Cover: A Golden Opportunity

A Golden Opportunity

Advancing California's Early Care and Education Workforce Professional Development System

Published Feb 28, 2012

by Lynn A. Karoly


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Research Questions

  1. Does California's professional development system (PDS) prepare its early care and education (ECE) workforce well and provide ongoing supports to ensure that children receive the developmental benefits associated with a high-quality ECE system?
  2. Are the public resources that support the ECE workforce PDS in California used to maximum benefit?

In an effort to inform preschool policy in California, an interdisciplinary team of RAND researchers conducted a multiyear study of preschool education known as the California Preschool Study. One of the recommendations from that study was the need for a more in-depth analysis of the effectiveness of the early care and education (ECE) workforce professional development system (PDS) in California. This study aims to provide a comprehensive synthesis of what is known and what is not known about key dimensions of the state's ECE workforce PDS and the resulting outcomes. It finds that California has taken steps to implement components of a comprehensive ECE workforce PDS but further advances are needed. In addition, information gaps mean that it is not possible to identify inefficiencies in the current system. The study provides a set of recommendations for improving the system's effectiveness by making better use of existing resources and by improving the ability of the PDS to prepare and support the ECE workforce.

Key Findings

California Has Taken Steps to Improve the Effectiveness of the ECE Workforce PDS, but Further Advances Are Needed

  • Evidence for preschool-age children in center settings, based on results from the Classroom Assessment Scoring System, shows that there is room to improve the competencies of ECE providers so they are more effective in their work with young children.
  • Care quality is probably no higher, and likely somewhat lower, in home-based settings compared with center-based settings, and that the same is true for care of infants and toddlers compared with care for preschool-age children.
  • Recognizing the gaps in the knowledge and skills of its ECE workforce, California has taken steps to implement components that are part of comprehensive PDSs in other states.
  • But the California system has yet to fully realize the potential from these components, and other important elements are absent.

Information Gaps Limit the Ability to Identify Inefficiencies in the Current ECE Workforce PDS

  • Although substantial public resources are invested in ECE workforce professional development in California, the lack of data for monitoring and evaluation limits the options for evidence-based decisionmaking regarding how best to advance the professional development of the ECE workforce.
  • Current data systems and research do not provide the information needed to understand which segments of the ECE workforce benefit from the public-sector investments in education and training and whether the resources spent actually achieve the objective of advancing the effectiveness of the ECE workforce.


  • Make better use of existing resources to ensure that those resources are employed as effectively as possible.
  • Improve the ability of the PDS to prepare and support the ECE workforce and advance the skills of the workforce, particularly in such key areas as providing the types of instructional support that promote children's early learning and knowing how to effectively work with dual language learners.

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Labor and Population, a unit of the RAND Corporation. Funding was provided by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Buffett Early Childhood Fund.

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