The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation at UMass Boston (the Early Ed Leadership Institute) announces today that it has been awarded $2 million by the City of Boston to increase the number of credentialed early childhood educators working in the city. Funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, the three-year Growing the Workforce Grant is intended to mitigate the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the early childhood workforce.
The grant will support the creation of a new Early Childhood Fellowship program at UMass Boston for early educators seeking to earn a bachelor’s degree. The Fellowship will create a pathway to higher education by directly addressing and mitigating the myriad barriers faced by early educators pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
“We have long worked with the city of Boston on early educator leadership development, quality improvement, and program evaluation, and we are thrilled to expand that partnership with this workforce development grant,” said Anne Douglass, PhD, founder and executive director of the Early Ed Leadership Institute and a professor of early education at UMass Boston. “The need for workforce development is not a new concern for early education, but the pandemic has resulted in crisis-level shortages of staff at programs throughout the city. This grant will create a pipeline of trained educators and lead teachers to grow the early childhood education workforce in Boston.”
“This grant will go a long way towards increasing the professionalization of early educators and improving the lives of children and their families,” said Tara L. Parker, PhD, Interim Dean, College of Education and Human Development at UMass Boston. “It will have multigenerational, positive impact on economic mobility and we in the College of Education and Human Development are proud to be a part of creating these transformative educational opportunities.”
UMass Boston’s Bachelor of Arts program in early education serves approximately 300 students overall and graduates approximately 70 each year. Nearly half of all enrolled students are experienced educators seeking to upskill as teachers and leaders in the field while the rest are new to the profession. Regardless of where they are when they begin the program, graduates are prepared to immediately contribute and lead in diverse settings including family child care, center-based, Head Start, and PreK programs. They have a working knowledge of equity and social-justice practices, and an understanding of typical and atypical child growth and learning. They are skilled in assessment, curriculum development and implementation, family support, home- and center-based program development and implementation. They are also proficient in leadership, ethics, and professionalism.
“All of the students in our early education BA program receive intensive training in entrepreneurial leadership through our Leading for Change curriculum where they learn to lead for change and quality improvement in their practice, program, or in the field,” said Lynne Mendes, Director of Leadership Development at the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation. “In this way, experienced teachers who are already working in the field complete our program equipped to mentor new educators and share knowledge with their colleagues that lead to program quality improvement.”
Since 2009, when the early education BA program was created, it has been intentionally structured to be accessible to early educators already working in the field as well as students who are new to the profession. Courses are offered during the day, at night, and online, making it accessible to people who have historically faced barriers to higher education such as immigrants and first-generation students. As a result, UMass Boston’s early education BA program has the most racially and linguistically diverse student body of any institution of higher education in Massachusetts and two-thirds of UMass Boston’s early education graduates are BIPOC women.
“One of the reasons why we are so successful is because we understand that representation matters. Our racially diverse and bilingual team has years of experience working as early educators ourselves,” said Deb Johnston-Malden, M.S., Coordinator of the Metro Boston Professional Development Center at the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation who will also direct the new Early Childhood Fellowship program. “We understand how difficult it can be to take classes and pursue a degree while you still need to work. So programmatic supports, such as dedicated academic and writing tutors, and relational supports, such as mentor and cohort connections are built into the program.”
The Early Childhood Fellowship will cover the costs of tuition and fees, books, and a laptop or tablet computer. Fellows will be paid for work completed during their required field placements, and they will also receive a stipend each semester to pay for expenses incurred to attend school, such as transportation and child care. In return, Fellows will sign a memorandum of understanding committing to work as an early educator in the city of Boston for at least three years after earning their degree.
Recruitment of grant program participants will begin in early 2023 with a focus on students who already hold an associate’s degree or have completed at least 60 undergraduate credits and can complete their BA within three years.