Understanding quality in child care: Arizona parents' perspectives compared to state measures of quality
Definitions of quality child care are subjective, depending on who is defining quality, and constructions of quality remain a contested issue in the early childhood field. There are multiple ways of defining quality child care, most of which are from the perspectives of researchers, policymakers, and professionals. Few studies of child care quality take into consideration parents’ perspectives of what quality child care means to them and what they deem as important for the wellbeing of their children (Ceglowski & Davis, 2004, Duncan et al., 2004, Harrist et al., 2007, & Liu et al., 2004). This study compared parent perspectives to criteria for assessing child care used in Quality First, a statewide quality improvement and rating system for providers of center-based or home-based early care and education, to better understand the gaps drawing from ecological theory (refs – add these) and discuss the consequences of these different perspectives.
This study utilized a comparative qualitative analysis of ways in which parents and state agencies view determinants of child care quality. The data for this study were collected from interview responses to open-ended questions on a larger mixed-method study with parents of children under the age of 6 from the Central Arizona area. The quality indicators used by Quality First included the Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale (ITERS-R), Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS-R), Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale (FCCERS-R), and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), which were analyzed and compared to parent descriptions of quality factors in child care.
The findings of this study contribute to the discussion of ways in which parents’ perspectives are similar and different to that of quality rating scales, in this case those used by Quality First, and how the gap may be contributing to unintended consequences. In the study, I noticed that parents were more inclined toward affect qualities as quality indicators whereas the Quality First had more structural qualities as quality indicators. This led to the addressing of the need to bridge this gap to have a more comprehensive understanding of quality child care to meet different needs as identified by parents and professionals.