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Published by CounciLINK on July 26, 2018
Like many early childhood educators, Elizabeth Hall began a home-based child-care center to help support her family. It quickly turned into a career pathway after Hall learned about the Child Development Associate (CDA®) credential.
“I wanted to learn more,” says the Davison, Mich., provider, and mother of five. The CDA hugely improves the quality for people who want to learn and change,” says Hall.
Hall is part of a cohort of home-based providers earning her CDA through an innovative program offered by the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children (MIAEYC) in partnership with Mott Community College in nearby Flint.
Since 2001, MIAEYC has been part of the national T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood initiative, which supports early educators in earning college credit that leads toward a CDA or a degree — and a successful career in the early childhood education field.
With funding from the Michigan Department of Education, students can have as much as 80 percent of their tuition, fees, and books covered by a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship. They also receive support, such as paid time away from work to attend classes and financial incentives for completing credit hours. MIAEYC works with 26 community colleges, all of which provide courses that meet the CDA training requirements and can serve as a good head start toward an associate degree.
Even with all that assistance, MIAEYC leaders recognized that many family child-care providers opted for noncredit-bearing training programs to complete their CDA requirements. So, they decided to take a closer look at what barriers might be preventing the home-based providers from enrolling in community college programs, explains Kelsey Laird, the director of T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Michigan.
They learned that many providers chose non-credit training programs because they felt intimidated by the process of enrolling in college. “They were uncomfortable with the idea of traveling to a college campus, or even participating in an online course with students they believed to be much younger, and in some cases, more competent at learning the material,” Laird says. “We decided we needed a different approach for these providers.”
Because family childcare providers sometimes start their workdays before dawn — and keep working until the dinner hour — it’s not realistic for many of them to attend community college classes, Hall says. Even going to the campus for an orientation means having to close the center for a day, she adds.
Making ECE learning ‘comfortable and relatable
The feedback MIAEYC received led them to look for ways to bring the college-level training to the providers. They first partnered with Bay de Noc Community College, located in Escanaba, Mich., which opened off-campus sections of CDA training courses and sent faculty members to teach the courses. The Upper Peninsula Resource Center for Great Start to Quality, the state’s resource and referral agency, helped MIAEYC identify home-based providers to make up the first cohort. Ten of them completed the off-site training and several continued working toward a two-year degree and already have 12 credit hours.
“That is what we had hoped to see and were thrilled with the encouragement of the providers as they excelled in their work,” Laird says. “The feedback we received was that learning was comfortable and relatable in this setting.”
Then they opened the second cohort in partnership with Mott Community College, and now leaders are working with Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City to organize a third.
“I’ve loved every minute of it,” Hall says. “I feel like it fills a need because it allows daycare providers to get a college education and to do it in a time frame that works.”
Her CDA courses also helped her connect the dots between the competency standards, the High Scope curriculum she chose for her center and the Great Start to Quality licensing regulations.
“The CDA program gives you the reason why you are asked to do all the thing Great Start to Quality asks and why the curriculum is the way that it is,” she says. “You start learning, and it’s like a lightbulb turns on.”
Because a large proportion of Michigan’s children attend family child care programs, Laird sees this innovative solution as a significant way to improve the quality of early learning. Because many states face similar challenges with child-care in rural areas, MIAEYC has created a model that can serve as an example to other states.
“We want to ensure that all caregivers, regardless of setting, have access to and participate in high-quality training opportunities,” Laird says, “and these cohorts are a good way to reach those that may not have otherwise sought a credential or degree at all.”
A prepared and capable workforce
MIAEYC’s support for CDA candidates extends beyond just making training more accessible. In July 2017, the association hosted its first CDA Resource Day at its Lansing office. The event was an effort to address a gap in some of the training opportunities available in the state. Specifically, Laird notes, some programs have not included thorough explanations of the credentialing process or the portfolio process, in which candidates compile evidence of how they’ve met the competencies. This omission leaves candidates unsure about the final details of completing their CDA.
During the one-day training, providers attended sessions in which they learned how to prepare their portfolios and write an effective competency standard. They were also able to take a mock CDA exam, go through a simulated verification visit and meet with a professional development specialist to review their training hours. Participants who needed competency standards workbooks and portfolio materials also received them.
“The feedback we received from participants was that they arrived very nervous about the whole CDA process,” Laird says, “and left feeling very prepared and capable.”
Now MIAEYC is working with a training organization in Dearborn to offer another resource day this summer.
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