ERIC Identifier: ED281608
Publication Date: 1987-00-00
Author: Eheart, Brenda Krause
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.

Training Day Care Providers.

As more mothers of young children participate in the work force, the provision of quality day care is rapidly becoming a major concern for early childhood educators, researchers, licymakers, employers, and parents. A key to quality day care is the provision of specific training in child care for caregivers. Both the National Day Care Study (Ruopp, Travers, Glantz, & Coelen, 1979) and the National Day Care Home Study (NDCHS) (Divine-Hawkins, 1981) conclude that training is a powerful index of competence for caregivers and is strongly and positively linked to program quality. While few would dispute the conclusions, there are debates to be resolved related to day care training issues.


Before training can be implemented effectively, a common understanding of what is meant by day care training is needed. Authors of the NDCHS concluded, "The specifics of training proved to be one of the most difficult dimensions of professionalism to tap" (Singer, Fosburg, Goodson, & Smith, 1980, p. 173). Precise variables to assess the type, intensity, and duration of training have not been constructed. Consequently, we know very little about what types of training can be most effective in promoting children's development in day care programs.


In developing clearer and more precise definitions of training, we are confronted with issues related to credentialing. Day care teachers are employed primarily in two settings: day care centers and day care homes. Recently, however, they have begun to work in public school early childhood programs. Do day care home providers need the same training as center-based caregivers? Does the training of prekindergarten teachers need to differ from that of center- or home-based caregivers and, if so, how? Currently there are no answers to these important questions.

Also at issue is the establishment of uniform, enforceable regulations. At present there are no uniform standards for prekindergarten teacher qualifications. Many argue that there is variation in the enforcement of regulations and that 100 percent compliance is an unrealistic expectation. Krause Eheart and Leavitt (1986) argue, however, that legislating training requirements is one strategy to offset problems of enforcement and compliance. They write:

"It does this in two ways. First, it can be assumed that trained caregivers are providing at least minimal levels of quality care, and second, as is not the case for other licensing standards, the concepts of compliance and enforcement do not apply to training once it has been implemented" (p. 130).

Without an appropriate, uniform, and enforceable credentialing system the professional status of day care workers will remain in question.


An issue closely tied to credentialing is how preschool age children should be taught. Is a didactic, teacher-directed approach more effective, or is a child-centered approach where the teacher's primary responsibility is to be responsive and supportive better? Equally debated is what children should be taught. Should programs emphasize basic academic skills, or should they provide experiences that emphasize growth in all developmental areas: physical, social, emotional, and intellectual?

Powell (1986), in a review of program models and teaching practices, concludes that there may not be one best approach to teaching young children. He suggests that we need to "focus on finding the best match between child and program" (p. 66). Clearly, as we learn more about effective teaching practices to be used with preschoolers, our teacher training programs will change.


The issues of teaching approaches and credentialing lead to the question of how much specialized training is necessary for day care teachers. The answer depends, in part, on whether discussion is focused on child care based in centers, homes, or public schools. Most early childhood educators agree that college-level preparation in early childhood or child development, with supervised experience working with young children, is essential background for center staff (NAEYC Position Statement, 1986). Currently, however, licensing requirements in only eight states legislate specialized training for preschool teachers (Young & Zigler, l986). The amount of college-level preparation or the need to meet Child Develoment Associate (CDA) competency standards, when legislated, usually relates to day care positions as teaching assistants, teachers, or directors. Similarly, the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs, the accreditation division of NAEYC, has established a voluntary day care accreditation program which includes criteria for amount of training in relation to job titles and levels of responsibility.

What requirements are necessary for teachers of 4-year-olds in public schools? NAEYC strongly suggests that college-level preparation and experience is essential for achieving developmentally appropriate early childhood programs. Given this, how much preparation is necessary? It can be argued that if it is necessary to have four years of college training to teach 5-year-olds in the public schools, the same amount of training is necessary to adequately teach 4-year-olds. Many, however, have suggested that a degree from a child care training program in a community college is adequate preparation (FEDERAL REGISTER, 1985). Others, including Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, argue that early childhood teachers need less preparation than traditional four-year teacher certification and that differences in training, jobs, and roles imply different salaries (l986, p. 2).

Perhaps the most debated issue is the amount of training necessary for day care home providers. Family day care provides approximately two-thirds of the child care in the country, yet Krause Eheart and Leavitt (1986) found in an interview study of 150 providers that about one in every three providers had training and that more than half of the providers did not want training. Exacerbating this picture is the fact that 94 percent of all day care homes are unregulated. Day care home providers see themselves as women who love and care about children, but not as professionals. From their perspective, a love of children and lots of patience are necessary qualifications -- training is not.


Sixty years ago, there were 157 nursery schools, nationwide. Early childhood teachers did not need training to be considered effective because teaching was considered an inherent art (National Committee on Nursery School, 1929). Today, there are over 67,000 child care centers (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1986) and at least 1.8 million family day care homes (estimated from the NDCHS in 1981), and training is recognized as essential to the provision of quality day care. This recognition has been accompanied by the emergence of many difficult issues issues related to training definitions, credentials, approaches, and amount of specialized training. With day care rapidly becoming an American institution & Whitebook, 1986), these training issues must be addressed, questions answered, and conflicts resolved. Only then can our children be assured of a quality day care experience.


Divine-Hawkins, P. FINAL REPORT OF THE NATIONAL DAY CARE HOME STUDY (DHHS, Pub. No. 80-30287). Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1981.

FEDERAL REGISTER. Department of Health and Human Services, September 4, 1985: 35916-35917.

Krause Eheart, B., and R. Leavitt. "Training Day Care Home Providers: Implications for Policy and Research." EARLY CHILDHOOD RESEARCH QUARTERLY 1(1986):119-132.

National Association for the Education of Young Children. "NAEYC Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth to Age 8." YOUNG CHILDREN 41(1986):3-19.

National Association for the Education of Young Children. IN WHOSE HANDS? A DEMOGRAPHIC FACT SHEET ON CHILD CARE PROVIDERS. #760. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1986.

National Committee on Nursery School. MINIMUM ESSENTIALS FOR NURSERY SCHOOL EDUCATION. National Committee on Nursery School, 1929.

Phillips, D. and M. Whitebook. "Who Are Child Care Workers? The Search for Answers." YOUNG CHILDREN 41(1986):14-20.

Powell, D. "Effects of Program Models and Teaching Practices." YOUNG CHILDREN 41(1986):60-67.

Ruopp, R. R., J. Travers, R. Glantz, and C. Coelen. CHILDREN AT THE CENTER. FINAL REPORT OF THE NATIONAL DAY CARE STUDY. Vol. l. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates, 1979. ED 168 733.

Shanker, A. "Teacher Union Chief Says Preschool Belongs in the Public Schools." REPORT ON PRESCHOOL PROGRAMS 18 (September 3, l986):1-2.

Singer, J., S. Fosburg, B. Goodson, and J. Smith. FAMILY DAY CARE IN THE UNITED STATES: RESEARCH REPORT. FINAL REPORT OF THE NATIONAL DAY CARE HOME STUDY. Vol. 2. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children, Youth & Families (DHHS) Publication (OHDF) 80-30283. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates, 1980.

Young, K. T., and E. Zigler. "Infant and Toddler Day Care: Regulations and Policy Implications." AMERICAN JOURNAL OF ORTHOPSYCHIATRY 56(1986):43-55.

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