All parents want their young children to be taught and cared for by professionals who are welcoming, kind, and possess an understanding of how children learn and develop. Studies suggest that teachers of young children who possess a combination of formal education and professional training provide higher levels of care than teachers without such education and training.
But there are a number of challenges that early educators face if they want to enroll in education and training programs to become better teachers. These educators often don’t possess enough time or money to enroll full-time in a bachelor’s degree program, for example. With pre-K teachers earning an average wage of only $13.74 per hour, many educators have to work second jobs just to make ends meet.
This lack of time and money to devote to continuing education means that institutions of higher education must be creative in assisting early educators in obtaining higher levels of education and training. Degree programs that only offer classes during the workday or require a substantial financial investment, for example, simply don’t meet the needs of the existing early education workforce.
The following video, produced by New America, tells the story of how Tulsa Community College and the University of Oklahoma at Tulsa, together with the George Kaiser Family Foundation, created a new bachelor's degree program in early childhood to meet the unique needs of early educators. The program is designed to teach developmentally informed practices, be accessible to child care staff members and educators already in the workforce by offering classes at night and on weekends, and provide loan forgiveness to offset program costs.
Libby Ethridge, Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma at Tulsa, explains that, “Children deserve teachers who know what they’re doing, who understand child development, and who are able to figure out a way to meet the standards and yet meet the needs of the children where the children are truly interested and engaged.” This unique program equips teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to be high-quality early educators and does it in a way that meets the unique needs of teachers who often work long hours for low pay.New America’s new interactive guidebook, which makes key takeaways from the National Academy of Medicine’s 2015 report on the early childhood education workforce more digestible and actionable, includes four additional videos produced by New America, which you can find here.