Friday, March 02, 2007

NACCRRA Report Rates Alaska 18th In The U.S. In Professional Child Care Quality

A first-of-its-kind report just released by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) rates Alaska 18th in the United States in the overall quality of child care center standards and oversight. Click HERE to view the 15-page introduction in PDF format. Photo courtesy of CBS News.

To find out how YOUR state ranks, Click on THIS MAP, then click on the state of interest.

Alaska earned 77 points out of a possible 150 points in the overall score, which took into consideration fifteen different criteria, listed HERE. The overall score was the sum total of scores in two component areas - Standards, in which Alaska earned 50 out of 100 possible points for a national ranking of 22nd, and Oversight, in which Alaska got 27 out of 50 possible points for a national ranking of 17th. So Alaska's oversight capabilities slightly exceed its standards.

And this disparity is reflected in the state's individual report, which can be viewed HERE. The individual report lists strengths and weaknesses, as follows:


- Center staff are required to have orientation training, and training in first aid, CPR, and on other health and safety issues.
- Requires program activities to address 5 of the 6 recommended developmental areas - social, physical, language/literacy, cognitive/intellectual, and emotional.
- Health and safety requirements address 8 of the 10 basic standards - immunization, guidance/discipline, diapering and handwashing, placing baby on back to sleep, incident reporting, medicine administration, hazardous material, and playground surfaces.
- Has requirements regarding parental involvement and communication, and allows parental visits.


- Center directors are not even required to have an Associate's degree or Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. Recommended criterion for a director is a Bachelor's degree or higher.
- Center teachers are not even required to have a high school diploma or GED before working with children. Recommended criteria is for all teachers to have an Associate's degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE) or a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential.
- Meets the National Association for the Education of Young Children's (NAEYC) ratio and group size requirements for only 2 of 7 age groups (the 27-months group and the 4-years group). Recommended criteria are listed in the lower left hand corner of the Alaska state report.

There's also a demographic fact report about Alaska which lists the number of children in professional child care and the number of centers. Alaska currently has 223 child care centers serving 9,804 children. The average per capita annual cost for infants is $8,071, and for preschoolers, $7,080.

Because this report is so new, there's been no reaction yet from Alaska public officials or local Alaska media. In fact, a Google News Search nationwide revealed only six news stories about this report. I guess Anna Nichole-Smith's corpse is more important to the media than our kids' future.

Throughout the rest of the U.S., the report revealed that many states are disturbingly lax in their regulation and oversight of child care centers, according to the survey which gave its lowest marks to Idaho and Louisiana and its highest grade to the far-flung system run by the U.S. military. Among the common problems in the states are infrequent inspections, deficient safety requirements, and low hiring standards - including lack of full criminal background checks - for center employees. "State child care standards and oversight in this nation are not protecting our children and are not preparing them for success in school," said Linda Smith, executive director of NACCRRA. She urged action by Congress and state legislatures. An estimated 12 million children under age 5 are in non-parental child care each week. The association reviewed policies and regulations for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Defense Department, which ranked a decisive No. 1 overall and led both subcategories - one measuring standards that are in place, the second measuring how vigorously the standards are enforced.

Connecticut ranks right in the middle of the 50 states, tied at 25 with Delaware. "Standards are meaningless without oversight," Smith said. "The Defense Department has good enforcement, and that has brought their program to a much higher level." Of course, the military has an "unfair" advantage - they have the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) as an additional incentive to promote compliance. It can be most persuasive. Following the military atop the rankings were Illinois, New York, Maryland, Washington, Oklahoma, Michigan, North Dakota, Tennessee, Minnesota and Vermont. Idaho ranked last; the next lowest scores were for Louisiana, Nebraska, Kentucky, California and Kansas. Criteria for the rankings included caseloads for center inspectors, frequency of inspections, health and safety requirements, background checks, staff qualifications and activities offered to children. The report, entitled "We Can Do Better," said eight states do not even require annual inspections of child care centers, let alone conduct them quarterly as NACCRRA recommends. The association also advises that each inspector have no more than 50 centers to monitor; the report said 21 states have caseloads of more than 140 per inspector.

Commentary: Our state's ranking in the upper third shows that we're on the right track and only need to do a bit of fine-tuning. One issue to resolve is Denali KidCare eligibility. Some legislators want to expand the pool of eligibility to include those up to 200% of the Federal poverty level. This is one of the standard recommedations of the professional child care lobby. Currently, maximum eligibility is set at 150% of the Federal poverty level. Governor Sarah Palin has also proposed to allocate $1.5 million in her FY2008 Component Budget towards Early Learning Programs. So the commitment towards further improvement is forthcoming.

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