One of the most significant determinations of teacher quality is their stability.
Turnover in early childhood education refers to the rate at which teachers are leaving their programs to take a new position in the field of early childhood education or leave the field entirely to enter a new field or to retire.
Factors that Foster Turnover
Some of the factors that foster the high turnover rate of early childhood education professionals include the following:
- High stress
- Inadequate compensation
- Sense of isolation
Costs of High Turnover Rates
Especially in the field of early childhood education, high turnover rates are quite costly. Some of the costs include the following:
Stresses the Children
When a caregiver/teacher leaves unexpectedly or leaves to move to another classroom, the relationship loss can be quite stressful for young children.
For infants and toddlers, this is especially true because they are just learning to build trust and relationships. It is critical in their development and learning process to feel safe and secure with a primary teacher.
When a child experiences the stress of losing that caregiver/teacher, they may end up regressing to early behaviors or even withdrawal, aggression, depression, or loss of appetite.
Creates Loss for the Program and the Children
When a child loses a particular teacher they have established a relationship with, it can damage their feelings of security in the program- as well as have an effect on the development of their social and cognitive skills.
In addition, when a teacher leaves, it can affect the morale of the rest of the teaching team.
Teaching Practices Change
When a teacher leaves, the teacher taking his/her place may not necessarily have the same way of teaching.
This is why low turnover rates are typically associated with positive teaching practices.
Influences Child Outcomes/Compensation
Teachers who have more credentials (higher education, certifications, etc) typically receive higher wages- which means they are much more likely to stay with the program.
This means that the children reap greater rewards- the teachers are not constantly changing, so they are secure in their environment.
Puts a strain on the employer: some of the direct costs of high turnover include recruiting, selecting, and training new staff.
The indirect costs include an increase in workload for the rest of the staff, as well as overtime and a reduction in productivity.
In addition, as mentioned above, morale is decreased. Finally, high turnover rates could have an effect on overall revenue because parents will be less likely to enroll their child in a classroom that is being led by a substitute teacher.
Following are some ways that you can find and hire great preschool teachers for your program- and prevent this high turnover rate.
7 Tips for Finding and Hiring Great Preschool Teachers
While it’s true that hiring requirements vary from one preschool/early childhood center to the next- the hiring managers/site directors need to follow some fairly basic steps to find and hire quality teachers.
School- and in many cases, state- policies dictate the minimum standards for employment of preschool teachers.
Individuals who are responsible for hiring need to follow the policy guidelines when searching for the best teacher to fit the position.
These guidelines include knowledge, experience, education as well as an ability to fit into the workplace culture and work with the rest of the team.
1. Build a List of Requirements
You must start by getting together the hiring/managerial staff about the requirements for new employees. Brainstorm a list of qualities, experience, and education that are needed for the job.
There are some preschools/early childhood education centers that must follow state or even school district requirements such as the number of years of employment in childcare or any specific certifications.
On the other hand, schools that don’t have a specific policy in place might want to think about what is most important to the educational philosophy of the center such ad community building, instructional methods, or discipline theories.
2. Place an Ad
Once the requirements have been established, it’s time to place an ad for a qualified teacher.
You must make sure that the job title is specific and includes wording such as early childhood education professional, preschool teacher, child development educational professional, or something similar.
Be sure that you place your ad in reputable- and highly visible- print or online periodicals. This may include online community resources, college employment sites, or newspapers.
PRO TIP: You may even want to consider partnering with a local college/university that has an early childhood education program- offering graduates a job.
Be sure that when placing your ad, there is a very brief description of the job as well as state any specific certification/educational requirements and experience required.
You also want to include a way for applicants to submit their resume, such as a phone number, email address, or mailing address.
3. Review Resumes
Take some time to go through the resume, prioritizing them in order of experience and educational qualifications.
According to the position statement of NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children based on the Standards for Programs to Prepare Early Childhood Professionals, a young child can benefit from the education their teacher has received in early childhood development or some other related field.
The more education a prospective teacher has, the more knowledge of child development he/she is likely to have.
Unfortunately, most preschool programs do not actually require prospective teachers to have post-secondary education. An Associate’s degree will offer basic knowledge- and possibly some hands-on experience- in early childhood education.
A Bachelor’s degree will give them much more in-depth knowledge as well as a possible internship or practicum experience working with a senior level teacher.
Finally, early childhood educators that have a Master’s degree or higher are going to have the most superior knowledge of human development and educational practices.
You can expect a Master’s level teacher to understand the current best practices in the field of early education.
In addition, usually, a Bachelor’s level or higher teacher will also have state licensing or certification.
4. Check Employment Experience
When preparing to interview candidates, you need to check for above-average employment experience working with preschool children in an educational setting.
This experience needs to be verifiable and quantifiable. After all, being a parent or having babysitting experience is not the same as real-life preschool experience.
A good teacher will have at least a year of employment working with children in the age group that you are hiring for.
While it’s true that the post-secondary internships/field placements are very important to the professional preparation of an employee, experience really needs to be in addition to these types of programs.
5. Check Recommendations/References
Be sure that you ask prospective candidates for references from those who are aware of their capacity to work with children or who have an understanding of the early education system.
These people need to be able to verify that the candidate is capable of working with the age group you are hiring for.
In addition to checking references, you should also require state-mandated clearances including state police clearances, FBI background checks, and child abuse clearances.
6. Have the Applicant Come in for Observation
Once you have reviewed their resume and application, it’s a good idea to have them come in for a half-day observation.
This will help them understand your program better as well as give you the chance to see how he/she is interacting with the children.
Keep a notebook and pen/pencil handy to take notes on how they behave and the attitudes they have in the environment.
If you are unable to shadow them, have the other teachers give you their thoughts on the prospective teacher.
7. Check Their Knowledge
Before you officially offer them a position in your program, you need to take the time to check their own knowledge against the criteria developed by an association such as NAEYC.
They have a section on what teachers need to be able to do their Standards for Programs to Prepare Early Childhood Professionals.
Make sure that they have an understanding of learning theory and child development, an understanding/respect for other communities/cultures, an ability to observe/assess child development, a knowledge of practices that are developmentally appropriate/early childhood content areas, as well as an ability to behave professionally. You can gauge these by observing them and having them submit sample lesson plans/curriculum.
The truth is that turnover rates in the preschool/early childhood field are typically fairly high due to lack of adequate compensation among other things.
However, with just a little bit of effort, you really can find great teachers for your program who will stay with you for the duration of their career.