How do we systemically make a long-lasting impact so children are ready for kindergarten, the opportunity gap is closed and we reach Oregon’s vision of 40/40/20 by 2025? It is crucial that we start with our youngest children. Current neuroscience teaches us that children’s first five years are optimal for healthy brain development; 90% of the brain develops during that time period. So how do we reach these young children? According to the Child Care and Education in Oregon and Its Counties 2012 report, approximately 56% of children under age 3 and 70% of children ages 3-4 years are in some form of non-parental care (Weber, Bobbie; Finders, Jenn; May 2013). Children thrive and flourish in environments that provide enriching experiences that promote learning, exploring and growing in culturally and linguistically responsive ways with nurturing caregivers. These caregivers are Oregon’s early childhood care and education professionals and they make up the Early Learning Workforce. By investing in higher education opportunities for them, we will strengthen our efforts with far-reaching results.
Research consistently shows that there is a correlation between the level of professional development in child care providers and the quality of the child care program. As more professionals obtain higher education in the field of early childhood education and apply the practices in their early learning programs, more children will receive higher quality care. The more enriching and quality experiences young children have prior to kindergarten, the more likely they will be ready to succeed in kindergarten at entry, which can also result in reading at grade level by 3rd grade, high school completion and career success. Quality early childhood care and education is the first step to close the achievement and opportunity gaps that exist in our state.
Currently, exciting activities are happening to increase higher education opportunities for the Early Learning Workforce. With thanks to the Early Learning Professional Development Consortium grant funded by Oregon Department of Education’s Network of Quality Teaching and Learning, Southern Oregon and Central Oregon have implemented strategies to connect the Early Learning Workforce with college credentials, degrees and certificates. The focus is to provide higher education pathways for childhood care and education professionals though partnerships that include child care resource & referral, community-based organizations serving underrepresented populations, community colleges and universities. These programs are designed to prepare a highly qualified workforce in ways that meet their unique needs. As non-traditional students, child care providers are often working full-time providing child care, making it difficult to attend day classes. College tuition is often not affordable due to the low wages typical for this profession. Additionally, college institutions and systems present challenges that make it difficult to create seamless pathways for these students, including the duplication of trainings and lack of articulation agreements that support transfer of credits between Higher Education Institutions.
The Early Learning Professional Development Consortium grants address these issues and have two primary purposes:
- Expand and scale up partnerships involving community colleges to create early childhood stackable and portable certificates, credentials, and degree programs that prepare more non-traditional, dual-language educators and that support more seamless transitions from high school to degree completion.
- Scale up AA degree programs to be flexible in meeting the needs of the existing early learning workforce and provide a comprehensive array of supports to individuals completing degrees in Early Childhood Education (ECE).
Both programs have applied the Oregon Equity Lens as the foundation of their strategies and have prioritized reaching diverse and underrepresented early childhood care and education professionals through a variety of outreach efforts. In just nine months, Southern Oregon Early Learning Professional Development Program and Central Oregon Partners in Practice have made great progress in reaching their goals and supporting the Early Learning Workforce.
Central Oregon Partners in Practice outcomes include increasing the number of Hispanic/Latino and Native American majors in Early Childhood Education and the number of child care providers in college credit classes. They have worked closely with their partners in recruiting and retaining child care providers in attending classes. Additionally, they gathered baseline numbers on the student’s licensing status and their progress on the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) and Oregon Registry in order to identify gaps and offer relevant trainings. This information also helps to track progress on QRIS status and Oregon Registry steps. Applications in Spanish and English assist in collecting data and connecting students with appropriate scholarships. College classes are offered in a variety of locations and times convenient to child care providers including in Warm Springs, Madras, Prineville, Redmond and Bend on weekends and evenings.
- Counties: Crook, Jefferson, Deschutes; serving 90 Child Care Providers
- Lead Agency: Central Oregon Community College
- Partners: Central Oregon Community College; Oregon State University-Cascades; University of Oregon; Southern Oregon University; Oregon Child Development Center; Head Start; NeighborImpact Child Care Resources; High Desert ESD; Better Together (Cradle to Career Collaborative); WEBCO Early Learning Hub
Central Oregon Partners in Practice Results to Date:
- 25 Scholars*
- 13 white
- 7 Hispanic/Latino
- 2 Native American
- 3 Multi-Racial
- $10,566 in scholarships
- 85 Scholars*
- 42 Hispanic/Latino (38 Spanish Speaking)
- $31,000 in scholarships
“I see how professional growth and professionalism are connected with the quality of my program.”
“This was just the jumpstart I needed to get back into the groove of school. I am now actually looking forward to taking more classes and have my first term back teachers to thank for that. It was scary coming back but you guys made it that much easier. I now have some hope and courage that I will actually be able to succeed in College.”
Southern Oregon Early Learning Professional Development Program works across 7 counties, 4 community colleges, 3 child care resource & referral agencies, several Head Starts and community-based organizations and one university. Their goals include expanding and scaling up partnerships to recruit and train non-traditional, culturally and/or linguistically diverse candidates and complete articulated flexible, stackable and portable credentials, degrees and certificates across colleges. They have established a Learning Community that meets once per month using a web meeting platform and quarterly face-to-face meetings. These collaborative efforts have resulted in articulation across institutions with e-Portfolios, a Spanish CDA cohort in every community college meeting across the regions through IP video and Southern Oregon University workshops offered in each region for college credits.
Southern Oregon Early Learning Professional Development Program
- Counties: Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson,
Josephine, Klamath, Lake; serving 517 Child Care Providers
- Lead Agency: Rogue Community College
- Partners: Rogue Community College, Southwestern Oregon Community College, Klamath Community College, Umpqua Community College, Southern Oregon University, The Job Council Child Care Resource Network, Family Connections of Lane and Douglas Counties, Southwest Oregon CARE Connections, Lake County ESD, Head Starts, Oregon Child Development Coalition, South Central Early Learning Hub, Southern Oregon Early Learning Services Hub
Southern Oregon Results to Date:
- 210 Students
- Over 500 ECE Credits earned
- ECE Classes offered across systems
- Providers moving up the Oregon Registry
- Dual Language Course Options:27 VESL students achieved their ECE Career Pathways Certificate
- 43 students from Medford, Coos Bay, Brookings and Roseburg are enrolled in the Spanish CDA Cohort offered through video; as of January, each has completed 42 clock hours of training
- Southern Oregon University Credit Workshops: 70 Students attended 5 workshops offered in Klamath Falls, Medford, Coos Bay and Roseburg
“Me ha ayudado a comprender el comportamiento del niño y me ha ayudado a crecer como mamá” These classes have helped me understand the behavior of the children better and has helped me to grow as a parent.
“Me han ayudado mucho estas clases, y tengo 11 años cuidando niños.” These classes have been very helpful and after 11 years of caring for children!
“Me gusta tener las dos clases de CDA y QRIS a la vez. Uno apoya al otro para aportar el mejor cuidado posible para los niños bajo mi cuidado.” I love taking my CDA and QRIS classes at the same time. They support each other in being able to provide the best possible care for the children in my care.
Key Components of Success
Both programs have implemented similar strategies that are research-based in effectively supporting the early childhood and education professionals obtain higher education degrees and certificates. Navigator Coaches and Peer Bilingual/Bicultural Navigators have been hired and trained in ways to support child care providers and their specific needs. The Peer Navigators are often child care providers who have or are currently enrolled in college and also working to obtain their degrees. They assist in navigating the college system, appropriate classes, understanding of the Oregon Registry and QRIS and form a cohort to sustain support.
Scholarships are accessed to support affordability and many of the traditional college systems are either changing or are waived for this population of students. On-line, hybrid and face-to-face classes are offered and articulated across the community colleges and universities.
Diversity strategies have proven to be very successful and sustaining in each community. They include the Spanish Child Development Associate cohort, which has supported students across four regions to attend classes with clear goals to obtain their CDA. Bilingual/bicultural Peer Navigators and Connecting Coaches understand the barriers for Spanish speaking child care providers and advocate to resolve the issues. Classes are offered in the languages, locations and times most convenient to these underrepresented students. This also helps in recruiting professionals who represent underserved populations such as Native American, African American and Hispanic/Latino child care providers. An Early Childhood Education Vocational English as Second Language (VESL) is offered and a cohort of 27 students achieved their ECE Career Pathways Certificate.
Awareness about the need for Early Childhood Education among the community partners and within the college systems has been one of the greatest accomplishments for both programs. Southern Oregon and Central Oregon work closely with their Early Learning Hubs and they are able to connect their work directly with the goal for Kindergarten Readiness. As stated by a grantee: “We are finally at a place, regionally, where we can share our resources to support those with a strong commitment to early learning. In this work, even in the nascent stages, we are able to see new students coming forward out of their fear, to take critical steps toward their own academic aspirations. We are starting to see more providers in our classes, which enrich the conversation for those students who do not have the experience in the field. Most meaningful is the connections our students are seeing within their support systems.”
These initiatives are reaching many child care providers and supporting their access to Early Childhood Education credentials, degrees and certificates. Investment in higher education opportunities for our Early Learning Workforce is critical in reaching our overarching goals of all children ready for kindergarten. As we support the childhood care and education professionals and build capacity within the Early Learning Workforce, the resulting high quality Early Learning Programs will positively impact young children in their care for years to come.
Photo Credit to Alfredo Flores, Editor of Caminos Magazine, used with permission