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Training Framework, Welfare Suggestions Adopted

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Anaheim, Calif.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children approved a revised model for early-childhood professional development at its annual conference here this month.

The new "conceptual framework,'' designed to foster greater coherence in the training of early-childhood professionals and lay out a path for career advancement, identifies professional development as a strategy for improving program quality and workers' wages.

It also includes more guidelines on associate's-degree and high-school-vocational programs, revised levels of training reflecting the trend toward "outcome based'' teacher education, and guidelines for rewarding increased training with improved compensation.

Many conferees also urged that programs address prevention of violence against children.

Recognizing that President Clinton's plans to put new limits on welfare benefits could boost demand for child care, the N.A.E.Y.C. board also approved these recommendations:

  • Provide child care that meets acceptable standards for mothers required to work or take part in education and training;
  • Offer resource and referral services to help mothers make informed child-care choices; and
  • Boost child-care aid to meet the demand among welfare clients without sacrificing slots for families not on welfare.

The board also raised caution about proposals to employ welfare mothers as child-care workers. The board urged that no one be forced to go into that field and that mothers who do get ample training. It also questioned whether such work is a viable alternative to welfare, because average salaries "are at poverty level.''

Other items circulated for feedback included a draft revision of the N.A.E.Y.C.'s position statement on "Quality, Compensation, and Affordability in Early-Childhood Programs'' and draft guidelines for teacher education.

Another session sought members' guidance on plans to revise an influential N.A.E.Y.C. statement on what constitutes "developmentally appropriate'' practice in programs for children.

A panel guiding the revision advanced such proposals as placing more emphasis on children with special needs, highlighting "culturally appropriate'' practices, and integrating findings on the role of the teacher from the acclaimed preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy.

The panel also discussed revamping the standards on developmentally appropriate practice to avoid drawing negative comparisons with inappropriate teaching methods. But many participants said that feature has been instrumental in swaying schools to adopt reforms.

As it stands, the document is "an excellent training tool for administrators,'' said one participant.

The conference also featured a training session to help early-childhood advocates plan state hearings in preparation for the reauthorization of the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant in 1995.

The session provided guidance to state teams of N.A.E.Y.C., Head Start, Children's Defense Fund, and other advocacy-group members on how to assess and inform policymakers on the status of early-childhood services. An immediate focus of attention was how to block a measure pending in Congress that would consolidate and trim child-care funding. (See related story, page 11.)

The Child Care Employee Project, an Oakland, Calif., group devoted to improving child-care working conditions, announced here that it is changing its name to the National Center for the Early Childhood Workforce and will move to Washington within a year so it can assume a stronger advocacy role.

Marcy Whitebook, the current executive director, will serve as an adviser based in California, and a new director will be hired.

The N.A.E.Y.C. has joined with an electronic network, the America Tomorrow Leadership Information Service, to disseminate information on early-childhood topics. For information on how to access the service, call (800) 456-8881.--DEBORAH L. COHEN

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