New Early-Childhood Institute To Focus on Training

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To respond to a shortage of teachers with specialized training in early-childhood education and a lack of coordination among existing training systems, the National Association for the Education of Young Children has launched a new National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development.

The goal of the effort is to "work more systematically toward developing a more consistent and better quality professional-development system for early-childhood educators spanning the whole range of children from birth through [age] 8," said Sue Bredekamp, the N.A.E.Y.C.'S director of professional development.

Ms. Bredekamp is heading the new institute, which is being funded with a two-year, $425,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Announcing the institute in the September issue of its journal Young Children, the N.A.E.Y.C. cited research showing that specialized training is a "critical predictor" of high-quality early-childhood programs. "Unless concerted effort is directed toward improving the preparation and stability of the early-childhood workforce, the field will never achieve its goal of ensuring high quality, developmentally appropriate care and education for all children," the association said. A major focus of the effort, the N.A.E.Y.C. stated, is to help unify the "hodgepodge" of existing training paths that are "often not congruent in content or focus."

The group pointed to a shortage of teachers with sufficient preparation to fill vacancies in child-care centers, Head Start programs, public and private preschools, and primary-grade classrooms, "much less to address future needs" as early-childhood programs continue to proliferate.

Few Specialized Certificates

While growing numbers of programs now serve 3-year-olds and more than half of the states serve 4-year-olds in public schools, only half of the states offer specialized early-childhood certification, the group noted.

Only those programs in colleges of education affiliated with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education must conform with N.A.E.Y.C. guidelines, it added. Also, many baccalaureate early childhood-education programs "are really add-ons to elementary-education degrees and define early childhood as kindergarten."

In addition, the group noted, many early-childhood professionals are trained in associate-degree programs that lack consistency and rarely are coordinated with four-year degree institutions.

The N.A.E.Y.C. has developed guidelines for associate-degree programs, but there is no system for enforcing them or recognizing institutions that adopt them.

The staffs of child-care centers and preschools, the group noted, get most of their training through non-credit courses or workshops designed to meet state licensing standards. In-service training, it said, varies widely in quality, lacks comprehensiveness, and tends to be to geared to specific work settings.

To address these issues, the institute's plans include:

  • Developing standards to improve pre-service and in-service training and exploring a review system for training programs and trainers;
  • Working with community leaders to advocate for effective training;
  • Developing and distributing information on training models;
  • Coordinating N.A.E.Y.C.'S professional-development efforts with those of other groups;
  • Advocating for federal and state policies and financial incentives that support an accessible, coordinated early-childhood training system.

Ms. Bredekamp noted that a position statement on early-childhood certification will appear in the November issue of Young Children.

Vol. 11, Issue 09, Page 9

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