Four states have received grants from the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) to study and improve early-childhood education workforce conditions.
Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, and New York each received $14,000 grants through a competitive process. The money will be awarded over two years through a grant from the Foundation for Childhood Development.
The president and CEO of NASBE, Kristen Amundson, said early-childhood teachers are often paid less than K-12 teachers and have a hard time getting professional development, and these grants should help state boards figure out how to improve conditions for these teachers.
Through these awards, the grant winners will be encouraged to come up with strategies that can be replicated in other states.
“The hope is simply to let them share some successes and learn from each other,” said Amundson.
Plans for the Grant Money
The Iowa State Board of Education plans to use the money to “define early-learning standards for every K-3 classroom” and to produce professional development that is aligned to those standards to ensure teachers are competent and feel supported.
Michigan’s state board plans to “develop a framework to strengthen the state’s early-childhood education workforce,” which will promote alignment between early childhood and the elementary grades.
Nebraska’s state board intends to use the money for additional training for early-childhood teachers, principals, and other administrators.
The New York State Board of Regents has set out to develop a “unified, competency-based early-educator preparation program.”
A Renewed Interest in Early Learning
These grants represent a bit of a resurgence in interest in early-childhood education for NASBE.
“In the early 90s, NASBE was really a leader in promoting early-childhood education,” said Amundson, who added that somewhere along the line there was a change in focus.
But, she said, when she took over the job less than four years ago, board members let her know they considered it to be important.
“State boards are the most diverse group you could ever imagine,” said Amundson. “They are all over the political spectrum, and they have a wide range of beliefs. But one of the things that unites 99.9 percent of them is the understanding and belief in the huge importance that early learning plays toward helping students be successful.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.