Undoubtedly, the journey of transformation for early childcare practitioners from being considered underpaid, overworked glorified babysitters to becoming professional brain developers seems like a trip to the moon. This is especially true if we calculate worth based on visibility or investment value based on tuition rates, employee salaries and benefits, access, professional standing and other similar indicators. But a closer look reveals otherwise. While they may be invisible and undervalued, Guam’s early childcare settings, which number over 40 today, are quietly and persistently engaged in a quality improvement process which increasingly prepares them for the launch. How do I know? Well, as the coordinator of the GQRIS (Guam Quality Rating and Improvement System) Team from the Guam Community College, I am privileged to have a birds-eye view of what promises to be a major turning point in addressing our island’s educational readiness challenges, if it is carried out faithfully and consistently.
Here is what’s happening. Ten licensed daycare settings on Guam went through the review process funded by the Department of Public Health and Social Services and conducted by the Guam Community College during the past fiscal year. This involved intense training of owners, managers and staff on the GQRIS and its evaluation instruments. These daycares have received their star ratings and significant incentive funding for participating in the process through federal grants supporting the effort. This fiscal year, an additional 24 daycare settings are being reviewed, have undergone in-depth training and will receive their ratings and incentive funding in the next few months.
Not all daycare settings on Guam have participated, but all have been provided the opportunity. The review process was initially met with apprehension and pushback from some of the daycare providers who felt that spotlighting their operations and facilities represented too much pressure. Others felt they were not prepared. It is not easy for overworked minimum-wage earners to work all week then attend Saturday classes and have their practices evaluated. Our GQRIS Team did what we could to assuage fears and make the business case that quality early childhood care was the goal. We are hopeful that the benefits, both in terms of identifying areas of strength and addressing those needing improvement; and, the monetary incentives that participating daycares will receive as part of the quality improvement process will serve as a driving force on their transformation journey. Unleashing the full potential of these early childcare professionals to become the brain developers that our young children need is the goal.
What can you do to help? Become aware and show you care. Advocate for putting early childhood education on the front burner of funding decisions and legislation. Organize to strengthen the capacity of daycare providers to continuously improve staff performance and professional development by offering wages, benefits and growth opportunities that are commensurate with the importance of the work they do. Support efforts by partnering with daycares as community volunteers, gift sponsors to procure learning equipment or as enthusiastic customers of their services. If you are employees of agencies that monitor safety and hazard compliance, assist daycare facilities as they strive to meet requirements. If you are parents, grandparents or guardians of young children, become actively engaged in the development of your child by talking with and reading to them. Provide nourishing healthy snacks and lunches, chuck the high sodium packaged food and carbo snacks. This is a huge challenge. Don’t stand in the way by making outdated demands about how your children should be taught.
It all boils down to a simple fact, if we want our young children from ages 0 to 5 to have the best quality education possible during the time that 80% of brain growth and development occurs in the life of a child, we have got to invest in success. It takes more than a village to educate a child, in this case, it will take our whole island community to make this happen.