D.C. Leads on Education Requirements for Early Learning Workforce

Time and time again, research shows the importance of a child’s first 1,000 days and how they shape the trajectory of the rest of his or her life. When children are nurtured in high-quality environments by individuals (i.e., parents, teachers and other caregivers) who facilitate high-quality interactions, their chance at lifelong success skyrockets.

One factor in ensuring this optimum environment is the education level of early learning teachers and directors. The District of Columbia already requires equivalent qualifications for teachers in pre-K and K-12 settings. Now, the same standards are being applied to early learning, as discussed in this recent article from the Washington Post (“D.C. among first in nation to require child-care workers to get college degrees”).

“The new regulations put the District at the forefront of a national effort to improve the quality of care and education for the youngest learners. City officials want to address an academic achievement gap between children from poor and middle-class families that research shows is already evident by the age of 18 months … [The] workforce has historically been paid and treated like babysitters. What the job demands is closer to the work of elementary school teachers, scientists say.”

Research conducted by the Institute of Medicine shows that teachers with degrees deliver the best outcomes for kids, and there’s no basis to suggest that a teacher of a 2-year-old requires any less preparation and training than a teacher of a 7-year-old.

When high standards are coupled with compensation that recognizes these enhanced qualifications, turnover is minimized, the pay gap is reduced and children experience higher-quality environments. The District is leading here, too, by making compensation a critical part of its Quality Improvement Network and requiring bonuses for teachers in child care partner sites.

We commend the Office of the State Superintendent of Education for leading these efforts to raise standards and for beginning to address compensation. Our Birth-to-Three Policy Alliance has prioritized both issues in our work to improve early childhood — to continue to move these efforts forward. Learn more about the Policy Alliance.

Visit our website to learn about the Foundation and our work.


Sara Mickelson is Senior Manager of Early Learning, Policy for the Bainum Family Foundation.