The infant-toddler period is recognized as critical to children’s concurrent and subsequent outcomes and success in school and life. The quality of early care and education (child care) for children at this sensitive period of development continues to be low across the nation and in North Carolina. The present study addressed North Carolina’s interest in exploring opportunities for increasing the quality of infant/toddler care in the state’s licensed early care and education (ECE) programs by examining partnerships between families, teachers, and programs and their potential to facilitate coordinated, responsive care. The present study included data collection, analyses and discussion of a mixed methods design to elucidate current teacher-family partnership practices and to explore whether such practices varied by age of classroom group, auspice of the program, or family engagement-related professional development of the teacher. Further, the study aimed to identify, from the perspectives of teachers and administrators, opportunities to incorporate such practices into requirements for licensed ECE programs. Survey data were collected from a stratified random sample of 38 teachers, 34 administrators, and 105 parents from infant and toddler classrooms recently assessed for the state’s QRIS. Results were compared with classroom scores on the QRIS quality measure. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 5 infant and 5 toddler teachers (and their administrators) who received top ratings from parents (via the survey). Results suggest differences in parent-rated teacher practices by child age, with parents of infants indicating they are more comfortable than parents of toddlers sharing family-specific information with their child’s teacher. No differences in partnership practices by program auspice or teacher professional development were found. No associations between the quality measure used in the state’s QRIS and teacher or parent survey ratings of partnership practices were found. Two negative associations were found between the QRIS quality rating measure and administrator-reported policies and practices as measured by the relationship quality survey tool. Interview participants recommended requirements for professional development; requirements or QRIS credit for bidirectional communication tools such as apps; and support for teachers’ additional time with parents. Further recommendations for policy, practice, and research are discussed. (author abstract)
Exploring teacher-family partnerships: Avenues for increasing the quality of care in infant and toddler classrooms
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