Not Golden Yet

Building a Stronger Workforce for Young Children in California

In California, a state that is often a crystal ball for the future of the United States, nearly half of children are from low-income families and speak a language other than English at home. A new report from New America finds the state is not doing enough to prepare early childhood educators to ensure these children don’t fall behind in school.

Not Golden Yet: Building a Stronger Workforce for California’s Children examines the state’s policies for teachers and other professionals in child care, pre-K, transitional kindergarten, and the early grades of the public schools. Based upon a growing body of research showing that young children’s interactions with adults at very young ages provide the crucial foundation for their academic and lifelong success, the report lays out significant obstacles in California’s way and provides recommendations for overcoming them to build a strong workforce of educators for children age birth to eight.

“In California we have 58 different county governments and more than 100 higher education institutions responsible for much of our early learning training and professional development,” said author Sarah Jackson, who lives in the Bay Area of California and wrote the paper as part of the Early Education Initiative in the Education Policy Program at New America. “This presents some serious challenges to coordinating and aligning our early childhood workforce.”

Additional obstacles include the lack of data for monitoring and evaluation, the divide between the state’s birth-to-5 and K–12 workforce, and most notably, low wages in the field, which are frequently cited by experts and advocates as barriers to attracting and retaining highly qualified educators who want to stay and build their careers in early childhood education. California’s birth-to-5 workers earn, on average, $24,000 annually, an income that makes a one-person household eligible for food stamps, Medicaid, and other social welfare programs.

The report describes steps of progress taken by state leaders toward building some of the infrastructure required to improve teacher training and to incorporate new knowledge about the importance of adult-child interactions, including reforms to the state’s teacher credentialing and higher education systems. The report presents seven recommendations for moving California—and the nation—forward.

The full report can be accessed here.

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Not Golden Yet

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Sarah Jackson is a writer based in Berkeley, Ca. and partner at HiredPen Inc., where she covers education and social policy.