Last year, in collaboration with the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), IDEA piloted the CDA program, but classes were only held every other week during the school day and once a month on Saturday. Now CDA is a full-fledged elective that enables participants to earn their credential and credit, after 120 hours over two years in the classroom, plus a 480-hour practicum, which is time spent actually working with children in an early childhood education program. Throughout the course, scholars assemble a portfolio that demonstrates everything they’ve learned about early childhood education. At the end of their course, a representative from the CDA Council evaluates the portfolios, observes scholars in the classroom working with children, administers a final exam, and issues the CDA credential.
Once they have passed the exam they will receive their credential at the same time as high school graduation. Individuals are eligible to work as a teaching assistant for a licensed child care provider in DC as well as many other states. CDA certification can also be applied toward college credits if individuals wish to pursue their associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a related field. For example, Trinity University Washington gives its incoming students nine credits for their CDA credentials.
Sarah Weston, supervisory education program specialist for OSSE, is currently managing the CDA course with 30 IDEA scholars. The class meets during the elective period. Scholars will soon begin hands-on teaching at several local child care programs. Scholars who participated in the program last year, even thought it was not yet a credit course, will still receive practicum credit for hours they spent working with children. Hours spent in child care centers will also count toward scholars’ community service requirements for graduation.
As part of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s initiative to increase the number of highly qualified child care workers in the city, OSSE helps prospective teachers find opportunities to continue their education while working in the field. For example, through the National Black Child Development Institute, students who have earned their CDA and who work at least 25 hours per week at a child care center are eligible to pursue an education degree and receive scholarship funding of up to 90% of their tuition. Some child care centers will also subsidize tuition for their employees. Many programs offer child care and transportation stipends for teaching assistants who are pursuing further education.
Child Development Program Helps Scholars Prepare for Careers and Life
Before the students in Michelle Marbury’s Child Development Associate (CDA) class leave for Thanksgiving break, they discussed how they might send little ones off for the holiday, if they were working in a preschool or Infant and toddler early learning setting. “We talked about how they might need to be sensitive in what they say, knowing not every kid is with their parents for Thanksgiving, or that every family celebrates Thanksgiving,” explained Ms. Marbury. Especially working and living in a diverse community, early childhood educators shouldn’t make assumptions about family composition or cultural traditions. Ms. Marbury herself, who is Afro Latina and from Panama, learned about Thanksgiving traditions when she was growing up only because her mother worked with the US military in the Panama Canal Zone.
Discussions like these are one small part of a broad curriculum that students follow as they participate in 120 hours of classroom training and 480 hours of hands-on experience working with young children. Last summer, through the Summer Youth Employment Program, IDEA placed CDA scholars at Educare DC, a local child development center that enrolls children from ages 6 weeks to five years old. Scholars worked for six, seven, or eight weeks and were observed throughout the summer by Ms. Marbury and OSSE’s Professional Development Coordinator Nigel Henley, who oversees the First Step CDA program. Students may also put in extra hours on-site during winter or spring break.
“I love children, especially infants,” said senior Kaiya Watkins, who had spent time babysitting for her cousins before she enrolled in the CDA program. “When I got placed in the day care, I realized you really have to learn patience. You have to figure out what the babies want.” Kaiya is considering early childhood education or social work as career options.
Senior Deja Wilson especially enjoys working with three- to five-year-olds because, “they can communicate and tell me what they want, instead of just crying. I can just be a kid with them,” she said. Through the CDA coursework, Deja has learned how to better respond to and manage behaviors. “Some kids get mad over really small stuff, but I talk to them in a calm voice, pull them to the side, and tell them what they can do next time,” she explained. Deja hopes to become a teaching assistant.
The class meets once a week during advisory period at IDEA and Saturday mornings. This is the second year the two-year-program has been offered at IDEA; the first cohort of students will graduate with their credential in May. By the time they graduate, students have learned about many facets of early childhood development, including general health practices, understanding and managing behavior, and cognitive development, as well as aspects of working in early childhood education, including creating a safe and age-appropriate learning environment, program management, and professionalism. To earn their CDA credential, students must create a professional portfolio comprised of more than 50 necessary resources for working in an early childhood setting, such as menus, CPR/first aid certificates and appropriate procedures, developmentally appropriate learning activities, mandated reporting guidelines, and more.
Ms. Marbury brings to IDEA 25 years of early childhood education experience as a teacher and center director, as well as many years of teaching child development to teenagers and adults. “I have a passion for mentoring and coaching teenagers,” she said. “I like their enthusiasm. And I see their passion when they’re at the center working with children. They are totally different, and totally focused on the kids.”
The CDA program does more than simply train students to work in child care settings, however. Junior Alexis Hunter is enrolled in the course because she aspires to be a psychologist, social worker, and foster mother. “I want to know how kids think,” she said.
Sophomore Alejandra Carrio plans to become a pediatrician. “I’ve learned kids have many different emotions. When you’re working with kids you have to know how to handle things when they’re having a hard time.”
Senior Taiwon Faulks decided to take the childhood development class to prepare for parenthood. “I wanted to learn what to teach my children one day in the future,” he said. “One thing I learned is that you’re supposed to read to children even when they don’t seem like they’re listening, they’re still absorbing the words.” Taiwon enjoyed building relationships with the children he worked with at Educare DC. “I made them feel comfortable so they could come to me and tell me if something was bothering them.”
To learn more about the Child Development Associate credential from OSSE, visit https://osse.dc.gov/publication/first-step-overview
IDEA to Launch Early Childhood Teaching CTE Credential in Spring Semester
Beginning in January 2017, IDEA students can work toward a career in early childhood education.
IDEA students who love working with kids will now have a chance to turn that affinity into a well-paying career. Starting in January 2017, IDEA will offer a new credentialing program in early childhood education to provide students with training that would prepare them for a variety of careers in education, child care, and other child-centered fields. Students will take early childhood courses once a week and complete practical hours after school and during the summer. Once they've fulfilled the coursework and practical hours over a three-year period, students will be eligible to earn the Child Development Associate credential.
The early childhood education program is offered in conjunction with the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education's Career and Technical Education Department. Current 10th and 11th graders may apply to the early childhood program by contacting Ms. Briscoe at firstname.lastname@example.org.