Fathers and mothers know best (part 1 of 2)

June 17th, 2013

Whether a parent, professional or advocate, you need to be asking about the research and quality behind the ratings of your Quality Rating System. In a couple of short weeks, the State Agencies will finally reveal the details of the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for Illinois…

In a couple of short weeks, the State agencies will finally reveal the details of the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for Illinois.

Quality Rating Systems are being developed across the nation. It is important as a field that we recognize the need for benchmarks which can serve as indicators of quality. We must also recognize that there are important qualities behind the numbers, ratings, star levels and color codes that cannot capture a key component to children growing up happy, healthy and ready to learn, that is the human dynamic.

Parents may be interested in ratings and the best schools, districts and programs as a baseline, but for parents of young children, there are additional expectations about quality that Quality Rating Systems will not be able to measure or capture- that is a program that best suits their personal beliefs, schedule, parenting style and culture.

I remember as a parent how important it was for me, to have choice about who was caring for my children as well as how and when they would be cared for. For me, it was a matter of good fit- for my parenting style, my beliefs, proximity to home, and whether or not I could trust that the individuals on staff would be an extension of my home and care for my children in the same fashion as I did when with them.

Most important was my children’s comfort level. I give thanks for the formal training I had in observation and interview techniques to be able to observe my children, the environment and the strangers who were eager to care for my children in my absence.

For us grown-ups, we can at least use our words to describe our likes, dislikes, comfort level, feelings and even ask for points of clarification or speak up when something is or isn’t meeting our needs. This is not true for young children who do not have the language or cognitive skills to tell us when something is working or not working.

When it comes to gauging young children’s level of comfort with our choice in a program or school, we can only rely on our observation and interview skills to interpret the numbers, colored levels and recommendations.

In the end, each of my children took different pathways to their formal education. My son did not attend preschool. His very first day of school was his Kindergarten classroom at 6 years old. His Kindergarten teachers marveled at his large vocabulary and advanced math skills. I attribute this to all that one to one time in practicing conversation and cooking the family meal every afternoon. My daughter, too, benefited from our conversations and family activities but unlike her brother, cried because she wanted to go to school like her big brother. She attended preschool at her public school and loved it. Both of my children have thrived and are doing well on their respective paths.

Whether you are an advocate for Universal preschool or not, one fact remains: Young children need quality time and interactions with people who matter to them most- to describe the world, provide life experiences and the one to one interactions that help them to understand who they are, why they matter and how they fit in to this world.

There is no rating to capture the quality of relationships at home or in school that go into the making of a life. If there were, it would be the highest level on every Quality Rating System.

Whether a parent, professional or advocate, you need to be asking about the research and quality behind the ratings of your Quality Rating System.

We say what you are thinking and would love to hear your thoughts!

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