Amid all the talk, pro and con, about charter schools as an education reform strategy for K-12, a new report from the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Studies Program proposes establishing charter colleges to train early educators.
Too often, the paper – “Beyond Bachelor’s: A Case for Charter Colleges of Early Childhood Education” – posits, traditional bachelor’s degree programs do not meet the needs of early educators, who, on average earn $23,870 a year as preschool teachers. States, the authors suggest, should create charter colleges specifically geared to upgrading the skills of early educators.
“The more than 1.3 million Americans—nearly all of them women—who make their livings caring for other people’s children are doing critically important work,” co-author Sara Mead, associate partner with Bellwether Education Partners, says in a news release. “Yet far too many of these workers are under-educated and underpaid. As a nation, we have decided to entrust our young children to other people, but we are not giving those people the training they need or the compensation they deserve.”
Mead and co-author Kevin Carey, policy director at Education Sector, propose “an entirely new approach” to training early educators. “It would not be a single credential at all, but a constellation of valuable, portable, interlocking credentials created by a whole new set of educational actors,” they write. “These new institutions would be built from the ground up to provide exactly what early childhood educators need, when and how they need it. They would be flexible, outcomes-focused, and grounded in the latest research. The students who attend these institutions would learn and earn much more. And the children taught by those students would be better prepared to succeed in education and life.”
Mead and Carey recommend that charter colleges for early education:
- Define expectations and credentials that are linked to skills and workforce needs.
- Identify metrics of teacher knowledge and skills.
- Create and empower authorizers to grant charter colleges credentials and access to public funds.
- Enforce systems of accountability and evaluation of charter colleges’ efficacy.
“States will have the primary responsibility of developing charter colleges of early education, with cooperation from non-profit organizations, philanthropic foundations, and existing academic institutions,” the news release states. “Federal, state, and local policymakers can further support this new model of education by enhancing the research and dissemination of best practices in early education training, effectively utilizing early childhood resources and local workforce development funds, and encouraging interstate collaboration to provide portability of ideas and systems in different labor markets.”