- Resources & Research
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Over the past decade, researchers, policy makers, and practitioners have increasingly come to recognize the importance of quality in early care and education. Along with this recognition is compelling evidence that sound administrative practices help ensure high-quality learning opportunities for young children.1, 2, 3 Since its first publication in 2004, the Program Administration Scale: Measuring Early Childhood Leadership and Management (PAS) has been used across the country to reliably measure and improve center-based leadership and management practices. In 2011, the second edition of the PAS was published and included updated national norms and refinements reflecting best practices in early childhood program administration.4 Data collected by the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership since 2011 are examined here to provide the most current picture of the administrative practices of a large, national sample of center-based programs.
SAMPLE AND METHODOLOGY
The PAS includes 25 items clustered in 10 subscales, which measure both leadership and management practices of center-based early care and education programs.4 Each item is scored on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing inadequate quality, 3 representing minimal quality, 5 representing good quality, and 7 representing excellent quality in administrative practices. Items are comprised of 2 to 5 indicator strands. Each indicator is aligned with the 1-7 Likert scale and rated as either Yes orNo based on the program’s ability to meet the indicator criteria.
The PAS assessments included in this analysis were conducted by certified PAS assessors. To become certified, PAS assessors must first achieve reliability (a score of at least 86%) on a test conducted after four days of training on the tool. Next, they must conduct two PAS assessments within three months of reliability training. The completed assessments are reviewed by PAS national anchors for consistency, accuracy, and completeness. The data for this study consisted of approved PAS assessments collected during the certification process from 693 center-based early care and education programs representing 31 states and the District of Columbia.
The average PAS item score for this sample was calculated at 3.40, with a standard deviation of 1.12. Mean individual items’ scores ranged from 1.61 (Benefits) to 6.44 (Community Outreach). Overall, the results of the data analysis suggest that most programs do not have well-developed administrative practices in place to support program sustainability and long-term quality. Table 1 provides the means and standard deviations for all item scores as well as the average PAS item score. As noted in the table, the majority of programs scored between the good and excellent range on Family Support and Involvement and Technological Resources, but most scored below minimal quality for Compensation, Benefits, Internal Communications, Program Evaluation, Strategic Planning, as well as all four roles contained within the Staff Qualifications subscale (Administrator, Lead Teacher, Teacher, and Assistant Teacher/ Aide).
What are the strengths of programs?
To better explore aggregated strengths, data were examined at the indicator level to see in which areas programs demonstrated practices at the level of quality consistent with administrative effectiveness and program sustainability. Specifically, we looked at indicators where at least 75% of the programs received a positive (Yes) rating at the 5 or good level of quality. Out of 316 total PAS indicators, only 16 in the sample met this criterion. Program strengths are summarized below:
What are the areas in need of improvement?
To understand where programs would benefit from increased resources and support, data were examined at the indicator level to see in which areas programs consistently demonstrated practices below the minimal level of quality. Specifically, we looked at indicators where less than 75% of the programs received a positive (Yes) rating at the 3 or minimal level of quality. Out of 316 total PAS indicators, there were 27 that met this criterion. Areas for improvement are summarized below:
Not surprisingly, many programs appear to be struggling with organizational practices that require significant financial resources, like offering salary increases, providing retirement benefits and enough sick/personal and vacation days to prevent staff burnout, or hiring staff with sufficient specialized education and training in early childhood education to achieve mastery of competencies.
However, there are also other administrative practices that many programs do not have in place that require little financial investment but do require specialized knowledge and skills in organizational leadership. These include undertaking a phased orientation and onboarding process for new staff; implementing strategic planning and program evaluation with key stakeholders to assure program sustainability and long-term quality; creating a transparent and equitable salary scale; utilizing communication processes and structures that support inclusive leadership and shared decision-making; implementing sound budgeting and accounting practices; and creating a more comprehensive risk management plan to reduce the center’s liability. and minimize harm. While most programs provide professional development for staff, few programs take a systemic view and provide support for career development by providing salary increases linked to credit-bearing professional development or the attainment of professional credentials. Taken as a whole, this window on administrative practices over the past decade highlights many strengths in program management while identifying the specific areas in program leadership that should be targeted when designing opportunities to support the professional growth of program administrators.
PAS Item Means and Standard Deviations 2010-2021
1Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. (2015). Transforming the workforce for children birth through age 8: A unifying foundation. The National Academies Press.
2Kirby, G., Douglass, A., Lyskawa, J., Jones, C., & Malone, L. (2021). Understanding leadership in early care and education: A literature review. OPRE Report 2021-02. Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
3McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership. (2010). Connecting the dots: Director qualifications, instructional leadership practices, and learning environments in early childhood programs. Research Notes. McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership, National Louis University.
4Talan, T. N., & Bloom, P. J. (2011). Program Administration Scale: Measuring Early Childhood Leadership and Management (2nd ed.). Teachers College Press.
Dr. Teri Talan, J.D., Ed.D, holds the Michael W. Louis Chair and is senior policy advisor at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership and professor of early childhood education at National Louis University (NLU). She promotes action by state and national policymakers on early childhood workforce and program administration issues. Previously, she led a child advocacy organization and an early childhood program accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). She holds a law degree from Northwestern University as well as a master’s degree in early childhood leadership and advocacy and a doctorate in adult and continuing education from NLU. She is coauthor of the of the Program Administration Scale; Business Administration Scale for Family Child Care; Escala de Evaluación de la Administración de Negocios; Who’s Caring for the Kids? The Status of the Early Childhood Workforce in Illinois; and Closing the Leadership Gap.
Robyn Kelton, M.A., is a Quality Training Specialist for the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University (NLU). Robyn conducts training and research on the Business Administration Scale for Family Child Care (BAS) and the Program Administration Scale (PAS) and serves as a national reliability anchor for both tools. In addition, Robyn reviews BAS and PAS assessments for the assessor certification system. Robyn holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts degree in psychology with an advanced certificate of study in organizational psychology from NLU. Robyn is currently a doctoral student in the brain, behavior, and quantitative science psychology program at the University of Kansas. Prior to joining the McCormick Center, Robyn spent three years as a lead teacher in a kindergarten classroom for an after-school program. Robyn’s research interests include leadership in early care and education, family child care, child development, and autobiographical memory.