“We Can Do Better: 2011 Update,” a recently released report from the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), finds modest improvements in 10 program requirements and five oversight benchmarks for the nation’s early education and care centers. The report, the third since 2007, ranks the 50 states, District of Columbia and U.S. Department of Defense. More than 11 million children under age 5 spend an average of 35 hours a week in an early education and care setting, NACCRRA notes.
The average state score was 87 out of 150 points, up from 83 in 2009 and 70 in 2007. “States have made progress, but more progress is needed,” NACCRRA notes. “Using a standard grading scale, no state earned an A. The Department of Defense earned a B, and four states earned a C. Twenty-one states earned a D. Half of the states (26 states) earned a failing grade. While we should be pleased with the improvement among the states since 2007, an 87 equates to a score of 58 percent, a failing grade in any classroom in America.”
Massachusetts, with an overall score of 106, ranks fifth in the nation, behind the Department of Defense, Oklahoma, the District of Columbia and Illinois. Rounding out the top 10 are Florida, New York, Washington, Rhode Island and Tennessee. (Read the Massachusetts findings.)
The commonwealth is one of 35 states that meet NACCRRA’s minimum health and safety requirements and one of 22 that “require child care centers to address all six basic child development domains — language and literacy, cognitive/intellectual, social, emotional, physical and cultural.”
“Massachusetts,” the executive summary notes, “improved its teacher education requirements and increased the number of developmental domains it requires programs to address.” (See the commonwealth’s new 2010 Family, Group and School Age Child Care Regulations.)
Other strengths that NACCRRA found in Massachusetts include requirements for family engagement and for licensing staff with bachelor’s degrees in early childhood or a related field. The report also finds several weaknesses in the Bay State, including inspections that are only conducted once a year and education requirements for center directors that fall below NACCRA’s recommended standard.
Here are NACCRRA’s program benchmarks:
- Staff:child ratio requirements comply with NAEYC accreditation standards.
- Group size requirements are in compliance with NAEYC accreditation standards.
- Center directors are required to have a bachelor’s degree or higher in early childhood education or a related field.
- Lead teachers are required to have a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential or an associate degree in early childhood education or related field.
- Lead teachers are required to have initial training, including orientation training and training in fire safety and other health and safety issues. At least one staff member who is certified in first aid and CPR must be present when children are in care .
- Lead teachers are required to have 24 hours or more of annual training.
- A comprehensive background check is required for child care providers.
- Child care centers are required to offer program activities that address all six child development domains.
- Child care centers are required to follow recommended health and safety practices.
- Child care centers are required to encourage parent involvement, require daily or ongoing communication with parents and allow parental access any time their children are in care.
Here are NAACCRA’s oversight benchmarks:
- All child care centers and family child care homes that care for unrelated children on a regular basis for a fee should be licensed
- Child care centers are inspected at least four times a year, including visits by licensing, health and fire personnel. At least some visits are unannounced.
- Programs:licensing staff ratio does not exceed 50:1.
- Licensing staff have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field.
- Online inspection and complaint reports are available to parents on the Internet.