Now You Know

Monday, December 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:32 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

What was learned:

About 25 percent of Missouri children entering kindergarten don’t have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. Research shows that the first five years of a child’s life affect his or her development and success in school, said Kathy Thornburg, director of the MU Center for Family Policy and Research.

What’s being done:

Researchers at the center recommend that early childhood educators be properly trained and compensated to reduce teacher turnover. Children also need stability to prepare for school.

The center developed a program to provide incentives to early childhood teachers and directors who stay in the field. The center also proposed policy recommendations to the Missouri legislature to increase support of early childhood education by providing access to health and dental insurance, retirement benefits and increasing funding for training and technical assistance.

Why it matters:

Research shows pay and benefits are two factors contributing to higher teacher turnover rates. On average, kindergarten teachers with at least a four-year degree earn $9 per hour more than teachers of infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

More than 40 percent of early childhood educators work without health insurance and about 60 percent work without retirement benefits. The annual turnover rate of early childhood teachers in Missouri is 23 percent.

“Consistent teacher-child relationships play an important role in supporting young children’s well-being and development, including their readiness for school,” Thornburg said in a press release. “Measures must be taken to reduce teacher turnover.”

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