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Critical Examinations of Quality in Early Education and Care

Regulation, Disqualification, and Erasure

by Gaile S. Cannella (Volume editor) Michelle Salazar Pérez (Volume editor) I-Fang Lee (Volume editor)
Textbook VII, 183 Pages
Series: Childhood Studies, Volume 3

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction: Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC): Ratings and Systems Performances of Global Erasure and Governmentality
  • Section One: Acknowledging the Problems (and Forms of Domination) with/in “Quality”
  • Chapter One: “Readiness” as Central to the (Re)production of Quality Discourses in the United States: An Early Childhood Public Policy Analysis
  • Chapter Two: Power and the Framing of Quality Discourses in Early Childhood Education and Care: A Case Study of Arizona’s Proposition 203
  • Chapter Three: Discourses of Governmentality in Early Childhood Care and Education Policy in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Chapter Four: The Determinants of “Quality” in Aotearoa/New Zealand: Māori Perspectives
  • Section Two: Diverse Perspectives and Rethinking Notions of “Quality”
  • Chapter Five: Starting Wrong? The Trouble with a Debate That Just Won’t Go Away
  • Chapter Six: The Dangers of the Neoliberal Imaginary of Quality: The Making of Early Childhood Education and Care as a Service Industry
  • Chapter Seven: Reconfiguring Quality: Experiment/t(h)ing with Quality as Matter in Norwegian Early Childhood Education and Care
  • Chapter Eight: Reconfiguring Quality: Beyond Discourses and Subjectivities to Matter, Bodies and Becomings in Early Childhood Education
  • Chapter Nine: Qualities of Inuit Early Childhood Education in the Era of the Anthropocene
  • Contributors
  • Series index

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Introduction

Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC): Ratings and Systems Performances of Global Erasure and Governmentality

GAILE S. CANNELLA

Quality in early childhood services is a constructed concept, subjective in nature and based on values, beliefs, and interest …

—MOSS & PENCE (1994, p. 172)

I challenge the global distribution of any one single framework of quality. Such a framework might inevitably lead to a world of uniformity, a standardized recipe for the quality of childhood …

—WOODHEAD (1996, p. 17)

The concept and language of quality cannot accommodate issues such as diversity and multiple perspectives, contextual specificity and subjectivity. To do that we must go beyond …

—DAHLBERG, MOSS, AND PENCE (1999, p. 6)

This construct of quality is an all-powerful, masterful technology of normalization … quality is born out of a particular paradigm which Moss and Dahlberg call the ‘progenitor’ paradigm—that of regulatory modernity … The notion that ‘all children should be treated the same’ is code for ‘all children should be Pākehā’ (of European descent) and ‘all children should speak English only’ whilst simultaneously erasing any Māori indigeneity. (Skerett, chapter 4, this volume)

As discussed from a range of perspectives and locations, the notion of quality (and its related neoliberal constructs like accountability, evidence, efficiency, and human capital) continues to invade, co-opt, and travel the globe, especially as related to care, education, and services for those who are young. For over 20 years, ← 1 | 2 → early childhood scholars and especially teachers and caregivers have problematized the construct as subjective, based on unexamined values, universalizing, relative, and dynamic (see, as examples, Moss & Pence, 1994; Munton, Mooney, & Rowland, 1995; Williams, 1994; and Woodhead, 1996). Yet, in 2015, governments, foundations, and international organizations around the globe have embraced the construct as the most recent progressive, enlightened practice that would “save the children.” Quality is not a new problem, but rather a construct/discourse/practice that has proven to be a perfect technology for control and erasure in the age of neoliberal domination.

Regulations, grant awards, and recognitions for research that privilege “quality” abound, especially those that construct quality as universal and measurable. As an example, in the United States, regulations have been imposed under the president’s Early Learning Initiative, Administration for Children and Families (ACF, n.d.) and often go under the name of Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) in each state. One can even find a website with details under ACF that contains a range of QRIS information such as a QRIS Quality Standards (occqrisguide.icfwebservices.com). Many of the states in the US even use stars for a ratings system (e.g., 5 stars being the highest quality and 1 star indicating just “rising star” quality) (First Things First, n.d.). Internationally, organizations like OECD (discussed in chapter 5, this volume) have transitioned from constructions of quality that are acknowledged as subjective and multiple to more narrow, universalist, accountability orientations (OECD 2001, 2006, 2012). Researchers are creating careers by attempting to determine specifics for quality ratings (Shen & Ma, 2013). Early childhood quality (and ratings) websites are all over the internet, often tied to governments, private funding, and “nonprofit” networks of power. Contemporarily, quality functions within the field of early childhood studies as if constructed from a knowledge base and ways of being/performing that are universally applicable to all children. Some who use the word ‘quality’ are genuinely concerned with the lives and increased possibilities for those who are younger; others are constructing their own sites of power. Many are aware of the inappropriateness of the quality construct. In her analysis of 338 peer-reviewed research articles on quality in early childhood education and care over a 30-year period, Fenech (2011) summarizes some of the main concerns:

The co-editors of this book share these concerns about quality and many others. We would ask such questions as: Are we aware of, and do we acknowledge, the sites of power that are being created for small groups of people by using/imposing the construct? Do we really realize who (e.g., particular groups of people locally and around the globe) and what (e.g., languages, diverse knowledges, multiple ways of perceiving/being in the world) are/is being marginalized, ignored, silenced, and even erased? Do we understand the histories, both specifically ECEC and, more generally, cultural, that have influenced the acceptance of such a construct? Do we really understand the harm/damage that is inevitable with such narrowing of perspectives, redeployment of resources, judgmental construction of the ‘other,’ and universalizing of those who are younger? Finally, the use of constructs like QRIS is totally consistent with neoliberal discourse practices that privilege competition, accountability, measurement, and notions like human capital; this contemporary neoliberal condition does not support concern for the common good, democracy, equity, justice, or diversity (unless the support can facilitate new forms of capitalist gains). Ultimately, this is not a positive situation for those who are younger.

The chapters in the book have two goals: (1) to provide the reader with an opportunity to engage with some of the specific problem issues that result from putting forward ‘quality’ as a dominant construct and (2) to generate conversations and locations from diverse knowledges and multiple ways of being that could lead to resistance against quality, the rethinking of quality, and/or going beyond (and outside of) notions of quality. While each chapter has a specific focus, all authors provide both specific information regarding our problematic conceptualizations/practices related to quality and possibilities for functioning outside of dominant notions of quality.

ACKNOWLEDGING THE PROBLEMS (AND FORMS OF DOMINATION) WITH/IN QUALITY

The authors in the first section both inform and remind us of the ways that the notion of quality is contemporarily used to silence and erase diverse voices and to construct technocratic managerial regimes in communities, states, and countries, over particular cultures and groups, and to impose both global and local actions. The first four chapters provide the reader with a feel for broad as well as specific policy practices and the imposition of those practices on those who are younger, their families, their cultures/identities, and their communities in the United States and New Zealand.

In “‘Readiness’ as Central to the (Re)production of Quality Discourses in the United States: An Early Childhood Public Policy Analysis,” Michelle Salazar Pérez and Betsy Cahill, examine the connections between legitimizing notions ← 3 | 4 → of school readiness and early childhood quality initiatives. After overviewing the early childhood policy history and contemporary context, the authors describe the current dominant quality enterprise in the United States and, in particular, New Mexico, Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS), and the federally funded program that has supported such systems, the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC). Finally, through critical examination, Pérez and Cahill demonstrate that the rhetoric of school readiness remains central in perpetuating quality policy discourses within early childhood care and education.

Lisa Miller discusses a specific case study of the discourses of QRIS in “Power and the Framing of Quality Discourses: A Case Study of Arizona’s Proposition 203.” In Arizona, power issues in the current ECEC system, as well as a lack of legislative commitment to funding for early childhood and 0–5 programs, led to the development of a citizen’s initiative voted on and passed during the state elections of 2006. The passage of the initiative resulted in funds for the creation (at the state level) of the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Board. Creating the name and organization First Things First (FTF), the board employed the public logic (or frame) that the healthy development of young children lays the foundation for their future success in school, life, and work. First Things First literally became the home of the Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS), labeled Quality First (QF) in Arizona. Taken from a case study conducted from 2007 to 2013, chapter 2 describes the neoliberal and embedded judgmental quality discourses that have dominated, and continue to represent, the public rhetoric and practices (including star ratings) funded by the Proposition. ← 4 | 5 →

In “Discourses of Governmentality in Early Childhood Care and Education Policy in Aotearoa New Zealand,” Jenny Ritchie focusses on discourses of governmentality in relation to notions of quality early childhood care and education with particular regard to tamariki Māori (Māori children) and their whānau (families). She demonstrates that despite a proliferation of documents by the New Zealand Ministry of Education focused on quality early childhood care and education provision, policies driven by ideologies of neoliberal governmentality have placed early childhood education services in an irresolvable situation. The Māori aspirations, which strongly underpin the New Zealand early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki, remain largely unrealized, and care for infants and toddlers is particularly jeopardized by the current policy regime. Meanwhile, government targets of 98% participation and welfare reforms aimed at ‘reducing long-term welfare dependency,’ which make it compulsory for parents receiving government welfare benefits to enroll 3–5 year-olds in an early childhood education service, are in tension with the inadequate provision in low socio-economic areas. Further, there is a discernible shift in government early childhood education discourse toward preparing children for school and later economic usefulness.

In “The Determinants of ‘Quality’ in Aotearoa/New Zealand: Māori Perspectives,” Mere Skerrett explores the impact of imperialism on indigenous languages and the harmful effects of colonizing education on indigenous children. She critiques the concepts of quality and curriculum with respect to language(s) in early childhood care and education (ECCE) as put forward by the latest Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Reports and their impact on policy. Quality is discussed as an abstract universalism that depoliticizes institutions (and the people in them) through regulation. Depoliticization is anti-democratic and disassociates institutions, in this case ECCE, from the linguistic, political, economic, spiritual and social realms within which those institutions function. Skerrett argues that power relations are masked by OECD Reports on issues such as quality. Using such reports (and the underlying perspectives), government policies then become instrumental to global hegemony, culminating in what has been termed linguafaction, the elimination of languages and the perpetuation of ‘whitestream’ colonial society in Aotearoa.

DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES AND RETHINKING NOTIONS OFQUALITY

Summary

Quality rating systems discourses and practices are increasingly dominating early childhood care and education around the globe. These rating systems are constructed with the assumption that universally appropriate environments can be constructed for all those who are younger. This deterministic, ratings, and measurement oriented perspective is consistent with neoliberal discourses that privilege competition, accountability, consumer materialism, and notions such as human capital; this contemporary neoliberal condition does not support concern for the common good, democracy, equity, justice, or diversity (unless the support can facilitate new forms of capitalist gains). Ultimately, this is not a positive situation for those who are younger. The chapters in this book have two goals: (1) to provide the reader with an opportunity to engage with some of the specific problems that result from putting forward ‘quality’ as a dominant construct, and (2) to generate conversations and locations from diverse knowledges and multiple ways of being that could lead to the rethinking of quality, understandings of quality as a narrowing construct/practice, and/or going beyond (and outside of) notions of quality.

Details

Pages
VII, 183
ISBN (PDF)
9781453915851
ISBN (ePUB)
9781454192534
ISBN (MOBI)
9781454192206
ISBN (Book)
9781433128790
Language
English
Publication date
2016 (February)
Published
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 190 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Gaile S. Cannella (Volume editor) Michelle Salazar Pérez (Volume editor) I-Fang Lee (Volume editor)

Gaile S. Cannella is an independent scholar and series editor for Childhood Studies (formerly Rethinking Childhood) and Post-Anthropocentric Inquiry (Peter Lang). She held the Velma E. Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, University of North Texas and was tenured professor at Arizona State University-Tempe and Texas A&M University-College Station. Published in English, Korean, and Spanish, her books include: Deconstructing Early Childhood Education; Critical Qualitative Research Reader (with Shirley Steinberg), an American Education Studies Association Critics Choice Book Award winner in 2012; and Critical Qualitative Inquiry (2015, with Michelle Salazar Pérez and Penny A. Pasque). Dr. Cannella has published in a range of journals including Qualitative Inquiry and Cultural Studies-Cultural Methodologies. Michelle Salazar Pérez is Assistant Professor of Early Childhood at New Mexico State University. She has been a practitioner in a variety of early childhood settings and coordinated an urban education student teaching program in Houston, Texas. Her research uses marginalized feminist perspectives and critical qualitative methodologies to examine contemporary performances of neoliberalism within public policy. I-Fang Lee is Senior Lecturer of Early Childhood Education and Education Policy Studies at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research interests focus on contemporary issues relating to changes and reforms in early childhood care and education, constructions of Asian childhoods, and global knowledge on appropriate pedagogical practices in the early years. Lee’s recent research projects focus on early childhood care and education reforms concerning issues of equity.

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Title: Critical Examinations of Quality in Early Education and Care