Douglass Discusses Need For Specialized Early Care at Pre-K Forum
UMass Boston’s Anne Douglass was part of a forum last week looking at the progress the City of Boston has been making in its efforts to ensure universal access to high-quality Pre-K experiences. Douglass, an associate professor and executive director of UMass Boston’s Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, made remarks following a presentation from city leaders.
“We think that about 90 percent of four-year olds in the city are accessing Pre-K,” said Turahn Dorsey, chief of education for the City of Boston. “What we need to make sure of is when they walk into that door, whatever door they choose, it is of the highest quality.”
Dorsey said to the city, high-quality means an evidence-based curriculum with a focus on literacy and math as well as supports for students with additional needs, a maximum teacher-child ratio of 2:22 for BPS, and 2:20 for community-based centers, and highly-trained teachers and staff.
“A lot of what quality is about is what we put into and underneath the teacher,” Dorsey said.
Douglass says research shows preschool teachers with bachelor’s degrees that include specialized training in early care and education are better prepared to support young children’s healthy development, learning, and school readiness. UMass Boston launched its Early Education and Care in Inclusive Settings bachelor’s degree in 2009. Douglass says the program has grown from 10 students to nearly 300, half of whom are already working in the early care and education workforce in the City of Boston.
“We need to create higher education opportunities that are accessible to members of the workforce that value and respect the expertise they bring,” Douglass said. “What they really need to be doing and are doing is connecting their practical expertise from all those years in the field with the new science and the knowledge that we now have in early care and education. That’s what really enables them to get the credentials that they need and amplify the impact that they can have in their teaching practice,” Douglass said.
Dorsey says the city’s goal is to not only have highly-trained teachers with early childhood degrees but well-compensated teachers as well. Douglass says low pay is a problem that needs to be addressed.
“Early childhood education, if you look at the data out there on college majors, when you get a job after college with your BA, early education is the lowest-paying career – computer science is the highest. So we have to fix that. What could ... have a greater impact on society and give us a greater return on our investment than early childhood education? We have to put our money where our values are,” Douglass said.
Elizabeth Pauley, senior director of Education to Career for the Boston Foundation, moderated a panel discussion with Douglass and Jocelyn Browne, director of research and preschool expansion grant administration for the Massachusetts Department of Early Education & Care; Kelly Pellagrini, cofounder and co-director of the Charlestown Nursery School; Sharon Scott Chandler, COO and executive vice president of Action for Boston Community Development; and Wayne Ysaguirre, president and CEO of Nurtury.
The Boston Foundation sponsored the forum as part of its Understanding Boston series.
In July, The Boston Foundation gave the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation a $100,000 grant to train and support early educators.