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The purpose of this web site is to keep you current on the progress of the following project and to give colleagues within the community college system access to tools and data that are being developed. You can connect to each workgroup on this project by clicking on the keywords above.
How Oregon’s community colleges can help
educate working child care providers
Early childhood professionals, mostly representing community colleges, came together on February 18, 2005 (at the Oregon Association for the Education of Young Children’s Grand Articulation Summit [GAS] in Eugene) to develop a plan for providers who have trouble accessing early childhood education at a local community college. Major issues involve linking the informal training system (primarily the Oregon Registry) with college credit classes and finding available classes close to home.
The proposed project addresses these issues. It creates a “virtual program” that is capable of:
awarding college credit for the achievement of different steps on the Oregon Registry that can be taken to any community college,
meeting the need for classes offered at nontraditional times, most likely via distance delivery methods, and
allowing program completion for providers who can not access a local community college.
The “virtual program” will not take the place of existing early childhood education programs. It will offer providers who currently cannot attend a community college the opportunity to complete certificates and degrees. It is likely that this program will look different from any existing community college early childhood education program.
Previous attempts to work on articulation questions among community colleges have bogged down when starting with “classes”, whether looking for matches in course numbering, title or content. The proposed project will look at knowledge, skill, and behavioral outcomes for students in areas defined as “core” by the community colleges, the Oregon Registry, and early childhood professional organizations.
Twenty individuals who attended the OAEYC Grand Articulation Summit volunteered to work on this program before the meeting ended. They represented five community colleges: Lane, LBCC, PCC, Rogue, and SWOCC. Community colleges that were not able to attend the GAS have been invited to participate and are participating in the project. Currently (1/2006), thirty-one individuals from all thirteen community college with ECE programs are working on the project.
Approximately 14,420 adults in Oregon work in the child care industry. The majority of these providers work with children without training in the field, formal or informal, despite the large and growing body of research that links training in early childhood education with positive child outcomes, particularly in the areas of mental health and readiness to learn.
The community college response has been to offer credit classes in programs designed to prepare students to become teachers of young children (formal training). Colleges offer two year degrees (transfer and professional technical) and certificates that recognize programs that vary in length up to one year. These programs are popular on most campuses; but, they have not reached adults currently working in the child care industry.
Many agencies and groups, including some community colleges, have tried to address the training needs of employed child care providers. Countless hours have been invested in developing quality training options for providers and into acknowledging this training, most notably with the awarding of “Steps” on the Oregon Registry. These efforts are proving successful and providers are now completing training in growing numbers. Most are engaged in the informal system. Tackling college credit classes is more daunting.
Informal training is a terrific way to introduce providers to early childhood education and to give them basic content needed to work with children; and, it falls short of providing the depth of training necessary for children to reach their potential. Studies show correlations between years of college education and increased positive outcomes for children. The combination of general education and early childhood education produces the strongest results. We need to shift from encouraging providers to attend college to developing intentional strategies for enrollment in credit classes and programs.
Some child care providers have started taking college classes. One group is Head Start /Oregon Pre-kindergarten (OPK) teachers and employees. The second are providers participating in CARES projects (Compensation and Retention Equals Stability).
In the 1990’s, a federal mandate required that at least 50% of teachers in Head Start programs have a minimum of associate degrees by 2003. Oregon’s 31 programs hurried to comply, with most approaching community colleges for assistance. Currently, 72% of Oregon Head Start/OPK teachers meet this requirement (424 of 589 teachers). This sounds great, until you look at the whole picture. Eight programs have 100% of teachers with degrees; two have 0%. Sixteen other programs are in compliance with the federal law, having 50% or more teachers with degrees, while five others are not. This discrepancy among programs in compliance is most typically due to access to classes and monetary support for participation.
There are unique training issues in the migrant and seasonal Head Start programs. These serve children from birth through age five, run 2-12 months, and change sites through the seasons. Forty-five percent of the children speak only Spanish. Teachers must complete 15 credits per year. Completing an associate’s degree can take 10 years.
CARES (Compensation and Retention Equals Stability) projects:
CARES is a workforce professional development program for child care providers, successfully operating in seven Oregon counties. This project makes a lot of things possible: money to cover tuition and texts, monetary rewards for completers, tutors for classes, new classes designed for working providers, and classes designed to assist providers with career planning and Oregon Registry application. Because of CARES, we are seeing working providers complete college classes for the first time. CARES participants are also staying in the field (92-100% continue employment in child care, as compared to a state retention average of 66%).
Four of the seven CARES projects are associated with community college early childhood education programs. Here’s how they are doing:
At Blue Mountain Community College, 15 providers have taken 28 credit classes. Nine have taken more than one class.
At Linn Benton Community College, 32 providers have taken 46 credit classes. Eighteen have taken more than one class.
At RogueCommunity College, 40 providers have taken 150 credit classes (41classes on line). Twenty-seven have taken more than one class. Rogue has nine early childhood classes on line and several offered as three-weekend intensives.
At Southwestern Oregon Community College, 6 providers have taken 18 credit classes (14 on line). All six have taken more than one class. SWOCC has their entire early childhood education program on line (1 year certificate, AA, AAS) and they are creating a shorter, 30-credit entry level certificate. They are also offering some classes for one-credit, using ED 199.
Thanks to the Head Start training and CARES initiatives, we are starting to understand how to help working child care providers overcome the barriers to attending college. We won’t always have Head Start mandates and CARES funds, but we can address some of the barriers.
E Mail Merrilee Haas- Project Facilitator