Independence Schools to Provide Early Childhood Education Classes; Close Iowa’s Skills-Gap

May 30, 2018 (Independence, IA) – During the 2018-2019 school year, Independence Junior-Senior High will offer early childhood education classes for students to earn both high school and college credit through Hawkeye Community College. Coursework will be comprised of four classes offered on a rotation through Hawkeye which cover topics such as early childhood nutrition, curriculum planning, and safety. “Many elementary teachers and family consumer science teachers take ECE courses, but there is still a huge gap in training during the most formative years of birth to age 4 or 5,” said Tia Shaffer, Family Consumer Science teacher at Independence JSH. Once students have completed all 4 courses, they will also be able to apply for the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential which will help them advance in the early childhood career and meet job requirements much sooner than normal college students.

These classes will be taught by Shaffer, one of only two FCS teachers in the state who currently meet the requirements to instruct these courses. “ECE is so specialized and has changed so much over the last ten years that instructors need to be specialized and have recent training to make sure they know best-practice methods,” Shaffer continued.

ECE instructor Jane Even from Hawkeye, who sits on the Independence Community School District advisory board for FCS, has identified ECE as an area with a serious shortage in the state. “As an advisory committee, we have to ask ourselves: are we serving the needs of the students, the community, and our business/industry partners? If not, then we need to do something about it. That’s what makes early access to the ECE program at Hawkeye so valuable,” said Even.

The Iowa Department of Education has identified employment shortages in skilled labor, teaching, and technical jobs. Former governor Terry Branstad signed a Career and Technical Education Reform into law in 2016 which gives school districts the ability to create more programs to promote career-readiness and early completion of college coursework. Regarding the CTE changes Shaffer said “This is just the first step we are taking to change Iowa. Qualifying teachers for programs like this are few and far between now, but there are many ways to become certified to teach CTE. We will see more students who go through these programs and more teachers available for these programs in hundreds of school districts over the next decade.”

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