To meet the demand for qualified pre-K teachers across the state, a new curriculum offered by the University of Mississippi allows students to specialize in early childhood education and obtain a license endorsement in the field from the Mississippi Department of Education.
The curriculum, which is offered online this summer, will be provided in a traditional format during the 2014-2015 academic year and is designed to be completed over two semesters as part of the School of Education’s elementary education program. Working educators can also complete the program to obtain an endorsement from MDE.
“One problem we’re facing in Mississippi is that many teachers haven’t had the specialized training to teach pre-K,” said Burhanettin Keskin, UM associate professor and coordinator of early childhood education. “Some people believe that teaching early childhood is just kindergarten and first grade watered down, but it’s a completely different and very important field.”
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, many studies show quality preschool programs can produce long-term gains in academic achievement, including gains in reading and mathematics, and can support positive social-emotional development. Studies also show an estimated 7-to-1 return on investment dollars in public pre-K education in the form of long-term cost savings.
Mississippi does not support universal pre-K education in public schools and there is no standard assessment for students entering kindergarten.
The Ole Miss curriculum was designed by three expert early childhood education faculty hired at the university last year after the School of Education received a $1.1 million grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson to build the program. UM’s early childhood faculty includes Keskin, as well as assistant professors Beverly Alford and Lynn Darling.
“Our faculty have worked tirelessly to create a valuable program leading to a state-issued endorsement in early childhood education,” said Susan McClelland, UM chair of teacher education. “Elementary education is our largest program, and our hope is we can drastically increase the number of new teachers with specialized training in early childhood education who can make an impact in schools across the state.”
The curriculum comprises four courses (12 credits):
Early Childhood Methods, an introduction to methods and theories in pre-k instruction and early learning.
Child Development, an examination of cognitive, affective, psychomotor and social development requiring at least 10 hours of specialized field experience.
Special Education for Early Childhood Development, an examination of early intervention for young children with delays, disabilities or exceptionalities.
Early Language and Literacy, an exploration of the function of play in early childhood learning as it relates to cognitive, socio-emotional and physical development.
The new undergraduate emphasis is the first of what will be two major pushes to expand early childhood education programs at UM. In 2015, Ole Miss plans to also offer an online master’s degree in the field for educators and researchers who seek advanced specialization in early childhood learning.
-Andrew Mark Abernathy, Ole Miss Communications
UM Launches Early Childhood Education Curriculum
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