Early childhood (EC) educator qualifications shape the quality of education/care provided to children. Although past research demonstrates that EC educator qualifications are lower than recommended by research, little is known about how qualification attainment differs at the state level where policy change primarily occurs. Using restricted-access data from the National Survey of Early Care and Education, inclusive of all 50 states, the current study seeks to understand EC lead educator’s qualifications. We ran a cluster analysis to understand the variation between state workforces. We found that, at the state level, EC lead educator workforces cluster in four distinct groups, which we label: the Informally-Qualified Educator, the Non-EC Track Educator, the K-12 Aligned Educator, and the Pre-Service Trained Educator. We find the latter two clusters have the highest membership in unions and professional development associations. We also identify professional development, most likely to occur as in-service training, as the most common form of qualification. Finally, an emergent finding demonstrates evidence of geographical proximity across clusters. Findings contribute to a more adequate understanding of how the EC lead educator profession is qualified and, thus, permit informed policy decisions to support educators and improve the quality of EC care and education. (author abstract)
Variation in state early childhood lead educator qualifications: Pre-service versus in-service qualification, professional organization, and geographical proximity
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