Volume 12, Issue 1 p. 3-9

Measuring Early Care and Education Quality

Margaret Burchinal

Corresponding Author

Margaret Burchinal

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Margaret Burchinal, FPG Children Development Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB 8185, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8185; e-mail: [email protected].Search for more papers by this author
First published: 09 October 2017
Citations: 168
Margaret Burchinal, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Some of the work reported in this article was conducted with funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (U.S.A.), Administration for Children and Families (U.S.A), Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation: Contract Number HHSP23320095642WC, awarded to Mathematica Policy Research and partners Child Trends and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Institute for Education Sciences, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health (U.S.A) under Award Number P01HD065704. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not represent the official views of these funders. Thanks to Sarah Wackerhagen for her assistance preparing the manuscript.


High-quality early care and education (ECE) programs are thought to increase opportunities for all children to succeed in school, but recent findings call into question whether these programs affect children as anticipated. In this article, I examine research relating the quality of ECE to children's outcomes, finding somewhat inconsistent and modest associations with widely used measures of process and structural quality, and more consistent and stronger associations with other dimensions of ECE such as curricula and type of ECE program. I discuss why the associations between ECE quality and outcomes are so modest, including limited children's outcomes, psychometric issues with quality measures, and a need to revise and expand measures of ECE quality. The evidence indicates that we need to focus on the content of instruction and teaching practices, as well as the extent to which teachers actively scaffold learning opportunities. We also need to continue to focus on the quality of interactions between teachers and children, and on children's access to age-appropriate activities.