Methods: The current study employs data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study- Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) to examine the linear and nonlinear relations between ECERS-R and children's outcomes in a nationally representative dataset. Additionally, we examine the extent to which the relation is stronger for children with sociodemographic risk. We calculate children's cumulative sociodemographic risk by summing a subset of risk items (e.g., low SES, large household size, and receiving food stamps) given the recognition that multiple risk factors tend to cluster within individuals. In order to account for non-random selection into child care, we use the rich longitudinal information in the ECLS-B dataset to control for a multitude of children's individual and family characteristics from infancy to preschool.
Results: Findings from OLS regressions indicate few linear relations between ECERS-R and child outcomes. We find that higher quality on the ECERS-R benefits reading outcomes for children with sociodemographic risk. Findings are corroborated in nonlinear models, where children with sociodemographic risk significantly benefit from medium and high quality classrooms compared to low quality classrooms. Effect sizes are generally modest (range 0.03-0.07) and there is no evidence for interactions between risk and classroom quality for math, social or language skills.
Implications: Our findings suggest that the ECERS-R may not assess the components of quality that matter most for children. Although we do find benefits of classroom quality for children with sociodemographic risk in reading skills, the lack of consistency across other outcomes suggest that there may be other more predictive components of the classroom quality. Future work should continue to examine the most effective way to assess and improve quality, particularly for the neediest children.