This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

June 29, 1999

Where are the children?

185 days until January 1, 2000

Some recent humor observed that today a wife can hire a woman to do her housework so she can volunteer at the Day Care Center where the cleaning woman leaves her child.

This interesting observation and commentary reminded us of two trends we see coming soon: the development of more childcare facilities and changes in our schools. The labor shortage is drawing more parents into the workforce--both parents. Grandparents who watched the children in a previous era are also working. The full-employment environment also means there are fewer volunteers to help out at day care facilities; these services have shifted from community-based cooperatives to commercial operations.

Pre-schoolers need care and attention. Childcare facilities have been seen as group babysitting centers. Now the tendency is to offer more than just safe play environments. To add value, childcare facilities are beginning to offer increased learning opportunities. A generation of parents raised on Sesame Street is demanding that their children learn and grow, not just sit and wait for mommy or daddy to pick them up. Already we're seeing greater emphasis on education, including the introduction of computers and computer-based early childhood learning games.

Who will staff these childcare centers as they evolve into learning centers? To compete, operators will differentiate themselves by offering more highly qualified personnel--workers with college degrees in education. This significant possibility opens another dilemma, since we already have a shortage of teachers. Solution: a two-year accelerated community college program to train childcare para-educators. Problem: the need will manifest itself considerably faster than our educational system can respond.

As children get older and move from childcare to the public school environment, the problem continues. Their "care" day finishes in mid-afternoon. Their parents are still working. Now what? We forecast that charter schools, then eventually public schools, will extend school days to coincide with the 9-5 workday. Class time will increase, as will the breaks between classes and lunch hour time. Students will have more time to learn in a less-stressed environment.

Administrators in a more competitive school-of-choice market will respond to changing needs of their customers.

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