The Evolving Early Childhood Education Scene at Boston Area Colleges and Universities
I’ve been working in Early Childhood Education in various setting in the Boston area since 2003. In that time, a lot has changed about the early childhood education scene at Boston area and colleges and universities. For instance, i go my start in ECE by getting my Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education at Bay State College. Five years ago, Bay State decided to do away with their ECE program. Bay State is not the only ECE program that has gone by the wasteside.. Early this year , Mt. Ida College in Newton not only did away with their ECE program but their entire college shut down rather abruptly in a manner that generated much controversy. But as some ECE institutions have curtailed their programs, others have come to life and or grown.
In the past 10 years, UMass Boston has steadily become a big player in early childhood education. They went from not offering any ECE degrees, to offering bachelor’s programs, masters programs, post masters programs (I attended this one), and most recently a PhD program. In addition, under the leadership of Dr. Anne Douglas, UMass has started The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation. (disclaimer, I am a member) The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation provided “educators of young children with intensive training in entrepreneurial leadership, education research and policy, and small business growth and innovation. We build teams of change agents and connect educators with our growing network of established and emerging ECE leaders, and to our innovation lab and accelerator.”
Harvard has increased their early childhood profile with a few separate initiatives. The Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation have The Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) over 35 million dollars to spearhead a variety of initiatives. HGSE Professor Nonie Lesaux and Associate Professor Stephanie Jones will lead “The Harvard Early Learning Study. Drawing on successful models from medical and public health research, this five-year study will follow a representative cohort of three-year-olds that reflects the linguistic, socioeconomic, and racial diversity of today’s population. The study will shed light on aspects of children’s development in several areas — language, cognition, social-emotional development, and neurophysiology — that are sensitive to the nature and quality of their early learning environments.” They are also starting “Saul Zaentz Academy for Professional Learning in Early Childhood, dedicated to developing the knowledge and skills of people in the field of early childhood education. Finally the donated money will go to start “Saul Zaentz Fellows Program, HGSE will attract students invested in early childhood education, offering eight new master’s fellowships and one new fellowship in the Doctor of Education Leadership Program.”
All the above is in addition to the work being done at The Harvard Center of The Developing Child which was founded in 2006 and led by Jack P Shonkoff M.D.. The Center “catalyzes local, national, and international innovation in policy and practice focused on children and families. We design, test, and implement these ideas in collaboration with a broad network of research, practice, policy, community, and philanthropic leaders. Together, we seek transformational impacts on lifelong learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.”
Finally at Harvard, is Project Zero founded by philosopher Nelson Goodman at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1967. At Project Zero, Ben Mardell and others focus on young children as citizens and making learning visible.
On the other side of the Charles River past Fenway Park, Wheelock College was one of the premier institutions for early childhood education in the country. However, like many small colleges after the financial crisis, Wheelock began to have financial trouble which put the insinuation’s existence in doubt. Eventually, a solution emerged and Wheelock was merged into Boston University to become BU’s Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. While the merger did help save Wheelock , it also resulted in 110 layoffs. On the positive side, Wheelock is still serving as a focal point for ECE in the area and is the location of The Wonder of Learning Exhibit from June 20-November 15 in 2018.
Similar to size as the old Wheelock, Lesley University is still going strong and continues to have bachelor and master’s programs in ECE. In addition, the Lesley’s PhD program in Education Studies has students focused on early child hood (disclaimer, I am one of those students). Lesley also continues to have many preeminent professors with an ECE focus and to host many ECE events.
A little further way from the city, Wellesley College has The Child Study Center ; “Its major mission is to serve as an observation and research site for undergraduates in Psychology and other departments. In fulfilling that mission, the Child Study Center works to improve the lives of all children. “
Similarly, Boston University has a Masters in ECE program and Early Childhood Learning Lab preschool. Boston College has a Masters In ECE program for students who want to teach Pre-K-2nd Grade and a certificate in early childhood leadership out of their Lynch School of Education.
Most important to the day to day staff at many early childhood educations centers are the smaller institutions around Boston. For instance, Fisher College provides an Associate Degree program in Early Childhood Education and many early educators take single courses at Fisher in human development and director courses to attain or keep their certifications from the Department of Early Education and Care. Urban College has a similar role helping people get their Associate Degrees and taking single courses to meet EEC licensing standards.
The Massachusetts state and community college system such as Bunker Hill and Salem State also provide a backbone to ECE in Massachusetts with their relatively cheaper tuition.
If Massachusetts wants to continue to be a leader in ECE, the department of early education and care must work with the various institutions who should also work together to best support the Massachusetts ECE workforce.