Date of Award

7-29-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Mary R. Jalongo, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Susan Fello, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Susan A. Rieg, Ed.D.

Abstract

In the United States, child care has been a “patchwork” because it is provided through various organizations with no universal coordination to ensure affordability, accessibility, or quality (Zigler et al., 2009). This is the case despite research indicating that high-quality child care is beneficial to children and society (Harrison, 2008; Schweinhart, 1993). Several states have implemented quality rating improvement systems to support child care programs in elevating the quality of their programming through the development of standards and supports. In Pennsylvania, Keystone STARS was created to improve quality and unify standards. In order for a program to attain a STARS 3 rating in the Pennsylvania system, teachers are held accountable for quality practices in their classrooms as outside STARS assessors evaluate them. The literature suggests teachers need more opportunities to become socialized, or acculturated to the norms of their profession (Handelsman et al., 2005). Moreover, professional development opportunities that enable teachers to learn about high-quality practices have proven instrumental in the professional acculturation of preschool teachers (Arnett, 1989; Pearson & Moomaw, 2005). The current study investigated perceptions held by preschool teachers about the quality of their classrooms and the connection between teacher perceptions and their acculturation experiences. Procedures for data collection included the comparison of quality scores among preschool teachers and STARS assessors on the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale – Revised (ECERS-R). To investigate underlying reasons for preschool teachers’ self-assessment scores, personal interviews were conducted with a sample of preschool teachers from participating child care programs. Results indicated that teachers’ and assessors’ scores showed significant differences on four of the seven ECERS-R subscales. Furthermore, teachers’ interviews indicated that, while they agreed with aspects of the STARS program and use of the ECERS-R, frustrations with aspects of the STARS assessment hindered some teachers from accepting quality standards that guide the STARS program. Implications for professional development of preschool teachers in child care centers and for quality rating improvement systems are discussed. Furthermore, possibilities for future research include examining infant/toddler care practices that may acculturate teachers into the norms of quality expected by quality rating improvement systems like Keystone STARS.

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