Think, Know, Prove–Childhood Development

Think, Know, Prove is a regular Saturday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

What the hell is going on with Childhood Development? I read the Reinvention Proposals, but missed what, apparently, is a big one, from what I hear, with respect to one of my favorite programs.

I saw yesterday, that there’s an additional post on the Reinvention site–a presentation on the “supporting findings” showing the Reinvention Task Forces research and supporting data (that wasn’t up a few days ago), but I haven’t had a chance to read through it yet. Maybe you have?

What do you think? What do you know? What can you prove?

UPDATE (8/18): Bumped up for and because of ongoing discussion




15 thoughts on “Think, Know, Prove–Childhood Development

  1. Anita talked about this during the reinvention panel at HW on Wednesday. If I understood her correctly, she said that there is no plan to eliminate any part of the Child Development Program. She showed us what the PPR task force found and explained that students who receive a basic certificate in Child Dev are certified to run a home day care which averages about an $8 per hour income. She said that most students in CD are urged to continue on to receive an AA degree which would make them eligible for other job opportunities that have an average income of $9-10 per hour. The problem that they found was that most students either are unable to complete the AA or, even having completed the AA still only want to run a home day care. So, what I think she was saying was that we shouldn’t be pushing students toward an AA if a basic certificate will suffice for what they want to do. Someone please correct me if I got that wrong.

  2. You have the gist correct except that what you are suggestioning completely destroys the Child Development AAS that we have at CCC. Our core program (the AAS) has 10 courses in content. The Basic Certificate has 3 courses in CD. You do the math. We will lose 7 of our core courses which is a large part of our offerings.

    What I think is….

    The Child Development program at the City Colleges is in serious peril.
    If they can do away with our program, which is one of the largest and strongest programs at CCC, they can do away with yours.

    What I know is…
    Students who complete the AAS in Child Development are well prepared to work with children and families. They recieve a vast amount of specific content that is immediately applicable in their careers and lives. Our model of reflective supervision and relationship-based education will be gone if the AAS were to disappear. 3 courses in CD are not enough to adequately prepare students to work in the field (even if that is all that is required by law) and transfer to a 4 year institution , while desirable, is not necessarily everyone’s plan nor is it possible for all of our students.

    What I plan to prove is….
    The data used to make these determinations is faulty. The reasoning behind their decisions is also faulty. The AAS in Child Development is not only economically valuable but can also prepare students to transfer, if they so choose. Our students go out into the field and get good jobs that they feel passionate about. There is no threat of outsourcing (you can’t send your children to another country to be cared for during the day while you work). There is a constant immediate and future need for well qualified child care providers and the AAS is they way that

  3. I got cut off before I could post my name and finish my thoughts or edit. Sorry everyone.

  4. I am the task force lead for the Program Portfolio Review Task Force which developed the recommendations for Child Development. To clear up any misconceptions from the prior post, the Child Development program is in no way imperiled by the recommendations of the Program Portfolio Review Task Force. Childcare and early childhood education programs in the city will only grow in size and quality. They are an excellent and rewarding source of employment for our students. Since developing the initial recommendations we have met with members of the Child Development faculty on three separate occasions and welcomed their feedback. Thanks to them we have over twenty items of additional research to perform before the recommendations are finalized and we genuinely appreciate that work because our goal is to make sure the recommendations are right for our students. We have learned a great deal from the Child Development faculty and hope to continue that dialogue as we continue our work. The Child Development faculty will be included every step of the way as we work on those action items and we have identified a formal liaison, a Child Development faculty member, to help coordinate their feedback and the work of the task force.

    What the prior poster fails to mention is that we did not recommend eliminating the AAS, we recommended transforming it into a fully transferable Associate of Arts program. We did that because we understand the baseline for Child Development workers in Chicago is increasingly a bachelor’s degree and the existing, terminal occupational degree only supports full transfer at one four-year institution. We have never suggested shuttling students into the BC program but have recommended maintaining the existing BC because it meets the licensing requirements for those who need immediate employment to continue their education. We would hope all of those students, if it met their interests and personal passions, would continue on and get an AA and then a BA. We developed the initial recommendation to make Child Development an academic program instead of an occupational program based on what we heard repeatedly in our conversations with external employers and advocacy organizations – a path to a BA opens the most doors to our students and meets the state and federal requirements for employment in the exact same child care jobs as the AAS currently provides. As the prior poster knows, the task force has never recommended eliminating AAS content from the AA degree. Opportunities exist to provide contextualized Child Development sections of many of the general education requirements that could be redesigned to help assure that no content is lost. That process would not be easy but I believe, based on my conversations with faculty in gen ed disciplines, that it can be done.

    We have learned a lot about the challenges the faculty sees with the Basic Skills test and also learned much from them about the nuances of the childcare and early childhood education markets in Chicago. We look forward to learning more and refining the recommendations based on what we learn. However, I hope that we can approach the recommendations for what they are – an attempt to improve the career outcomes for our students and in no way an attempt to do away with a program.

    Leighton O’Connell-Miller

  5. Hi, Mr. O’Connell-Miller. Thanks for the substantive and thoughtful response/contribution. A couple of things remain unclear to me from the discussion, though. They are probably related:

    ~A) I do not understand this sentence: “Opportunities exist to provide contextualized Child Development sections of many of the general education requirements that could be redesigned to help assure that no content is lost.” Could you elaborate on the idea there? and

    ~2) You write that, “[W]e did not recommend eliminating the AAS, we recommended transforming it into a fully transferable Associate of Arts program,” but how does one transform an AAS degree into an AA degree and still have the AAS degree? Put another way, wouldn’t the transformation of the AAS into an AA degree just be either an elimination of the AAS degree by another name?

    The difference between the two degrees is, after all, significant. The General Education components are completely different (e.g., English 101 vs English 101, 102 and Speech; 3 hours of humanities vs. 9 hours of humanities; 1 science vs 2 sciences (1 life, 1 phy sci and one of those with a lab)). at the same time the AAS degree requires a bunch of Childhood Development courses–too many to merely be electives attached to the AA Gen Eds. One couldn’t just mash them together because that degree would require 80 some credit hours. So we seem to be talking about three distinct credentials, right? Two of which exist currently (Basic Certificate (BC) and AAS) and one of which would exist as a consequence of a transformation to one of the others (AAS into AA), leaving us with, check me if I’m wrong on this, two credential options for Childhood Development students: the BC and the AA. Is that not the proposal? Or, instead, would we offer the BC, the AAS, and the AA in Childhood Development?

    (If the answer to the question immediately above is yes, please skip to the bottom. If it is No, then please read on:)

    Assuming the former is the case, imagine that I have an old pair of pants and sew them into a lamp shade. Have I transformed them into something new? Arguably, yes; have I eliminated their existence as pants? I most certainly have. And if I try to walk around with my new creation around my waist, it seems unlikely that people would say: “Ah, that Richardson; look at him! He’s wearing his transformed pants.” More likely they’d say, “Look at him, he’s wearing a lamp shade.” If someone asked, “What happened to his pants?” a knowledgeable person might respond, “He cut them up and made them into a lampshade,” suggesting that in doing so I had eliminated their functionality, and so existence, as pants. Right? So the non-elimination claim is disingenuous or hairsplitting or both.

    Now, never mind the CCC graduation statistics–consider the NATIONAL statistics on graduation rates, particularly among non-traditional students and/or those on the lower end of the socio-economic food chain–and imagine the outcomes if one were to take students heading down a path and say, “The road you’re walking on to your future bungalow is being ‘transformed’ and into a new and longer and more lucrative path. You still have two options, as before: you can hop over this creek here and live in a raggedy tent or you can, instead of walking this path to the bungalow, take that path over there, which will take you twice as long as this one (6 to 8 years instead of 3, since pushing the students toward an AA is really pushing them in that direction for the sake of the B.A., not the A.A.), features multiple dangerous and difficult to cross bridges, might include encounters with bears and lions and bandits, will cost a lot in time and treasure, but, if you make it, you’ll get to live in a big house with 800 thread count linens and down feather pillows.” Is the change not obviously an incentive for reasonable people (using that term as an economist would) to make do in the tent rather than rush toward the harder and longer path upon which they are much less likely (speaking from the standpoint of probability) to succeed? And if most students turn to pursuit of the BC and few pursue the AA, how could that do anything BUT gut the program?

    If students were coming out of the program poorly trained, I could understand the necessity for the change; if students were unable to get hired upon coming out of the program, I could understand the necessity for the change; if students were coming out of the program with high debts that they were unable to pay back on the wages they earned in the program I could (maybe) understand the necessity for the change. I do not understand the necessity for this change, though.

    Thank you in advance for your patience and time to clarify the issue for me (and any others).

    • Oh, and a third if I may: what will the process for sharing your findings on the additional research points and their impact (if any) on the recommendations look like? ? Thanks, again.

      • Dave – even my father was not Mr. O’Connell-Miller (my wife and I both hyphenated) so I’m just Leighton. Let me try to respond to your questions and understand that I am not trying to one-up you on the length but simply trying to respond in full.

        1. Contextualized general education sections – I will see if I can get a Math faculty member who has experience with this to post separately about their experiences. Generally, when I have seen this practiced, courses are co-developed by members of both disciplines and sometimes even co-delivered. I think it’s more obvious in English so the Math example may help if someone is willing to jump in. I know this occurs frequently in the legal education context where first year students are required to take a full year legal writing course. There are a bunch of general legal writing sections for about 90% of the students and then specialized sections in areas like child law, public interest law, health law, and intellectual property law. Each student learns the same research, reading, analysis, and writing skills regardless of which section they take. If a student takes one of the specialized sections then they also learn substantive law for that area and write briefs based on problems in that substantive area (which is actually more rigorous in many ways than a traditional Socratic-method casebook class). The same skills are imparted as the general writing section but students in the intellectual property section, for example, get deep experience with the case law of patents equivalent to taking a patent law class. They literally read the same material as the patents class and also apply it through writing and analysis.

        Slightly different, but in a similar vein, one task force member mentioned a tailoring of general education English, Biology, and Philosophy classes to focus on the environment. Anecdotally, they felt the students were more engaged, learned the skills being taught at a deeper level, and had a better understanding of the interrelationships between the disciplines due to the consistent themes. Again, I will see if I can get a Math faculty member who has looked at this in more detail to give her thoughts (no promises but I will ask). An example in the Child Development context is available here:

        2. Transformation – Yes, our initial recommendation was to create an AA degree that would eventually replace the AAS and maintain the BC as well. The idea was that once the existing cohorts of students who chose to stay in the AAS completed then the AAS would be inactivated and the AA would be the only offering. They would have to run side by side for some period of time. That was the initial recommendation. It may change based on the ongoing work. In that respect you are correct but I personally see that as a distinction without a difference. If the same Child Development content is taught in the AA through contextualized sections or other redesigns of the curriculum (acceleration, modularization, etc.) then it is not hairsplitting to refer to it as a transformation instead of elimination.

        The Task Force did not recommend eliminating content from the program. The recommendation was to make the degree offered transfer to over 100 four year institutions without credit loss instead of just one four year school. Your examples of content loss assume this new AA degree is created using only existing forms of general education classes. That was not the recommendation and that has been made clear in conversations with the Child Development faculty.

        In my opinion, the analogy about pants and a lampshade does not accurately capture this situation because those items have two entirely different uses despite being made of the same substance. Here the substance remains the same as well but the uses are expanded to support the same number or even more jobs plus you get the ability to transfer to over 100 four year institutions without increased cost if the student chooses to do so. I make that statement based both on state licensing requirements and interviews with multiple employers in the private and public sector. You can see that the BA is increasingly becoming the baseline in the market from the comments on page 46 ( Maybe a better analogy would be sewing cargo pockets onto the pants. They are still pants they just allow you to do more. No one would say you were running around with a lampshade on. We heard from employers that they do not distinguish between an AA and an AAS in making hiring decisions. Since the initial interviews we have also talked to more than just the individuals listed on the supporting deck and will continue to do so as the Child Development faculty points us to sectors and employers in the market whose insights we have missed. We initially limited the interviews because we heard the exact same thing in every interview.

        If the Task Force simply suggested making the degree longer and harder and left it at that then there might be a basis for suggesting that the recommendation results in lower AA completion and transfer (more BC only completers who do not stay in school to complete the AA). That was my understanding of your tent v. bungalow analogy. But that treats the recommendation as though it exists in a vacuum. The purpose of the BC is to allow students immediate employment while they complete the AA. The recommendation is also only a small part of a much more expansive effort to remove obstacles to completion at CCC. The goal is to be a best in class institution when it comes to completion and transfer. Other institutions, with similar students, have accomplished that and based on everything I have seen there is no reason CCC cannot do even better. I work with multiple faculty members who have helped the most challenged students complete an AA and transfer and complete a BA. The Task Force has suggested more intensive tutoring and other interventions be done specifically to assist students in reaching the goal of completing the AA in Child Development. Everything is on the table to help accomplish that goal if it that is the direction we all choose to go. The AA would be closely monitored and more assistance added to assure the completion rate was equivalent to and eventually better than the existing rate and that students were prepared to pass the Basic Skills Test.

        Based on surveys at registration produced by the Research & Evaluation group, over 80% of the students in Child Development programs indicate that their goal is to go on and get a four year degree. The recommendation to make the associate’s degree transfer to over 100 institutions without credit loss under the Illinois Articulation Initiative is intended to assist those students with accomplishing that goal. Currently students have to take or retake additional classes to graduate from all but one four year institution. We can eliminate that cost to the student and simplify their path instead of unnecessarily extending it. By eliminating that cost we also open up more job opportunities for those who choose to complete a BA. The recommendation provides a more direct, less obstacle strewn path to the goal of over 80% of the students in the program because it eliminates credit loss.

        You mentioned that you could support a change if students were coming out of the program with high debt loads or unable to find jobs. Based on the understanding we developed of the labor market, the future will make it more difficult for AAS holders to find employment in Child Development. A student with a BA is substantially more competitive and that trend will only increase as licensing requirements and the job market evolve. Further, by forcing students to take additional classes at more expensive four year institutions we do risk unnecessarily increasing the student’s debt load. The AA helps reduce potential debt loads and ease the path to transfer.

        Fundamentally, the recommendation produced by the Task Force was that Child Development is an academic program not an occupational program. There is not a hidden motive of that recommendation to actually make the program more occupational (by emphasizing the BC over the AA). The simplest explanation, that the goal is to have more BA graduates because the BA is increasingly the baseline for employment and the goal of the vast majority of the students happens to also be the true explanation. The work of the Task Force was guided by the Reinvention goals and the vision of student success – nothing else.

        3. Additional research and findings – That process has not been solidified but will be determined working with the Child Development faculty who will see all of the work we do and hopefully work with us to answer some of these outstanding questions. I see no issue with making that final work product available. That said, the Task Force is also moving forward with work in other areas so I do not think that we will resolve all of these questions in the short term.

        My firm belief is that all of us are working towards the success of our students and I welcome this dialogue. Thanks Dave.

        Leighton O’Connell-Miller

        • I’m math faculty (obviously) and I think I understand your description of Contextualized general education sections. They remind me of what we’ve done at HW (and elsewhere at CCC) with SENCER. In fact, there is currently a cohort involving (correct me if I’m wrong someone), English 100, Phy. Sci. 107 and Humanities (and college success). The theme for that cohort was Science Fiction. Each course was taught in a way that addressed it’s own SLOs through the theme. I was involved in a cohort with Intcomm 100, Math 98 and Child Development 107 centered around the theme of childhood obesity. With careful planning and coordination, this can be a very worthwhile experience though the jury is still out with respect to “student success”. I can speak to the numbers of my cohort. Retention rates rose but success rates (a grade of C and above) remained stagnant as compared to “normal” Math 98 and Intcomm 100. As the profs. of the Sci. Fiction cohort so eloquently expressed during HWFDW, success means more than just these numbers. The students’ experiences seeing their courses (and education hopefully) as connected and their witnessing of multiple truths was the real advantage to this approach.

          Now, I can see Contextualized general education sections in another way based upon some of your definition. Mathematics has business calculus which differs from calculus. The courses are not mutually exclusive. Nearly everything in business calculus is addressed in calculus but application is given priority over theory. As such, calculus has more topics but less application. This explains the differences in prereqs (Business calc does not require trig as a prereq. since trig is not used in any business applications.).

        • Thank you, Leighton. You never have to apologize to me for an effort at thoroughness. I always appreciate that. I’m still organizing my thoughts in light of your response, but hope to have it worked out by tonight. For the record, I have no doubts about your (and your team’s) motivations; I do, however, have some concerns about what I perceive to be likely consequences (intended and unintended) of the proposal and the line of reasoning justifying it.

          More later, but most importantly, I, too, welcome the discussion and am grateful for your participation in it.

    • Thank you, Professor, for looking at this situation through the lens
      of the philosopher. Your thoughfulness is greatly appreciated.

  6. So many of Leighton’s arguments are off-putting to say the least- I am with Philodave- what does contextualized general education mean? Will we soon believe we are experts in all fields and can dabble in an array of courses? Also, if there is one transfer agreement-why don’t we focus our efforts on getting more? On my campus, we were told we cannot seek transfer agreements unless we work through the district office. Why can’t Reinvention focus its efforts on creating more transfer agreements?

    After looking over the link in the original post-I see only three outside sources were contacted- how is this adequate to overhaul a program and end the AAS and AC in CHLD DV? After a quick google of area community colleges (that I could think of)-I’m also seeing all offer an AAS in CHLD DV too. Are we setting ourselves up for students to just go elsewhere to get the coursework they want? This is a program that is wanted by our students- it is not under enrolled nor is it under-performing – why on EARTH would we look to end it?

    And yes, that is what it appears Reinvention is looking to do— you cannot sunset a program through ICCB and “turn it into” an AA without ENDING THE PROGRAM. Why the deceitful wording and misleading rhetoric? Is it a complete lack of understanding of how higher education works or an intentional rewording of the truth?

    • I am sorry you found the prior post off-putting. It certainly was not intended to be that way. I am reaching out to one of your colleagues in Math and hopefully they can provide some examples from their experience. That said, if you feel this is the wrong forum for a non-faculty member to weigh in then let me know. I am doing this on my own time because I think these are important issues but if it’s not helpful then I understand.

      I am unaware of any policy preventing you from pursuing transfer agreements. My understanding is that they get routed through Academic Affairs but that should not stifle the entrepreneurialism of the faculty in expanding articulation. No one supports doing that. I also agree that a different approach would be to expand transfer for the AAS and we fully encouraged the Child Development faculty to do exactly that at our last meeting. The advantage of the AA is that you get instant articulation at over 100 IAI schools. While there is only one current full articulation agreement for the AAS it could be expanded – someone just needs to assess if that effort to expand it makes sense v. the instant articulation at over 100 schools. It very well may.

      The three original sources represented very different sectors of the child development and early childhood education market. We heard basically the exact same thing from all three so felt comfortable formulating the initial recommendation on that basis. We have been talking to more people and hope the faculty will provide us with even more names. This is not final but the dynamics of the market have been consistent with each external person we have talked to through the process. I would welcome the opportunity to talk to external experts who oppose the recommendation to get their perspective and understand what labor market demands we have missed.

      You are correct that many schools have an AAS. There are also at least 6 NAEYC accredited AA programs. The AAS made a lot sense but the changing dynamics of the labor market from increased accreditation and licensing standards to increased competition from BA holders makes a transfer degree more responsive to where the labor market is heading – and much more responsive to the stated goals of the 80% who declare that they want to transfer. In that respect, CCC has an opportunity to be out in front of these changes.

      I hope my post in response to PhiloDave helps clarify that I was being neither deceitful nor misleading. Again, if this is the wrong forum then I am happy to meet with people individually or in groups. Maybe it would be good to schedule some additional meetings for feedback where we can have these conversations like at FDW. I am more than happy to make that happen.

      Leighton O’Connell-Miller

  7. I don’t know this PhiloDave from Adam, but this man has a good brain. Reading him has made me smarter.

    • Ha! I love it (even if I wonder at the truth of it), but be careful–exposure to me can be a little like coffee (or tequila) intake: too much of it and you’ll end up jittery (or incoherent (or both!))…

  8. The link provided for contextualizing Child Development in general education is an article on a successful learning community. As are some of the examples shared on the blog discussion board- Learning communities are very different from embedding course content from one discipline to another so students only have to take one of the courses, no? Could someone clarify for me?

    Mea Culpa- I am not using my name out of concern for privacy due to the reactionary behavior from a misinformed administration at my home campus (not HWC).

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