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Child-staff ratios in early childhood education and care settings and child outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis

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Child-staff ratios are a key quality indicator in early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs. Better ratios are believed to improve child outcomes by increasing opportunities for individual interactions and educational instruction from staff. The purpose of this systematic review, and where possible, meta-analysis, was to evaluate the association between child-staff ratios in preschool ECEC programs and children's outcomes. Searches of Medline, PsycINFO, ERIC, websites of large datasets and reference sections of all retrieved articles were conducted up to July 3, 2015. Cross-sectional or longitudinal studies that evaluated the relationship between child-staff ratios in ECEC classrooms serving preschool aged children and child outcomes were independently identified by two reviewers. Data were independently extracted from included studies by two raters and differences between raters were resolved by consensus. Searches revealed 29 eligible studies (31 samples). Child-staff ratios ranged from 5 to 14.5 preschool-aged children per adult with a mean of 8.65. All 29 studies were included in the systematic review. However, the only meta-analysis that could be conducted was based on three studies that explored associations between ratios and children's receptive language. Results of this meta-analysis were not significant. Results of the qualitative systematic review revealed few significant relationships between child-staff ratios and child outcomes construed broadly. Thus, the available literature reveal few, if any, relationships between child-staff ratios in preschool ECEC programs and children's developmental outcomes. Substantial heterogeneity in the assessment of ratios, outcomes measured, and statistics used to capture associations limited quantitative synthesis. Other methodological limitations of the research integrated in this synthesis are discussed. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Literature Review

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