Tomonica Rice-Yarborough and Kathy Thornton from
CCSA’s Professional Development Initiatives Team
World Teacher’s Day was established
in 1994 to recognize and celebrate teachers all over the world for their
hard work and dedication. It also brings to light the issues affecting the
profession to work toward a resolution for retaining and attracting teachers to
the field. This day was founded to celebrate public school teachers, but early care educators also should be recognized on this
day because they’re instrumental to the growth and development of our children.
Their contributions to society’s economic stability should be valued,
recognized and celebrated.
One of the main issues facing early care educators is the little
recognition or validation they receive for the pivotal roles they play in the
lives and development of young children. As a field, early educators in North
Carolina often hold degrees, but they earn significantly less than public school
teachers. According to CCSA’s 2015 North Carolina Child Care Workforce Study, the median wage of center directors in North Carolina was
$16.00 per hour, while teachers earned $10.97 per hour and assistant teachers
earned $9.97 per hour.
Although degree attainment has drastically increased in North Carolina, the field as a whole still suffers from being perceived as a high priced “babysitting service.” For 30 years, the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program has provided the workforce with access to a debt-free college education while they work as low wage earners teaching future doctors, lawyers, teachers, administrative assistants, scientists…
Our brains grow
faster between the ages of birth and 3 than any other time in our life.
Children who are formally cared for in early education settings outside of
their homes depend on the early educator to support their developmental growth.
Those years are particularly formative, making the role of the early educator
even more critical. According to philosopher John Locke, “a child’s mind is a
blank slate waiting to be filled with knowledge.” Early educators play a big
part in setting the foundation for our children’s future.
On Sept. 4, 2019, Australia celebrated Early Childhood Educators’ Day to honor and appreciate early childhood educators. The world, like Australia, should have a day set aside to recognize early childhood educators. Sadly, early childhood educators are seldom during the World Teacher’s Day observance. This lends credence to the perception that early childhood education isn’t seen as a worthy profession. Why can’t we dedicate a day of observance to them?
“Better Together”was the theme of this year’s Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) Institute held in Greensboro, N.C. in March, and Mary Erwin recently shared details of the Institute. A highlight of this year’s conference was the keynote delivered by Dr. Walter Gilliam from the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale. This blog is to keep the keynote information on our minds and in our work.
Delivered in a “TED talk” manner, Dr. Gilliam shared his research on implicit bias with the audience and the implications research has on both policy and practice impacting the early childhood workforce and children in early learning settings.
What is Implicit Bias?
Webster’s dictionary defines it as “bias that results from the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations and feelings, even when these are contrary to one’s conscious or declared beliefs”.
What is the Relationship Between Implicit Bias and Early Childhood Settings?
Dr. Gilliam shared data from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights that found black boys in particular were disproportionately suspended or expelled from preschool. To learn more about whether this may be related to the behavior of the child or the perceptions of the teaching workforce, Dr. Gilliam and his team at Yale conducted a study. Specifically, Dr. Gilliam wanted to see whether implicit biases may play a role in identifying children with challenging behaviors.
Video Observation Study
Dr. Gilliam’s team recruited participants at a nationwide conference of early childhood educators. Early childhood teachers were asked to watch several video clips of preschool children engaged in typical table top activities. The children were racially balanced (one white boy and girl and one black boy and girl). Early childhood teachers were told the study was related to better understanding to how teachers detect challenging behaviors in the classroom. They were told sometimes this involves seeing behavior before it becomes a problem and were asked to press the enter key on a computer keyboard every time they saw a behavior that could become a potential challenge. They were told the video clips may or may not contain challenging behaviors and to press the keypad as often as needed. In addition to the keypad entries, an eye tracking device was used to log the time teachers spent watching the behavior of individual children. (For frame ofreference with regard to the children,they were child actorsand no challenging behaviors werepresent).
Dr. Gilliam and his team found teachers spent more time looking at boys and at black children than girls and white children. In particular, teachers spent more time watching the black boy in the videos. When teachers were asked explicitly which of the children required most of their attention, 42% indicated the black boy, 34% indicated the white boy, 13% indicated the white girl, and 10% indicated the black girl. The race of the teacher did not impact the findings.
Background Information Study
A second part of the study was related to finding out if teachers were provided information about the child’s background, whether that impacted their perception of the severity of the behavior and their ability to impact the child’s behavior. For this part of the study, early childhood teachers were given a brief description of a preschool student with his or her behavioral challenges. The description of child behaviors remained the same, but the name of the child associated with the description changed to reflect stereotypical black and white girl and boy names (Latoya, Emily, DeShawn and Jake).
To test if teachers changed their perceptions of the child’s behavior when given a brief family background summary, some teachers were also given more context related to the child’s home environment (e.g., the child lives with a single mother working multiple jobs and who struggles with depression but doesn’t have resources to receive help; the father is barely around, but when he is around, the parents fight loudly in front of the children, and sometimes violent disputes occur). The study randomized whether the early childhood teachers received background information or not.
Gilliam and his team found that teachers appeared to expect challenging
behaviors more from black children and specifically black boys. Without family
background, white teachers seemed to hold black children to lower behavioral
expectations. In contrast, black teachers held black children to very high
provision of family background information caused different perceptions based
on teacher-child race. For example, when black teachers were provided with
family background information on black children, teachers rated child behavior
as less severe. When white teachers were provided with family background
information on black children, behavior severity ratings increased – potentially
indicating knowing family stressors may lead to feelings of hopelessness that
behavior problems can improve.
The Role of Implicit Bias in Early Childhood Settings
Dr. Gilliam explained that understanding the role implicit bias may play in child care and early learning settings is the first step toward addressing racial disparities in discipline approaches. He explained that interventions are underway throughout the country designed to address biases directly or increase teachers’ empathy for children (which paves the way for more effective strategies related to children’s learning styles and behaviors).
Progress in North Carolina
Carolina is beginning to review and implement strategies to address implicit
bias, give early childhood teachers strategies to promote more effective ways
to address challenging behavior and to support high-quality child care programs
through better teacher-child interactions.
We are exploring infant and toddler mental health consultant evidence-based approaches as well as the use of tools to improve teacher-child interactions through the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), which measures teacher interactions and is paired with specific improvement strategies identified through observational assessments. Overall, practice-based coaching models can impact teacher strategies to better meet the needs of children.