and your walk talks...
but your walk talks louder
than your talk talks."
Most of you know from my last post that I have recently quit my job. I just couldn't do it anymore. I was working long hours, a lot of which were on the road away from my family. I was burnt out, trying to work within a system for change, where I just didn't feel like I had the impact or the ability to advocate. I didn't feel as though my voice or the voice of my colleagues or the providers I was representing was being heard. It was beyond exhausting.... sleepless nights, and I've been sick, really sick. Enough was enough.....
You, see here in Michigan, we are about to "go live" with our new tiered quality rating and improvement system. I was working as one of the "quality improvement consultants." My job was to work with sites participating in this voluntary program to assist them through coaching and consulting to improve quality at their site. Now, I was super excited about his opportunity-- I had the chance to share what I knew and my gifts with other childcare providers beyond just a couple hour training. I could work with them on their goals to really improve things for young children. I was GEEKED, to say the least. I went in thinking that I was going to love this job. But, you know the old saying.... If it looks too good to be true, it probably is....
Well... reality sets in......
I could not ask providers to participate in a program that I myself did not partake in. I just couldn't do that, it would be outside of my integrity to do so. Thus, I completed the self assessment survey..... and guess what?
In the Michigan TQRIS - STARS rating program - - I am a 1.
I have a master’s degree in psychology, (with at least 24 credits of early childhood
development and education undergraduate credits, with the potential of more
depending on if other courses count)
I run a developmentally appropriate play based program.
I was recognized nationally by the Academy of Arts and
Sciences as one of the top 5 nominees in the area of home based child care
I provide numerous training programs for other early
childhood educators, parents, and interested consumers. I do this mostly locally, but when I have
time travel to other places in the country.
Well known trainers and experts in the field use my program
as an example and utilize photos of my space.
I believe in providing the highest quality of care possible,
and continue to learn and grow on a daily basis.
I have trained/assisted numerous interns and assistants who
have moved on to run large centers and/or opened their own child care programs.
I have inspired change for many childcare programs through
my blog and training programs.
I collaborate internationally to increase awareness and
education in the field.
I have been asked to write a book to share my experiences
AND I was hired to work as a quality improvement consultant to help increase quality.
YET, I am a
(The program rates you from a level 1 to a level 5, 1 being the lowest on the spectrum)
Even though I provide a high quality program and care to young children, the current system only rates me with a 1 star. Would you like to know why?
* The assessment does not take into account training or experience. It only gives you points for education, and my degree is not considered a related field because it is a psychology degree and not specifically an early childhood education or an education degree with at least 18 credits in early childhood. I have at least 24 credits in early childhood (more depending on which courses actually count), but they won't even look at my transcript because it is a psychology degree. Apparently, psychology is not a "related field."
I was really worried when I started to look at this program closer. By asking questions, I was questioned. My ability as a practitioner and ambassador for the field of early childhood education was questioned. I really wanted this program to help providers, I really wanted this program to help young children, and I really wanted this program to assist parents in being able to find 'quality' for their children.
Well... reality sets in......
Right now, it is all hypocrisy.
Going in and out of programs, I felt like a HUGE hypocrite. How could I go into a site and assist them in moving through the tiers of rating when my own site was rated at the lowest level? It just didn't make sense, I knew in my heart that our program here at Child Central Station is more than a 1. We may not be perfect, but we are definitely not a the bottom of the scale. I needed to know more.....so, I started asking questions.
I wanted to see the psychometric tests. After all, if a statewide program was going to be implemented and have so much impact on the providers and community, they would be held to the highest standards, right? Well, again I was wrong. The first assessment being used, the self assessment survey is based upon early learning standards which are research based, but the assessment itself has not been tested for reliability or validity. (If you are not familiar with psychometric testing, this means that the tool they are using to measure quality has not been tested to determine that it actually measures quality or that it is consistent in measuring.)
Yet, the assessment requires providers to use scientifically based curricula and assessments with children. Can you see where I am going here....... They want to enforce practices that they themselves are not adhering to. They are expecting higher standards of those in the field than they themselves are practicing.
Needless to say, I was dumbfounded, I just don't get it! Honestly, I cannot tell you how many times this ran through my mind, How on earth is that possible? Who are these people? I started to ask, and ask and ask.. Who makes the decisions? For months, I was given one name and the phrase "the core team." In the past couple of weeks, I finally uncovered that information. I'd been asking since June. Guess what? The core team that makes the decisions does not have a for profit director, teacher, parent or home based child care provider represented. The core team is made up of administrators and representatives from statewide agencies and boards. No wonder they don't "get it" they are not part of the day to day workings in the classrooms. They are lacking representation from all of the stakeholders, and the perspective of those being impacted.
Wait.. there's more....
The program in our state has been touted as being "voluntary." However, on December 17 the public roll-out of the rating system is scheduled to happen, and guess what? ALL licensed and registered sites are going to be shown. If you have opted out of participation, you are shown with an empty star noting that your program meets licensing requirements. Taking the words right out of a respected colleague, "It makes us look like a no-tell motel." It frustrates me to no end. A program that is voluntary, needs to be voluntary or if everyone is listed it aught to be mandatory. After talking to a trusted friend and researcher, I worry about this system, the confusion in communication, and the ethics.
(For those of you reading who run childcare centers or homes in Michigan, know that this program is not directly connected to your license. Licensing is part of the core team, but at this time, this program is run out of a completely different office. Participation or lack of participation does not impact your licensing.)
As previously indicated, this program is scheduled to be public information on December 17. Childcare providers have been given the verbiage of what is going to be published. Again, I was dumbfounded. The state is going to publish information to the public that is misleading. For each of the stars the following will be published:
Clear unfilled star - Program meets state licensing requirements
1 star (blue) - Program meets state licensing requirements and is participating in Great Start to Quality
2 star (blue) - Program demonstrates quality across some standards.
3 star (blue) - Program demonstrates quality across several standards.
4 star (blue) - Program demonstrates quality across almost all standards.
5 star (blue) - Program demonstrates highest quality.
Sounds great, doesn't it? Except... It is not true! This does not reflect the current way in which a program is rated. If a program meets all criteria at the highest level, they are awarded a 5 star. However, if a program meets all standards at the highest level, but meets does not meet one standard, or meets it at a lower level... according to the above, they would be rated a 4, right???? Well, that's not the case. A provider or site is rated at the lowest level they attain in any one category. So, my program is rated at a level one because my education and training is not recognized, even though I meet all of the other standards to the highest level.
Apparently, you will be able to click on the stars and see the points and exactly why a site rated at that level. This could be somewhat helpful, but I seriously question how many people will really look beyond the stars. When you are looking at products or hotels, do you look at those that rate at a 1 star? I know that I don't.
So, what happens if you participate, are rated and you don't agree with the system or rating you have been given? Right now, well, there are not a lot of choices for you. The core team is working on an appeals process, but who knows how long that will take. I don't know if they intend to have that information available prior to ratings becoming public.
This system scares me....
I have so many concerns, and I worry......
Here is the letter I addressed to the core team- (although it indicates my anonymity, I chose not to remain anonymous)
Dear Core Team,
I am a home based child care provider. I’d provide you with my name, but considering your anonymity I too will keep mine.
I am frustrated, angry and extremely concerned. I appreciated the need for high quality care and early learning settings for young children. However, I do not believe that the current system is going to meet those needs or adequately support parents in choosing quality child care.
I question who you are, and what your credentials are to be making these decisions. With your anonymity comes a lack of integrity and responsibility, as if no one knows who you are, and are unable to contact you directly you do not need to be held as accountable for your actions. I worry that your team does not have all of the concerns of all of the stakeholders at heart, and that you may be too removed from the day to day reality of the business. Do you have a home child care provider on the team? A child care teacher or director from a “for profit” center? What stakeholders are represented?
I worry a lot about parents, especially first time parents as they start to embark on the journey of choosing a child care facility. Leaving your child is a tough decision to make. I really worry about how much weight they are going to put on this system, being uneducated by what the star levels really mean. I worry that children are going to be housed in programs that look good on paper, but really are not meeting the individual needs of the children.
I worry that our community is going to look at child care as a whole and determine its worth or lack of worth of by the fact that so many places are not rated well in this system. Will new families move into our community if they cannot find 5 star child care? What is it going to do to the cost of care for those families who are looking at those sites at a higher level? Supply and demand almost always dictates higher rates, and meeting higher standards is expensive. Will ALL parents be able to afford the higher quality care or just those who are financially better off?
Will there be even more regulations and concerns placed upon all of us in the field and pressure to move up in the stars system even though it is not fiscally responsible to go back to school? How many people are going to go into debt, only to be paid barely above minimum wage? How many people are going to opt to provide care unlicensed and completely unregulated?( I know that this issue is already a problem as I have reported many sites already, and I worry that this is going to cause unsafe conditions for many young children.) How much unnecessary stress is this going to be putting on providers, who in turn will not be giving 100% of themselves to the children because they are worn out and trying to meet all of the new demands? (Providers are not going to quit their job to go back to school, they will try to juggle both, and in the end this is going to impact the amount of time and quality of the care they are providing).
How can you say that only people with early child development and education degrees have the education and training to provide high quality care? What about those of us who are psychologists and social workers who have a solid background in child development and higher education than some of those folks? What about experience and training? If you know anything about adult learners, you will know that most of them will benefit more from just-in-time training that is relevant to the task at hand. I know from a personal perspective, I have gained so much more from many of the training sessions that I attended than I ever did from some of the college courses. (AND there is a large body of research to back this.) I also know a number of people who have graduated with approved degrees. Education and training are important, but when you are working with young children, you either have “it” or you don’t. What about all of those people who are born with “It” and who work every day, as independent learners to continue to improve and provide high quality care, but don’t have a piece of paper to prove it? (Not to mention or get me started on my education rant, our educational system is not measuring up to those in other countries…. Or the facts that many people graduating with a degree are clueless when it comes to the real world application or even having the skills to connect with a young child.)
I worry about a 5-star system, as many people are familiar with it in other industries. I worry about the demand for child care and places going out of business. I know that as a consumer, I won’t even look at 1-star hotels. I fear that parents will not even consider places that are not rated at a level higher than a 1, and I fear that their level of stress is going to increase even more as they try to find a place they are comfortable leaving their child. I also fear that many home based programs will be faced with the potential of having to close their doors, as many home based providers do not meet the educational criteria and will not have the opportunity to move past a 1 star rating.
I am afraid that we are going to lose a lot of amazing providers, and that people are not going to choose to continue to go into this field. I know that many programs at colleges and universities in our area have already been struggling with a decline in enrollment.
I fear that the stars are going to drive more competition and less collaboration among providers.
I also fear that a lack of credibility in the stars system when it first goes public could be highly detrimental to long term quality improvement goals, and I strongly believe that improving the quality of care for young children is essential.
I ask you to step back and consider all of the ramifications of your decisions wisely before moving forward. In our culture, we are often quick to make decisions and implement programs without fully looking at the long term impact of our actions. From what I understand, this program was pushed forward with the hopes of attaining federal funding. Now that the funding was not secured, perhaps it would make more sense to take some more time to work out the known issues before rushing to proceed.
During one of my last days, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the members of the core team. She said that they are moving forward with publication because they told providers a year ago that scores would go live in a year. I can appreciate their concern to keep their word, but I think that there are far too many issues still not addressed to move forward.
and experts in the field.
I ask you to join me in advocacy.
What is happening here in Michigan is wrong. We all agree that quality is important, especially for our children. However, the system is flawed, and it needs to change!
YOU CAN HELP!
- Take a couple of minutes to sign the petition.
- Share this post and the petition with others.
- If you are in Michigan, call your local Great Start Office. Share your questions and concerns.
- Write a letter. You can find the contact information including email, fax, and mailing address here.
IF you are a child care provider, you can also join our group on Facebook: Michigan Providers for Quality AGAINST the TQRIS
In the words of a very respected mentor of mine, "Together We Are Better." Educate yourself about the system, reach out to your fellow providers and educators. Let's make a difference!!!!!
I know this post has been long, thanks for sticking it out!
We have a long haul ahead of us if we are truly to impact change and a very short window of time to do it!