Two new college degrees recognizing that future educators need to enter the classroom armed with a well-rounded academic background will be available locally starting this fall.
Both the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Colorado College are beefing up their education programs. From UCCS comes a bachelor of innovation degree in early childhood education. CC is offering students the chance to major in education as they earn a bachelor-of-arts degree.
UCCS' addition was fueled by an April 2012 Colorado Commission on Higher Education decision to reverse a 26-year-old ban on early childhood education degrees in the state.
"For the past two decades, you couldn't get a stand-alone degree in education; you had to go into a content field, like history or math, because for a long time there was a belief that people needed strong content in order to be a good teacher," explained Mary L. Snyder, dean of UCCS' College of Education.
Now, the prevailing thought is that an interdisciplinary approach should take precedence over specialized training.
"One of the most exciting things about the degree is that our students will be taking many of the same courses as engineering and business students," Snyder said.
Another consideration for expanding educator education is that new federal Head Start regulations kick in Sept. 30, requiring that 50 percent of early-childhood teachers nationwide have bachelor's degrees in early childhood education or a related field.
UCCS struck a deal with Pikes Peak Community College so students can apply credits from its early childhood education program toward a baccalaureate degree, Snyder said.
"We surveyed their students, and over 80 percent said they'd be interested in transferring to UCCS to complete their degree," she said.
Getting a new degree approved in the CU system is significant, said UCCS spokesman Tom Hutton.
The board of regents considers projected demand, costs of a new program, job marketability and other factors, he said.
Snyder expects demand to be strong, with at least 20 students in the fall, and steady growth from there. The program will be flexible and offer weekend and evening courses to accommodate students who may already be working in child care centers, public or private schools, or as in-home providers. The 120-hour curriculum prepares students to obtain licenses from the state of Colorado in early childhood education and early childhood special education.
"The degree will have strong components of technology and entrepreneurship. We expect our graduates to become directors and owners and leaders in the field of early childhood education," Snyder said. "We're hoping the program not only prepares graduates for today's classroom but also the classroom of the future."
Industry reform also will be one of the expected outcomes for CC students who major in education, according to Education Department Chair Mike Taber.
For example, a student could double-major in economics and education, to look at the economics of education and instigate change from outside the classroom, he said.
The new major approaches education as a discipline with historical, social, political and economic aspects, Taber said. Five of the program's 10 courses will examine the underpinnings that define American public education in those areas, he said.
Students also will be required to conduct educational research, study findings on learning and human development, and participate in clinical aspects.
CC dropped its education major in the mid-'60s and created a master of arts in teaching degree, which continues to be offered, as does a teaching certificate program and a minor in education.
UCCS and CC plan to use existing faculty for the new degrees.