- To learn about the importance of working together with families, community members, fellow family child care providers,PUB licensing specialists, and family child care administrators to evaluate your practices and program.
- To learn about the importance of using program evaluation data to improve program outcomes for children and families.
- To reflect on what it means to work toward continuous program quality improvement.
Throughout this course, you have learned what program management means for a family child care provider. You have learned about the roles and responsibilities you assume on a day-to-day basis, the importance of collaborating with others, the importance of establishing and nurturing partnerships with families, and the significance of program management for program quality. Working with children and their families means that you will have very young, impressionable minds watching, listening, and learning from you. It means that you will interact with family members who should be your partners along the way. And it means that you will work with fellow family child care providers and local community members to strive for high-quality care.
Throughout this process, how will you be able to know whether you provide high-quality care and excellent services for children and families in your care? How do you currently determine whether you are doing a good job with the children in your care? Answers to these questions are what program evaluation is all about.
Program evaluation is necessary to know whether or not a program is doing what it says it is. Program evaluation is typically completed on an annual basis to learn if the program is effectively meeting its goals. The findings of the program evaluation are typically shared with all the program’s stakeholders: families, administrators, and in some cases, the community.
What does this mean for you?
Evaluation of practice also can be done frequently, and this involves all the things you do as a family child care provider with children and families on a daily basis. In your daily work with children, you plan experiences, activities, routines, and transitions. You carefully select materials and purposefully organize your environment so that it promotes optimum growth and development. As you implement your plans, it is important to look back and review what actually happened during a certain day, a certain week, or a period of time. Doing this allows you to take into consideration important observations that tell you whether things went well or not, or if they need change. For example, you may notice that children in your program gravitate toward or away from certain materials or areas in your learning environment. This kind of information can help you make decisions about maintaining or changing materials, the layout of your program, or a certain routine.
Collaborating with Others for Program Evaluation
Leaders in your program or community (your trainer, coach, licensing specialist, local resource and referral child care specialist, or family child care administrator) work with you and families to collect relevant data about program outcomes, analyze that data, and use their findings to make changes that will improve your overall program quality. Program-relevant data might include the results of a survey given to family members asking them how well the program is meeting their child’s and family’s needs, that month’s curriculum and activity plans, or evidence from children’s portfolios or assessments that they are meeting developmental goals. You or your trainer, coach, or family child care administrator can use this information to help create a formal report or description of the program for those outside the program who are interested partners (families, advisory board members, accrediting bodies like the National Association of Family Child Care, etc.).
Formative evaluation is used during the daily operation of the program to examine ongoing processes and to help improve the program. A formative evaluation examines day-to-day successes and challenges. It is often used when programs are just starting or a new policy has just been put into effect. Formative evaluation provides a fast feedback loop to influence program decisions and make necessary changes. For example:
Your trainer, coach, or family child care administrator observes a couple of afternoons during your lunch routine and leaves a brief note summarizing her observation with you before she leaves. You were starting a new routine at lunch time, and you wanted her to observe lunch a few times to provide feedback about how it was working. At the end of two weeks, your family child care administrator meets with you to discuss her observations and to help you decide if the new routine was working well for the children and families.
A summative evaluation is typically conducted at the end of a program or after a program has been in existence for some time. The summative evaluation is often shared with those outside the program (parent groups, community members) to provide data about the effectiveness of the program. For example:
Each July you collect specific information regarding your program so that you can complete an overall yearly report. You summarize general child data, family event data, family satisfaction data, and the overall budget report for your program for the year. This report also highlights progress on your program’s goals (e.g., the increase the number of family volunteers in your program).
A summative evaluation report may be of interest to anyone affiliated with the program but is also important to individuals outside the program.
Although a summative evaluation report might only be written and shared once per year, the information that is used to create the report is collected across the year at many different points and includes many different stakeholders (e.g., families, accrediting specialists, and family child care administers).
Evaluations may be conducted by someone who is external to the program (e.g., paid consultant, higher-education personnel or state licensing representative with expertise in conducting program evaluations).
What are Indicators of Effective Program Evaluation?
You should familiarize yourself with the following indicators of effective program evaluation adapted from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS/SDE) (2009):
- Evaluation is used for continuous improvement of your practice.
- Your goals for the children in your care become the guide for the evaluation.
- Evaluations are done by well-trained individuals; for example, a local leader in family child care (your trainer, coach, family child care administrator or local resource and referral specialist) or other individual experts who are external to your program.
- Multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of the evaluation.
- In the process of evaluation, children’s gains over time are emphasized.
- The results of the evaluation are shared with others in the program.
Planning Evaluation for Improvement
Planning involves thinking ahead about what you want to do and how you will do it. When planning for the purpose of evaluating your practices, you need to be thoughtful about the purpose of your evaluation. Being clear about the purpose of your evaluation will help drive the types of information you gather, the questions you ask, the way you time your gathering of information, and the individuals that will be involved in the process. Ultimately, the information you collect will let you make decisions about things that you are doing well and things that need to be changed or improved.
For example, you may want to get feedback about how materials are used in your program, how experiences and activities involve and engage each child in your program, how routines and events are carried out, or whether families feel welcomed in your home. You should work with your trainer, coach, or family child care administrator as their support will be invaluable throughout this process. They can help you identify and clarify aspects of your practice that you may want to improve, make a plan to collect the information you need, and then use that information to improve your practices with children and families. Your trainer, coach, or family child care administrator can help you select the best ways to gather accurate information relevant to your question, and help you analyze that information to make informed next steps. For example, if you are interested in whether families feel welcome in your home, your family child care administrator might suggest an anonymous survey with well-crafted questions. Or he or she may make a detailed observation of how families interact with you while dropping off or picking up their children. You can then review this information together and see what within this area of your practice is working well and identify strategies for improvement.
Striving for Continuous Quality Improvement
You should work with your trainer, coach, or family child care administrator to improve your daily work with children and families in your care. You should also collaborate with these program or community leaders to assist with any activities that are related to your program’s quality improvement. Family child care providers who are committed to consciously improving services to children and families should demonstrate an openness to learning new knowledge and skills.
Continuous quality improvement entails:
- A commitment to lifelong learning
- Program changes that result in better-quality caregiving
- Self- reflection about daily practices with children and families
- Collaboration with fellow providers, community members, and local family child care leaders
With assistance from your trainer, coach, or family child care administrator, you should strive for high-quality services and continuous improvement. Excellence within yourself contributes to your program’s success and growth.
In your daily work with children, you can do the following when it comes to using information to evaluate your own practices and ultimately your program:
- Identify the good things and the not-so-good things that happen in your family child care program each day. For example, you may notice that there may not be enough books available for children of diverse ages in your program to engage in the book area.
- Be purposeful and intentional when designing experiences and choosing materials for children in your care. Be flexible and willing to make changes in your environment, materials, or routines, based on what you learn or observe about each child.
- It’s important to know whether families of children in your program feel welcome and supported. You can use your program’s or curriculum’s goals as a way to know whether you are doing well when it comes to working with families and then make changes if needed.
- Use your program’s goals as a component of program evaluation. Your program goals should drive your planning of experiences and activities. You should also keep these goals in mind when determining whether children in your care are developing and progressing.
Review the activity Program Evaluation. Take some time to read the identified position statement, and respond to the question. Then, share and discuss your responses with your trainer, coach or family child care administrator.
Review the activity Using Data to Evaluate to learn more about using personal evaluation data to reflect on your practice and make changes as needed.
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Feeney, S. (2010). Ethics Today in Early Care and Education: Review, reflection, and the future. Young Children, 65(2), 72-77.
Feeney, S., Freeman, N. K., & Pizzolongo, P. (2012). Ethics and the Early Childhood Educator: Using the NAEYC code (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Illinois State Board of Education Early Childhood Division. Continuous Quality Improvement Plan (CQIP) for Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-R (ECERS-R) Retrieved from https://www.isbe.net/Documents/cqip-ecers-sample-plan.pdf.
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National Association for the Education of Young Children and National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education. (2003). Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation: Building an effective, accountable system in programs for children birth through age 8. Position Statement with Expanded Resources. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/CAPEexpand.pdf.
National Association for the Education of Young Children and National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education. (2009). Where We Stand on Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/StandCurrAss.pdf.
Simon, F. (2015). Look Up and Out to Lead: 20/20 vision for effective leadership. Young Children, 70(2), 18-24.
Schweikert, G. (2014). Winning Ways for Early Childhood Professionals: Partnering with families. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.