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TO: FROM: DATE: RE:
The Honorable Vincent C. Gray Susie Cambria, MSW March 12, 2009 Issue of concern for UDC and OSSE oversight hearings: Early learning professional educational requirements
As you well know, the skills of adults in early learning environments – child care centers and homes as well as school classrooms – is an important component of quality. Between 1997 and 2007, the early childhood education community in the District rewrote the regulations for child development facilities. Believe me -- they were in desperate need of updating! In 1997, the regs were 25 years old. What we now have is a regulatory framework that puts children at the center of the issue; as such, all components – from safety to group size to adult training requirements – are designed to ensure the best possible and most productive environment for children. By all accounts, one of the most significant improvements in the regulations was making more stringent the educational requirements for all child development facility staff. Research and experience clearly and routinely show that the education levels of staff are correlated to the skills of children. The 1997 regulations (online at http://www.osse.dc.gov/seo/frames.asp?doc=/seo/lib/seo/pdf/29_dcmr_3_cdf_nfrm__04.27.07.pdf, see page 33) require that child development facility staff achieve compliance with educational requirements within five years (2012). Achievement of the requirement is largely reliant on UDC’s Early Childhood Leadership Institute (ECLI). ECLI and ECLI alone has stepped up to enable the city to achieve its public policy goal of ensuring quality early learning experiences. In addition to offering certificate and degree opportunities, ECLI administers the District of Columbia's Professional Development Registry and the Trainer Certification Process. Further, ECLI is a thought leader on the issue of early childhood and quality. No other institution of higher education in the District has made the commitment to early learning. While Southeastern has had a program, the cost is prohibitive and the university’s administration has been less than willing to accommodate increasing numbers of early childhood providers as students. Now, the point is largely moot given the status of Southeastern’s future. Finally, Catholic University offers a BA in education but not an AA, a degree that is acceptable for certain types of staff members in early childhood development programs.
Phone: 301.832.2339 • Email: firstname.lastname@example.org • Web: http://susiecambria.blogspot.com
UDC’s plans to eliminate the education undergraduate major will have the effect of shutting down the early care system. Without a higher education partner, there is no way that providers can meet the regulatory requirements and the city can achieve its public policy goals. Certainly, UDC has a right to make decisions about majors, facilities and the like. That being said, it is unclear from limited media reports and outreach to the early childhood community how well UDC and its new leadership understands the link between the early childhood system and UDC. At a minimum, UDC should be asked to address this issue in a public forum and answer a number of questions including: • Does UDC plan to continue ECLI? In what form? • If UDC plans to discontinue ECLI, how does it plan to transition students to other universities? The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) should be held to account for this issue. While OSSE may not hold any responsibility for the decisions of the UDC board, it is responsible for the early learning system and thus should play an active role in this issue. Today at the oversight hearing, I would suggest you ask a few questions of OSSE. For example, you might ask about OSSE’s plans for credentialing (credentials like the CDA as well as degrees) early learning staffers in light of the UDC decision to eliminate the undergrad education major. You might also ask the progress being made toward meeting the regulation requirements – the number of staff needing certificates and degrees, the time it will take the staff to achieve the credentials, etc. Finally, you might want to ask about OSSE’s efforts to bring additional programs online, such as at American University, Georgetown University and GW. The unintended consequences of the UDC decision will negatively affect children and I would argue that the Council has an obligation to ask tough questions and force resolutions particularly when decisions impact public policy goals of the government. Should you have any questions about this issue, I am more than happy to answer them. You may reach me by email at email@example.com or by phone at (301) 832-2339 (cell).