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Do parents know "high quality" preschool when they see it?

High quality early childhood education (ECE) programs can lead to substantial benefits for children, however many children are not attending programs of sufficient quality to yield meaningful developmental gains. To address this problem, states have increasingly turned to Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS), early childhood accountability systems that aim to improve ECE quality through incentives, supports, and information campaigns. Such informational interventions hinge on the assumption that parents are currently unable to assess ECE quality. This study examines the validity of this assumption, which is largely untested to date, using data from a sample of low-income families with four-year-olds attending publicly-funded ECE programs. We examine whether parents' evaluation of their child's program is explained by an extensive set of quality measures including: observational measures of the quality of classroom instruction; measures of children's learning gains; measures of structural quality; and measures of program convenience. We find that parents' evaluations of their program were not systematically related with any of the measures of quality, corroborating this key assumption of QRIS, and suggest that there may be a role for informational interventions in ECE markets. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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