There is a clear and compelling case that high-quality prekindergarten programs support children’s learning and development. Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program is a long-standing publicly-funded prekindergarten program. In recent years, the state has expanded access to this program to more children and their families. Doing so requires a large pool of qualified early educators to fill lead and assistant teacher roles, and to provide high quality home-based services. Michigan, like many states, however, does not have enough qualified early educators to fill this need.
What is Michigan Doing?
One way Michigan is expanding its early educator workforce is through the Future Proud Michigan Educator (FPME) LAUNCH program. The state is leveraging career and technical education (CTE) programs as the onramp to career pathways under the FPME program so that high school students become prepared for education-related careers.
Why is this approach so compelling?
This cross-office program supports a viable pathway for high school students to enter early education careers through two critical features:
- The Office of Career and Technical Education provides high school students opportunities to complete a Child Development Associate (CDA) or Michigan Youth Development Associate (MI-YDA) credential. Both are competency-based, requiring students to complete coursework, engage in field work, and demonstrate knowledge and skills before either credential is awarded.
- The CDA or MI-YDA credential places students firmly on the first professional rung of the Career Pathway for Early Childhood and School Age Professionals in Michigan.
Students who successfully complete one of these credentials are prepared to start working in the field immediately as classroom instructors. The FPME website says it clearly - “students graduate from high school with credits toward a college degree, land a job right away or launch a career with opportunities to grow in the field.”
Is it working?
Since the launch of the program in 2019-20, education (and the world) was turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. But access to CTE programs for students, and efforts to support teachers in those programs, have expanded rapidly. Student participation, as indexed by their course enrollment and entry into the Michigan Registry for early educators, has increased. More colleges have developed articulation agreements to provide credits for credentials. Buoyed by these successes, Michigan has developed and is nurturing an additional pathway into educational careers for students.