Teacher turnover in child care stresses young children

Recently our organization released a study on the child care workforce in Wisconsin. Funded by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, the University of Wisconsin-Madison – COWS and the UW-Survey Center – conducted the research.

The findings point to growing financial stress on child care teachers, and suggest adverse effects on the young children in their care.  For example, due to poverty-level wages, more than a third of child care teachers leave their jobs every year, disrupting the quality of care children need in their most formative years.

90865864If our goal is to ensure high quality care for children, this high rate of turnover is unacceptable.  Research confirms that young children require established relationships with trusting adults in order to thrive.  A disproportionate percentage of child care teaching staff leave within the first two years of employment.  Wages make a difference when it comes to turnover; lower paying child care programs have higher turnover of staff.

Existing solutions
For over 15 years, two federally-funded programs administered by WECA have had a positive impact on the wages, education, retention and turnover of early childhood education teachers: 1) the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program and 2) the REWARD Stipend Program.

T.E.A.C.H. is a comprehensive scholarship program available to those already working in the child care field and pays most of the costs of pursuing higher education credits in Early Childhood Education. Scholarship recipients receive a financial bonus from T.E.A.C.H. and a bonus or raise from their employer upon completion of their contract. They are required to then stay in the field a set length of time, thus raising the educational bar and improving teacher retention.  REWARD aims to keep well-educated individuals in their jobs by providing monetary rewards based on one’s education level and career longevity. Notably, the turnover rate of T.E.A.C.H. and REWARD participants is significantly less than the child care workforce as a whole.

Moving forward
While T.E.A.C.H. and REWARD are vital solutions we know they don’t solve the entire problem. The release of the report and our insights and recommendations form the base of outreach WECA is doing statewide to engage multiple stakeholders in finding an enduring solution.

Stay tuned for more on this topic!

Jeanette A. Paulson
Director of Workforce Initiatives
Wisconsin Early Childhood Association

Learning to be a Leader: Reflections from a Preschool Teacher

Learning to be a Leader: Reflections from a Preschool Teacher

By Robin Reisdorf, Preschool Mentor Teacher at Kids’ Safari Learning Center

Fourteen years ago I walked into my first preschool classroom.  Three year olds surrounded me, asking if baby squirrels have teeth, where butterflies go when it rains, and what the pink dots were on my face.  I was sixteen years old; unaware that my after-school job would become my career.  Quickly I grew to believe that early childhood education is the most effective way to change the world, and I wanted to be a part of it!

Robin Reisdorf

“Change must originate from within the early childhood education field, instead of being thrust upon us.” -Robin Reisdorf

I learned at workshops, conferences, college and through experienced teachers.  Slowly I morphed into an experienced teacher.  Training new teachers was added to my work responsibilities.  While I was told that I was a leader, I didn’t feel like a leader.  I became committed to learning how to be an effective leader, which lead me to seek out a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship and the Leadership Credential at UW-Milwaukee.  One of the first things I learned is that being in a leadership role does not automatically make you a leader.  I needed to develop specific skills.

One valuable lesson that resulted in significant professional growth for me related to the theories of emotional intelligence and their practical application. Previously, I considered classroom activities or my classroom environment while remaining personally removed. I have since learned the skill of self-reflection.  While becoming increasingly self-aware, I am simultaneously challenged to practice self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.  Growing my emotional intelligence has increased my ability to manage emotions in a positive way, empathize with others, and defuse conflict.

To conclude the Leadership Credential, all students create final projects that incorporate their learning. Inspired by my struggles to balance mentoring new teachers with my daily teaching responsibilities, I developed a plan for a mentoring and coaching program.  My plan creates opportunities for early childhood educators to become reflective practitioners, who develop intentional teaching practices through professional development while maintaining respect for each teacher’s individuality.  I believe this will nurture a positive school community, enhance teachers’ confidence and performance, and improve the learning environment.

After receiving my credential, I will continue learning and connecting with other professionals in the field. I am eager to share my final project with my administrators and work toward implementing a mentoring and coaching pilot program at Kids’ Safari Learning Center.  We can share our success with other early childhood centers, so that they will also be able to incorporate mentoring and coaching programs to support their staff.  I also envision developing a Mentoring and Coaching Credential.

During class, we watched the video “Extraordinary Visions” by Dewitt Jones.  He talked about moving from imagination to imagin-action.  This credential challenged me to imagine change, be inspired by a vision, and take action. Although my credential is coming to an end, the application of the knowledge and skills is only just beginning.  Change must originate from within the early childhood education field, instead of being thrust upon us.  As a classroom teacher, I will have an active role promoting positive change within our field.