How Do Caregivers Select Preschools? A Study of Children With and Without Disabilities
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Little is known about how parents and other caregivers conceptualize preschool quality, or what factors they prioritize when selecting a preschool. Caregivers of children with disabilities have the additional challenge of finding a preschool that can address their children’s special needs.
We explored the factors caregivers valued when selecting a preschool for their children, how these factors categorized into structural, process, and familial quality, and how caregiver characteristics related to preschool selection factors. We also compared caregivers’ preschool selection factors with the observed quality of their children’s preschool classroom.
In this study, 407 caregivers with children in 54 early childhood special education classrooms completed surveys regarding how they selected their children’s preschool. Classroom quality was assessed for each classroom, and compared to caregivers’ preschool selection factors.
Findings showed that caregivers prioritized interpersonal teacher characteristics and safety when selecting preschools. Caregivers’ felt that process elements of quality were more important than structural or familial elements of quality. Caregivers whose child had a disability were more likely to prioritize structural elements of quality than caregivers whose child did not have a disability. No relationship was found between caregivers’ preschool selection factors and the quality of the classrooms in which their children were enrolled.
These findings provide insight for those wishing to make preschool programs more amenable to the needs of caregivers, particularly those of children with disabilities. Understanding caregivers’ preschool selection factors also deepens the theoretical understanding of preschool quality.
KeywordsPreschool selection factors Preschool quality Parents Caregivers Structural quality Process quality Familial quality
Funding for the larger research project through which the present study is possible was provided by the U.S. Department of Education, Grant R324A080037. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the US Department of Education. The authors wish to thank the teachers, families, and researchers involved this and the larger study.
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