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Redefining the measurement of early childhood program quality and child outcomes

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Research to this point has focused on measuring agreed-upon indicators of quality and then looking at the impacts on children’s development and outcomes. Instead, this paper proposes that research needs to examine programs where desired child outcomes are consistently strong and examine the practices in those programs to identify correlated indicators of quality. This reverse approach may assist the early childhood field to identify critical components of quality that have not yet been considered or have been only minimally studied. Then the field can focus on helping programs improve those components rather than continuing to measure and rate elements of quality that have previously been identified, but don’t strongly correlate with child outcomes. Developing a shared understanding of desired child outcomes that are associated with children’s long-term academic, career, and life success, along with subsequent identification of a common set of indicators observed in high quality programs that correlate to these outcomes, would enable early childhood programs to become more consistent to accurately assess meaningful elements of quality and to identify specific actions for continuous improvement. (author abstract)

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