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Publisher Description

The components of high quality preschool are studied and valued by early childhood education professionals, but less is known about what components of quality parents and other caregivers value. The factors caregivers consider when selecting preschools are particularly important, as these reflect not only caregivers’ desires for their children’s well-being, but also the practical considerations caregivers must take into account in order for the program to fit their lives. It is not well understood how caregivers’ preschool selection factors relate to the observed quality of the program in which they enroll their children. Likewise, little information is available on the resources caregivers use to learn about and select a preschool. These resources, though, are likely to reflect which sources of information are most trusted and available to caregivers. Caregivers of children with disabilities are particularly important with regard to preschool selection factors, as these caregivers have the additional challenge of securing a preschool placement which can accommodate and appropriately care for their children’s special needs. As a population deemed to hold special rights by the law, the preschool selection factors and resources used by these families deserve further attention. Here, 407 caregivers with children in 54 early childhood special education classrooms were surveyed on their preschool selection factors, the resources they used to learn about and select a preschool, and basic demographic features. Classrooms quality was assessed for each classroom, and compared to caregivers’ preschool selection factors. Findings show that caregivers prioritized interpersonal teacher characteristics and safety when selecting preschools, and relied most on friends and family and their own prior knowledge of a preschool as sources of information. Caregivers’ felt that process elements of quality were more important than structural or familial elements of quality. Caregivers whose child had a disability were more likely to prioritize structural elements of quality than caregivers whose child did not have a disability. No relationship was found between caregivers’ preschool selection factors and the quality of the classrooms in which their children were enrolled. These findings provide valuable insight for those wishing to tailor preschool programs to be more amenable to the needs of caregivers, particularly those of children with disabilities. Preschools and policies can apply this information to make programs more desirable and accessible, and to better communicate information with caregivers on the attributes and outcomes of high quality preschool. Linking caregiver and expert perspectives in this way will also deepen the collective understanding of preschool quality.

Professional & Technical
20 May
Creative Media, LLC