To B.A., or not to B.A.: The Conversation Continues

How loaded can a question get?  Last week’s post drew readers like moths to a flame, striking a deep chord in a community that, at least from my admittedly quick and unscientific survey, remains mighty conflicted about credentialing.

Wrote one colleague (“Ghost Mentor in the Sky,” as she calls herself ): “I, too, cannot believe it is still an issue to debate. ..A senior staff member in the Head Start Bureau once commented to me that money spent on ‘training’ of various kinds could have paid for B.A.s for most of the Head Start teachers.  I’ve never been able to understand why many …don’t seem to understand that raising the aspirations of early childhood teachers also raises the aspirations of children.”

Another colleague, who acknowledged the touchiness of the subject as well as the “reasonableness” of the case linking professionalism to a B.A., reminded me about the “serious tradeoffs of cost and availability of staff,” as well as the “abundant evidence from K-12 that a BA and teaching credential does not assure good quality of teaching.” With the focus in the rest of the education community moving away from paper credentials to observed quality, this veteran policy researcher “would hate to see ECE left behind.”

Meanwhile, a of ECE professionals—ranging from a child care provider sans B.A., to a higher ed faculty member with a doctorate, to an early childhood educator from Ontario, Canada—provides a Rorschach test for the field.  Here, all the tensions collide in a fascinating mix, the landscape of professional development come to life:

  • Access to education: “I do child care in my home, I only have 12 units in child development and it is expensive and hard to get a degree with working 11 hours a day and two children of my own to take care of.  I would love to continue my education but I can’t at the moment.”
  • Inadequacy of training: “Our higher education system has failed in providing adequate training programs.  The programs at the CDA, associate’s, and bachelor’s level may provide basic knowledge, but they are not rigorous…There is very little practical application in the coursework, with mentoring and follow-up.”
  • Variation in qualifications: “As a hiring manager, I would not rule out a teacher candidate who did not have a bachelor’s degree…Until we change our attitudes about the importance of the early childhood teacher and match that with better salary and working conditions, finding this teacher will pose a challenge for many organizations.”
  • Models of professional development: “I think practices like reflective supervision and mentoring are incredibly valuable—perhaps even more so than formal education because they help us to see what we bring to our relationships with young children and support us in our day-to-day interactions with children.”
  • Credibility, professionalism, and leadership: “If the early care and education community wants to be accepted as knowledgeable, professional, and experts in the field, and have a livable, competitive wage scale, then a minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required.”

As you already know, that last point, about credibility, professionalism, and leadership, pretty much sums up my take on the B.A. question, which, I believe, should be laid to rest.  Yet I suspect that the ECE field is not done with this debate—one, alas, that has a long history.  Just recently, I dipped into the January 2011 issue of , and read an article about the history of the policy development of universal kindergarten in Austin, Texas in the early 20th century, where, I learned, the question of certification for K teachers and the cost of quality were burning issues.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of the saga.

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