across the child care system. This study used panel data from North Carolina (2009-2013) to demonstrate the importance of examining child care closures alongside systemwide quality improvement. One-quarter of center-based programs in 2009, and over half of home-based programs, were closed by 2013. Over the same period, mean quality as measured by the state’s quality rating and improvement system increased. While many programs that stayed open improved their quality over time, a substantial portion of the system-level improvement trends was explained by the churning of programs during that period. Implications for policy and future research are discussed.
Following the Leader: Associations Between Leader Support and Teacher Retention in Child Care Settings
Doromal, J.B. & Markowitz, A.J. (under review). Working paper available upon request.
There is high turnover among child care teachers in the United States. Center directors could play an important role in reducing this turnover, but to date, research on how leaders in child care support workforce stability typically has not been examined beyond small, selected samples. This study links survey responses from 1,114 teachers working in 152 publicly-funded child care centers to examine how leader support (as reported by teachers) is associated with teacher retention outcomes. Results suggest leader support is positively associated with both teachers’ intent to stay and their observed retention at their center eight months later, above and beyond a set of teacher, leader, and center characteristics. Our findings suggest child care leaders may be important in promoting workforce stability and quality improvement.
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