Early childhood education program responds to new state legislation

Erica Fowler

The course map for aspiring teachers in early childhood education has become complicated and unclear due to a recent senate bill.

In August, the state of Ohio changed the grade levels that early childhood education graduates can teach from preschool through third grade (P-3) to preschool through fifth grade (P-5). The state is requiring all universities offer the updated curriculum by fall 2020, enabling incoming students to obtain the P-5 license upon graduation.

“The licensure grade band is only one part of Senate Bill 216,” said Jennifer Walton-Fisette, the director of educator preparation for the College of Education, Health and Human Services. “But it is certainly the part that we are most concerned about. Every university in Ohio is trying to figure out how to make curriculum changes.”

Faculty members of the early childhood education program (ECED) aim to make curriculum changes happen before fall 2020 so more students can get the P-5 license.

“Our goal is to make these curriculum changes this fall so we can start offering the new changes to students by fall 2019,” Walton-Fisette said. “But ultimately I can’t speak regarding the exact curriculum changes that we’re going to have to make.”

This is partly because new standards and guidelines have not been set by the Ohio Department of Education to accompany the P-5 licensure.

“In my career in teaching, stuff like this always happens,” said Kathryn Knapp, the coordinator of the early childhood education program. “The state of Ohio makes, what seems to me, sometimes random decisions that now we have to jump through all these hoops to meet.”

Knapp has over 10 years of experience teaching at the elementary, intermediate and collegiate levels.

“It’s troubling to me,” Knapp said. “Because they are not necessarily people who have much experience inside the classroom.”

Students also have concerns about the licensure changing from P-3 to P-5.

“I have mixed feelings about the P-5 licensure,” said junior early childhood education major Audrey McGuire. “Fourth and fifth grade students don’t really fall under early childhood education, so it doesn’t make sense to me that they would change the licensure to P-5.”

However, McGuire still plans to get licensed to teach fourth and fifth grade students after graduation through the generalist endorsement, a 14-credit hour program at Kent State.

“Personally, the reason I went into early childhood education is because I want to work with kids,” McGuire said. “I didn’t sign up to work with tweens or pre-teens, but having the generalist endorsement makes you more marketable and more likely to get a job at an elementary school.”

Although it has not been determined how fourth and fifth grade curriculum will be integrated into the ECED program, faculty and staff are dedicated to making changes happen quickly for students.

“Every meeting keeps coming back to the motto of Kent State, students first,” Knapp said. “We’re talking about how to prepare these students best, and that’s refreshing.”

Erica Fowler is an education, health and human services reporter. Contact her at [email protected]