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Studies Point to Importance of Education for NC's Early Childhood Teachers

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Monday, September 13, 2010   

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Financial incentives provided to Pre-K and Head Start teachers in North Carolina are paying high dividends in the form of quality education for children, with more teachers pursuing advanced degrees across the state. The level of education an early childhood teacher receives affects matters ranging from pupils' vocabulary skills to their self-confidence, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Sue Russell, director of the Child Care WAGE$ Project, says a study from the University of Kansas found children of mothers with Bachelor's degrees have four times as much vocabulary by age three.

"If we know that education of the parent matters, wouldn't the education of the teacher matter, who is with those children 10 hours a day, five days a week?"

The Child Care WAGE$ Project helps provide more educated teachers for young children by helping them pursue additional training and rewarding them when they bring their skills back to the classroom. The financial compensation is a help to preschool teachers, some of them earning as little as $23,000 a year. Smart Start, the North Carolina Office of Early Learning, and the state's Division of Child Development help fund the non-profit project.

Russell says counties that participate in the WAGE$ program have a 12 percent turnover rate, compared to 31 percent in counties that do not.

"By providing extra compensation we are both incentivizing teachers to get more education and providing incentives for them to stay."

Last year more than 90,000 North Carolina children were taught by teachers who are part of the WAGE$ Project.


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