Is My Education Going To Make Me Wealthy?

Published on Aug 8, 2019

Education has always been important in determining one’s job and income. Indirectly education level is also correlated with benefits – health care, holiday pay, and company sponsored pension plans. Education continues to be perceived as the key to social and economic mobility and to democratic citizenry. With education as the social and ideological linchpin of our society one would think that those responsible for education – teachers would be held in high esteem both economically and socially. This has not been the experience of the majority of teachers – especially those educating our youngest children. The devaluing of educators and especially those working with young children has been extensively documented (Bourgeault & Khokher 2006; Culkin, 1999; Fuller & Strath 2001; Lifton 2001; MacDonald & Merrill 2002; Whitebook 1999).

The research concerning the relationship between the quality of early education programs and child outcomes – both short and long-term gains is substantial. Duncan, Ludwig and Magnuson (2007) argue that providing high-quality care to disadvantaged preschool children can provide both short and long term benefits for children and society. These benefits include: increased school retention, fewer special education classes, the reduction in poverty and crime and increased economic production. Researchers at the Institute for Research on Poverty found “children who attend higher quality childcare settings… display better cognitive, language, and social competencies on standardized tests” (as cited in Greenberg, 2007, p. 76). Mims, Scott-Little, Lower, Cassidy, and Hestenes (2008) found that children receive both short and long term benefits from high-quality early

Quality education is critical in the future success in children. This is particularly apparent in children from disadvantaged families and neighborhoods. They state, “Children who receive high-quality early education experiences are more likely to be successful in a variety of areas later in their lives” (p. 227). Prentice (2007) argues that high quality childcare ameliorates child poverty in at least two ways it provides children with a rich environment for social, physical, linguistic and cognitive development, and enables parents to work or study which indirectly increases family income.

Research has generally found a positive relationship between teacher qualifications with quality programs. Teacher qualifications are also positively correlated with child outcomes. Research by the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development and The Early Child Care Research Network (NICHD ECCRN, 2002) suggests that, “in contrast with teachers who have less formal education or no specific training in early childhood education, providers with BA degrees specifically in early childhood education provide higher quality learning experiences for children in their care” (as cited in Pianta, Howes, Burchinal, Bryant, Clifford, Early, & Barbarin, 2005, p. 147). Pianta et al. (2005) found, Teachers with a 4-year college degree and a teaching certificate in early childhood were rated as creating a more positive emotional climate and providing more activities on the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale – Revised (ECERS-R) than were teachers with no formal training in early childhood” (p. 153). Early, Maxwell, and Burchinal (2007) discuss the relationship between quality childcare programs and teacher education and training.

The movement to professionalize teaching has been growing for decades. Ingersoll and Perda (2008) state, “Since the early 20th Century, educators have repeatedly sought to promote the view that elementary and secondary teaching is a highly complex kind of work, requiring specialized knowledge and skill and deserving of the same status and standing as traditional professions like law and medicine(p. 106). They go on to suggest that this desire by educators reflects a “movement to professionalize teaching” (p. 106). Professionalization generally refers to the degree to which an occupation meets the criteria used to assess professional standing: credentials and licensure, mentoring of new entrants, professional development, specialization, authority, compensation and prestige (Ingersoll & Perda, 2008).

All educators sampled said they valued the professional development training offered to them and recognized they needed more. They also said that the nature of their work has changed – generally they felt more responsibility and higher expectations from their administrators. Many also stated that the children today were often on individual education plans (IEPs), and had behavioral issues beyond what they were used to.

What is important to note is that regardless of their level of education, experience or professional development training, teachers and providers felt they did not receive recognition as a professional. The Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children (2009) has been a strong advocate for compensation reform. They state, “While numerous conferences focused on early education and care have mentioned compensation as a peripheral issue, there has not been a focused discussion on this topic within the Commonwealth; yet the field and the state government (of Massachusetts) can no longer discuss impactful improvements for all without dealing with compensation” (p. 12).

Research that suggests the need to link professional development training and compensation is substantial (Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children 2010, 2009; Gable & Halliburton, 2003; Holochwost, DeMott, Buell, Yannetta, & Amsdem 2009). Gable and Halliburton (2003) argued that “incentive programs that provide wage enhancements or bonuses for continued employment and ongoing professional development are clearly needed to stabilize and improve the child care workforce” (p. 190). Almost ten years later and this has not happened. Wage enhancements must be substantial and match other similarly qualified educators in public education or retention of the most qualified teachers will continue to be a problem.

There is little doubt today that receiving a quality education is important and necessary for all children to reach their full potential. Researchers, policy analysts, politicians and families agree that education is the key to individual success and social mobility. Quality early childhood education is critical to this process. The demand today for quality early education programs and improved child outcomes has focused on improving teacher qualifications; and higher education and professional development training in early education. This demand is grounded in substantial research; there is a positive relationship between teacher qualifications and quality early education programs (Early, Maxwell, & Buchinal, 2007; NICHD ECCRN, 2002; Pianta et al., 2005).

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