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NECC’s Addresses Shortage of Early Childhood Educators

Submitted by on November 27, 2017 – 8:37 pm

Shown left to right Richard Peyser, MA secretary of education; Carlos Santiago, MA commissioner of higher ed; Winnie Hagan, DHE; Kim Burns, NECC; Jody Carson, NECC; and Carol Landry, The Children’s Place, Phillips Andover.

There’s a shortage of certified early childhood educators in Massachusetts, Northern Essex Community College has a solution, and it’s attracting attention statewide.

On Monday, November 20, the college was invited to present its competency-based education model for early childhood educators at the “Governor’s Convening for Digital Innovation and Lifelong Learning” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The summit brought together business and higher education institutions to announce new partnerships around online learning, and Governor Baker delivered the keynote address.

According to Kim Burns, Northern Essex’s dean of academic innovation and professional development, early childhood educators represent the largest education workforce in the state, but they have the lowest educational attainment.  “There are 70,000 early childhood educators in Massachusetts, but only one-third have a college degree,” said Burns.  “The teachers charged with educating our youngest minds are not all equipped with an academic background in childhood development or the science of early learning.”

Burns presented at the summit, along with Jody Carson, associate professor, Early Childhood Education, Northern Essex; Carol Landry, director, The Children’s Place, Phillips Academy, a Northern Essex partner; and Winnie Hagan, associate commissioner for academic affairs and student success, Department of Higher Education.

Landry, whose school is a practicum site for Northern Essex ECE students, said “During the first five years, children are building 90% of their brain development.  Giving young children well-trained and educated teachers is critical.”

“I am often forced to pass on a candidate because I need certification in the classroom and many candidates do not have credentials,” said Landry. Having better educated and trained professionals in the classrooms increases the quality of care that MA child care centers offer our communities. Quality teachers lead to quality programs which lead to accreditation through the National Association of Education of Young Children.

Earlier this year, Northern Essex received a $180,000 Performance Incentive Fund grant from the Department of Higher Education to create a new way of delivering college courses to current and future early childhood teachers.  This grant was designed to address the shortage of certified early childhood teachers by providing an educational path for students who are in the field and have a natural gift for teaching young children but no degree or have a degree in another field.

In partnership with Middlesex Community College, Northern Essex created four Early Childhood Education courses that can be completed through competency-based learning, which recognizes student’s prior knowledge, allows for acceleration of their learning, and promotes mastery of the content.  Offered online, each of these classes will have four toseven competencies that align with professional standards and must be demonstrated in order to receive credit.  Students will receive ongoing and personalized support from faculty and a learning coach.

The college plans to launch those courses in the fall of 2018 and is currently working with six other community colleges and Cambridge College to create a pathway to a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education delivered in a competency-based format.

“These partnerships represents another opportunity to capitalize on innovation and deliver an affordable education for people across the Commonwealth,” Governor Charlie Baker said. “We appreciate our local employers and higher education institutions creating more online programming to help address the diverse and changing needs of employers and students, including non-traditional learners and young people.”

Northern Essex offers an associate degree in early childhood education which prepares students, for professional careers in Early Childhood Education or for transfer to a four-year college.  The college also offers associate degrees in elementary education and middle/high school teaching.  To learn more, contact enrollment services at 978 556-3700 or