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Research Question

  1. How do early care and education caregivers working for licensed providers in Shelby County gain knowledge related to working with children? More specifically, what are the professional development requirements for caregivers, and what professional development opportunities currently exist in Shelby County?

Many children receive care from people other than their parents on a regular basis prior to kindergarten, and the early care and education (ECE) caregivers with whom they interact can play an important role in their cognitive, social, and emotional development. The knowledge and skills that ECE caregivers bring to their settings affect the quality of care children receive, so it is useful to understand how caregivers gain information to build competencies that affect their practice. To address this issue, researchers asked the following questions: How do ECE caregivers working for licensed providers in Shelby County, Tennessee, gain knowledge related to working with children? More specifically, what are the professional development (PD) requirements for caregivers, and what PD opportunities currently exist in Shelby County? Additionally, the authors were particularly interested in PD for caregivers serving infants and toddlers and in training to help caregivers foster children's social and emotional development. In addressing these questions, the authors focused on caregivers and directors working in state-licensed center-based or family child care home providers in Shelby County, but they also include statewide information as applicable to county providers.

Key Findings

Education and Training Requirements Vary by Provider Type and Rating Level

  • Caregivers working for state-licensed early care and education (ECE) providers need minimal formal education levels to enter the workforce, but they also must complete annual in-service training.
  • Minimum required annual training hours are higher for caregivers working for center-based providers than for family child care home providers.
  • Caregivers working for providers participating in the Tennessee Star-Quality Child Care Program, Tennessee's quality rating and improvement system, must complete more annual training hours, depending on the provider's star rating.

Various Professional Development Opportunities Exist, but Results Are as Yet Unproven

  • Ongoing training can help ensure that all caregivers are trained in core ECE skills regardless of formal education. Yet the research evidence is mixed concerning the benefits of different types of professional development (PD) activities available in Shelby County.
  • The predominant form of PD is through noncredit workshops, and the Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance and the Shelby County Child Care Resource and Referral agency are major providers of these activities at no cost to caregivers. However, there is currently little research evidence suggesting that this type of PD is associated with improved classroom quality or children's outcomes.
  • Coaching, mentoring, and formal peer support are not as widely available in Shelby County as workshops, though caregivers expressed interest in them. Individualized coaching is associated with improved classroom quality, and suggestive evidence exists in support of formal peer support.
  • Data constraints limit the ability to fully examine the PD of the ECE workforce.


  • Improve the noncredit workshops and other training offerings.
  • Support the increased availability of coaching, mentoring, and peer-support networks.
  • Reconsider Star-Quality annual training content requirements.
  • Establish workforce and training registries.
  • Evaluate professional development quality and effectiveness.

This research was conducted in RAND Education and RAND Health, divisions of the RAND Corporation.

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