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New Workforce Initiative Will Advance Education for Early Childhood Professionals

American University, Trinity Washington University and Martha’s Table are partners

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To improve the quality of children’s care and provide pathways for early childhood professionals in the District of Columbia to fulfill education requirements mandated by the city, American University’s School of Education, Trinity Washington University and nonprofit Martha’s Table are partnering in a new workforce initiative, Advancing Early Education Collaborative. AEEC will build a strong workforce of adults who care, teach, nurture and advance children’s development. The initiative includes “stackable credentials,” starting with the Child Development Associate, or CDA, and ends with a full bachelor’s degree from either AU’s School of Education or Trinity Washington University.

“American University is proud to be part of this new and innovative initiative. By working with the D.C. community, which is a priority of our strategic plan, we teamed up with great partners on a collaborative solution to prepare our next generation of early learning educators, and this, in turn, will support working parents throughout the region,” said Sylvia M. Burwell, president of American University.

Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, dean of AU’s School of Education, said: “The collaborative will address the barriers, such as tuition costs, lack of academic support and access to coursework, that many aspiring early childhood professionals experience when trying to advance their careers. With flexibility and student supports built into the program, the School of Education is committed to providing pathways for learning for D.C. residents to prepare them to be highly effective educators.”

In 2016, D.C. enacted new licensing regulations requiring childcare workers to have CDA certification. The CDA certification is the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education for those working with children from birth to age 5. Early childhood professionals who want to advance in the field must also obtain associate’s or bachelor’s degrees.

The collaboration between Trinity Washington University, AU and Martha’s Table allows students to apply certification credits toward an associate of arts degree in early childhood education at Trinity Washington University’s main campus and at Trinity at THEARC in Southeast D.C. Students can then transfer the AA degree toward a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at AU or early childhood education at Trinity Washington University.  

Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, said: "Trinity is honored to partner with Martha's Table and American University on the new AEEC initiative. Access to quality early childhood education is essential for the children and families of Washington, D.C., and is key to strengthening our community. By collaborating together, we can ensure there is a greater number of well-prepared early childhood education professionals, and, in turn, those professionals have expanded options for their own career growth."

Early childhood professionals have options for obtaining the CDA, but AEEC is unique in that students can advance their learning beyond the CDA, and they will benefit from the resources available from the collaboration between the three organizations.

“Martha’s Table is proud to collaborate with Trinity Washington University and American University on this innovative academic partnership,” said Kim R. Ford, president and CEO of Martha’s Table, Inc. “With the launch of the AEEC, students will have a seamless pathway to and through all levels to achieve their dream.”  

As part of the initiative, AU has launched an online CDA. AU’s online certification prepares early childhood professionals to pass the CDA credentialing exam and sets the foundation of learning for students who aspire to obtain an advanced degree. AU’s certification is aligned with national competencies and standards, including the 120 training hours needed to obtain or renew a CDA credential. A full-time student can complete the online certification in four months, but they will have the flexibility to create their own pace for completion. Students’ clinical hours must be completed on-site at Martha’s Table.  

AEEC is geared towards those already in the workforce who must complete licensing requirements, as well as those in high school considering careers in early childhood.

Lawanda Taylor is an early childhood teacher at Martha’s Table. She doesn’t have a specific plan yet, but she is looking forward to seeing how AEEC can help her meet the city’s requirements while advancing her education and career.

"AEEC will offer the support teachers need, through coaching and professional development,” Taylor said. “This program will ensure that educators are equipped with the tools to confidently lead classrooms across the District."