Monday, October 1, 2012

Child care providers have better access to education, more clear career path

Today, DEL and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges announced a project to improve child care providers’ access to continuing education and a clearer path to an early childhood education (ECE) credential.

DEL and the higher education system have been working for several months on building “stackable certificates” that allow early learning professionals to work their way toward a statewide ECE credential, which equals a one-year certificate. We are calling it a statewide credential because all participating colleges will use the same curriculum, course descriptions and course numbers. Three certificates, earned sequentially, will result in the one-year credential.

This fall, there are three participating community colleges: Olympic, Pierce and Yakima Valley. Starting this winter quarter, four more colleges will participate: Highline, Clark, Lower Columbia and Bates Technical. By Fall 2013, all state community and technical colleges will be able to offer this curriculum. That means that any ECE student who studies at a participating college will be able to transfer to another participating college and have their credits and progress toward a certificate or credential seamlessly transfer.

Participating colleges also will offer Early Achievers Opportunity Grants, which are set aside for early learning professionals who work at a child care facility that participates in Early Achievers, Washington’s quality rating and improvement system, and who qualify as a low-income student. The grants help pay for tuition, books and other resources, including tutoring. Students apply for the grants through a participating community college.

We are using funding from the Race to the Top-Early Challenge grant that our state won in December 2011 to pay for the Early Achievers Opportunity Grants because they are directly aligned with the federal government’s goal for this funding: to build a strong, cohesive and consistent professional development system, respond to communities’ unique needs and provide valuable instruction to early learning professionals. In the end, child care professionals, families and children all win in our race to improve the quality of early learning in Washington.

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