Ohio prompts inclusion of additional grades into early education problem

This summer, the Ohio Legislatures passed a law requiring Ohio’s early childhood education programs to change their major requirements. These changes are not only broad-based, at a state level, they will have a direct impact on the program at Baldwin Wallace University.

Beginning in the Fall of 2019, all Ohio colleges and universities will be required to change their curriculum for Pre-K through grade 3 to Pre-K through grade 5. This is the first significant change to the program since 1998, when it changed from kindergarten through grade 8.

The change is reflective of a push across the country to better match education majors with what their particular state’s school system looks like. Ohio was one of only four states to have an early childhood education program structured in a pre-K to grade 3 formats, explained Dr. Michael Smith, Interim Dean of the School of Education. 

“I think the major factor,” said Smith, “may be having the legislation align better with the structure of Ohio Schools.”

Typically, in Ohio, elementary schools cover up to grade 4 and sometimes 5. This left a gap in the majors, and Baldwin Wallace took notice. 

Before the new Ohio litigation was decided upon, the School of Education was already underway with a review of their programs. They realized that a restructuring to better meet the needs of the students was required. 

Smith described the move in legislation as “timely, in a sense, because each of our four programs and curriculums have been under review. When we finalize our reviews, we can make the appropriate changes.” 

Given the way in which the Ohio school system is structured, 70-80% of BW early childhood education students had previously opted to add an additional endorsement, to teach grades 4 and 5, on top of their Early Childhood Education (ECE) Licensure. With the new restructuring, students will now be able to add those two extra grades into their major, without adding the ECE Generalist Endorsement.

The school is also looking to cut waste in its program and focus on what they feel will best prepare their students to be successful and have excellent job placement within their field. Through the department’s ongoing review, they found that they may be able to cut down credits in the program that were duplicates, while adding to some areas, they perceive as having gaps.

Dr. Chad Malcolm, Coordinator of the ECE Program, explained that he believes these changes will not only help the students, but have a positive impact in the program and school in regard to enrollment. Their goal is to go beyond the legal requirements and implement a system that puts the students first. “I think you will see an increase in enrollment with the restructuring of the major.” It not only covers more grades, which increases job opportunities, but the new program will allow students to have more time out in the field.

Currently the ECE Department is the largest, in terms of enrollment. Dr. Malcolm explained they typically have between 125 and 130 students in the program every year. He sees this as an opportunity to further grow the department and suspects an increase in interest. 

“If you are just Pre-K to grade 3,” said Malcolm, “you are less mobile than someone who is Pre-K to grade 5. Schools will be able to use their staff more effectively year to year.” 

This is not only a draw to employers, he said, but also gives students more opportunities in the work force.