My notion of Quality Design and Build starts with a workbook with a wholistic description of “quality” elements including, but not limited to, those elements for which we have evidence that they effect outcomes for children. Others are included because we see and understand the relevance of, for instance, cultural competence, and while waiting for the research, I include it because we know it is important for the development and learning of young children.
Each element provides a structure for reflection, self assessment and then planning: What are the programs current strengths in this area? Where do they partially meet best practices, and most important, why? What are the barriers? How can we address those barriers? What resources are needed? How long will it take? Whose responsibility will this be? When will the work get done?
The setting of priorities is another layer. Are there state standards soon to be met for a QRIS? What are short and long term goals? Does a goal include becoming NAEYC Accredited? These are the standard processes for strategic planning but applied at the program level where real change is expected and required to happen. With Quality Design & Build, a child care program takes control of its own identity and goals, even while moving to fulfill QRIS benchmarks. Teaching staff have the whole picture in front of them to consider, while being asked to alter their daily schedule to meet “substantial portion of the day” – an important feature of the ECERS-R that often isn’t well understood in context by teachers. All are contributions to the larger whole.
Each of the nine elements come with annotation of what they entail, what the research tells us and examples of what it looks like in practice. Each element is listed with a known assessment instrument, where I know one exists, that programs may use for further development and understanding.
Quality Design & Build elements:
1. Effective classroom structure
- room arrangement
2. Teacher education
- Credit-bearing courses, certificates and degrees
- Effective on-going professional development
- Supports by other professionals (coaching, mentoring)
3. Salaries (let’s save this further urgent discussion)
4. Teachers effectively apply skills and knowledge
- specific areas of focus: e.g.literacy, outdoor learning environments, Dual Language Learners, math and science, social and emotional development
5. Content of children’s instructional learning
- specific areas of focus: e.g. literacy, outdoor learning environments, Dual Language Learners, math and science, social and emotional development
6. Authentic, appropriate and useful on-going child assessment
7. Supportive and effective administration
8. Authentic family engagement
9. Cultural competence and respect for families, children and staff
I suffer from the same angst that I think has held the field back from feeling comfortable demanding changes in practices. There is no one perfect list of qualities. There are arguments to be made for and against the relative importance of each of the elements I list. But in this case, perfection is indeed the enemy of progress and when I look at the years of childhoods that have passed while I thought about it, I am no longer patient. I think we owe it to children to go faster, deeper and be more willing to risk not being perfect. Now.
What do you think?