November 9, 2005
WELLESLEY–According to a newly released research brief, preparing Massachusetts’ early education and care workforce to meet higher standards will require greater capacity in Massachusetts’ institutions of higher education, as well as expanded coordination with the Department of Early Education and Care of the alignment of: degree requirements to core competencies, compensation and reimbursement of the workforce, and greater access to institutions of higher education.
Preparing the Early Education and Care Workforce: The Capacity of Massachusetts’ Institutions of Higher Education, (authored by: Nancy L. Marshall, Julie Dennehy, Elizabeth Starr, and Wendy Wagner Robeson; Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College) is the fourth in a series of reports on the early education and care workforce. The researchers offer several recommendations for institutions of higher education (IHE) and the Commonwealth’s Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to consider to adequately prepare a qualified workforce that will ensure that all children enter school ready to learn, and that children’s out-of-school-time is spent in activities that support their continuing learning and growth.
According to the report, given current IHE enrollments, it would take a minimum of seven years for one teacher per classroom in centers, Head Starts, and public preschools to graduate with an associate’s degree in early education and care (ECE), and a minimum of 19 years for one teacher per classroom to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in ECE. It would take an additional 11 years for every family child care provider to graduate with an associate’s degree in ECE, and an additional 24 years for every family child care provider to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in ECE. Additionally, including infant and toddler providers and school-age providers in the professional development system presents further challenges – there are fewer programs that focus specifically on preparing the infant/toddler workforce or the out-of-school-time workforce, and the current capacity is not sufficient to prepare the current workforce.
The researchers propose that EEC establish a timetable for implementation of higher workforce standards consistent with IHE capacity and that the Board of Higher Education expand articulation agreements among public and private IHEs and community-based training programs.
Efforts to expand the capacity of institutions of higher education and raise the educational standards for the early education and care workforce must be part of a comprehensive professional development system, including core competencies, a career lattice, increased recognition and rewards for professional development and improved access to education and training.
Core competencies – the knowledge and skills needed to provide quality early education and care – form the basis of a career lattice, and the report recommends that IHEs align program requirements with the core competencies. The current required coursework in both ECE and out-of-school (OST) programs in Massachusetts IHEs reflects consensus on several core competencies. However, only one-quarter or fewer of IHE ECE programs and one-third or fewer of IHE OST programs currently require courses in several other key core competencies.
A career lattice allows for multiple points of entry into the professional development system, opportunities to progress from entry level to advanced professional levels, and opportunities to move within the field and across settings, programs and age groups – centers, public schools, family child care, school-age programs.
In the report, the researchers recommend that systemic planning of a comprehensive professional development system – coordinating changes in licensing regulations with increased capacity of IHEs – and improved compensation and working conditions will help to recruit and maintain qualified early education and care professionals. A database that documents the professional development of the workforce could help to facilitate ongoing assessment of the professional development needs of the workforce.
The researchers further propose that the state ensure entry to the professional development system by providing adequate funding for students, addressing issues related to practicum for currently-employed students, and providing adequate academic supports to these diverse, adult learners.
This brief is part of the Massachusetts Early Care and Education Study, a group of inter-related research projects at WCW with a common interest in understanding the state of early care and education in Massachusetts today. Funding for this research brief was provided by the National Institute for Early Education Research, with additional funding from Strategies for Children, the A.L. Mailman Family Foundation, United Way of Massachusetts Bay, and The Boston Foundation. To view the report in its entirety, as well as other related Massachusetts briefs, click here.