From jsonline.com: “New president wants community to see MATC’s evolution” — Vicki Martin had a front-row seat as Milwaukee Area Technical College evolved from preparing young people for the trades to taking on the additional role of helping working adults reinvent themselves in a tumultuous economy.

But she’s not sure the community fully realizes the scope of that change.

The Milwaukee native and longtime administrator, whose first day as president was Wednesday, said one of her main goals is to change that.

“We hear a lot about how we’re the best-kept secret,” said Martin, who was MATC’s provost — chief academic officer — before being promoted to president eight days ago. “This institution is so important for so many people, and just about everyone in the community has been touched by an MATC graduate.”

MATC has 200 academic programs, nearly 400 transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees, and a Pre-College Education division that helps adults complete high school, prepare for college or enter the workforce. The college has a full-time equivalent enrollment of about 13,000 students at its four campuses. It serves a total of 43,000 students including community education, workforce training, and customized business training and workshops.

Managing enrollment will be key.

Community colleges saw a 5.9% dip in enrollment of students over the age of 24, more than double their overall decline, between spring 2012 and 2013, according to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse. MATC has seen its own declines; enrollment booms — like the 10% increase MATC saw at the peak of the recession — typically taper off as the economy rebounds.

But managing the way the community perceives the school also will be critical.

From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “Mid-State enrollment projected to increase for first time in 3 years” — GRAND RAPIDS — After three years of steadily declining enrollment, Mid-State Technical College’s student body is slowly ticking upward.

This upcoming academic year will be the first time the college has projected an increase in student body population since the 2010-11 year. The school expects enrollment will rise 3.5 percent to 2,144 full-time equivalent students in 2014-15 from 2,070 in 2013-14.

Vice President of Student Affairs Mandy Lang attributed this year’s increase in students to the opening of the new Stevens Point campus and its new and expanded course offerings. She said the three-year enrollment decline was due to the economy.

“When the economy gets better, there can be a drop in enrollment for colleges,” Lang said.

After the recession hit in 2008 and layoffs became more common in central Wisconsin, MSTC saw enrollment increase as dislocated workers decided to return to school and acquire new skills. Government funding for dislocated worker training also increased during this time, Lang said. However, as the effects of the recession mitigated, the school’s numbers steadily declined from 2011 to 2014.

Still, these trends in enrollment are not unique to MSTC. According to the Wisconsin Technical College System’s 2011-13 Biennial Report, all Wisconsin technical colleges saw a decrease in full-time equivalent students from the 2009-10 academic school year to the 2011-12 year. Across the technical college system, there was a 3.9 percent drop in enrollment from 2009-10 to 2011-12, totaling a decrease of 3,175 students.

Conor Smyth, director of strategic partnerships and external relations at WTCS, said enrollment rates in the state’s technical colleges were the highest in the system’s history during the recession. The tendency for people to return to college during times of economic hardship is a historic trend, he said. Likewise, when the economy gets better, people tend to go back to work. This phenomena, he said, explains the subsequent decline in enrollment.

“There’s a preference for work and earning money,” Smyth said.

Katie Felch, director of public relations and marketing at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, also noted the economy’s role in determining enrollment at NTC. Since 2006-07, Felch said NTC’s enrollment increased by 50 percent and in 2012, it was recognized as the 21st fastest-growing community college in the nation by Community College Week. This past May, NTC graduated its largest class ever.

This year, NTC’s enrollment is down 8 percent, but Felch expects it to rebound.

“We saw a big bubble due to dislocated workers,” Felch said.

However, the recession isn’t the only factor influencing enrollment. MSTC’s pool of potential students is much smaller because of its district’s demographics.

According to MSTC’s calculations in its 2014-15 budget, residents in the school’s district are significantly older than the national average. Compared to the national average, there are 16 percent more people per capita who are older than 50. Combine this with the fact that MSTC’s district has only grown 1 percent in population since 2001 and it puts MSTC at a notable disadvantage in enrolling students. For context, Wisconsin’s population has grown 7 percent and the U.S.’s has grown 11 percent since 2001.

Another cause for concern in technical college enrollment is the diminishing number of students in high school. Smyth said the total number of high school graduates is expected to decrease in the next decade and with fewer students enrolled in high school, it is likely to impact enrollment at all colleges.

However, the technical colleges are especially starting to notice.

“There are just fewer students in the pipeline,” Felch said. “So we’re working to attract those students.”

But, as Smyth said, recruitment for students is especially hard for technical colleges because of their constant battle with a “four-year bias.” High school students, in particular, might feel more pressured by their peers, parents and school counselors to enroll in a four-year university even though their academic interest might be better aligned with a technical college.

Still, Smyth admits that breaking this bias is especially hard.

“We’re trying to get people to think along the lines of, ‘What do you want to do?’ rather than, ‘Where do you want to go?’” Smyth said.

In addition, student financial aid is growing harder to attain because of government regulations, further hindering student enrollment. Although technical colleges might be more affordable than a four-year university, Smyth said the number of students eligible for state-funded, need-based financial aid far outpaces the sufficient funds available to them.

At MSTC, Lang said the declining accessibility of financial aid is impacting the number of students it enrolls.

“It has been a factor (in enrollment) over the past few years,” Lang said about financial aid. “Those regulations do continue to tighten.”

Lang said MSTC anticipates a “moderate growth” in student body population during the next few years but would not speak to whether maintaining a steadily increasing enrollment was a high priority for MSTC. Instead, she emphasized student success as one of MSTC’s largest priorities.

From wausaudailyherald.com: “NTC’s Agriculture Center continues to grow” — WAUSAU — Enrollment at Northcentral Technical College’s Agriculture Center of Excellence has more than tripled since the academy opened about three years ago and though the farm part of the center still is losing money, administrators are confident that soon will change.

In 2009, the Marathon County Board voted to give NTC $1 million to help start the center, a farm-based learning laboratory in the town of Maine. NTC’s initial investment was $164,338, according to NTC marketing & public relations director Katie Felch.

Two years later, students started using the facility, with 31 signing up for one of the two available associate degree programs: dairy science and agribusiness.

In the 2013-14 academic year, 107 students were enrolled in an expanded selection of four programs taught at the center. Veterinary science, an associate degree program, and agriculture equipment technician, which offers a technical diploma, recently were added to the course offerings.

In 2013, 12 students graduated from the dairy science program, according to figures provided by the college. Of those, 11 responded to a follow-up survey, with two listing “farm owner” or “family farm owner” as their occupations.

That means the program isn’t churning out graduates who take over or start their own family farms, but NTC leaders said the students being educated at the academy are contributing to central Wisconsin’s farming economy in myriad other ways.

By the numbers

From a budgetary standpoint, the Agriculture Center is split into two components; the instructional budget, which includes expenses such as instructional pay, supplies, printing costs and minor equipment; and the farm operations budget, which includes revenue from crops, milk, calves and cows and expenses including seed, fertilizer, livestock, fuel and repairs.

The instructional budget is a fixed cost for the college, but the farm operations spending plan can be affected by a variety of factors, including weather and milk prices, said NTC president Lori Weyers.

The farm has been operating in the red since it opened, losing about $24,000 in fiscal year 2013 and with losses projected to be about $5,000 in the current fiscal year, according to figures provided by the college.

While that might not be ideal, Weyers said it’s not unexpected.

“We said we had a five-year budget plan we were working toward to get to be cost-neutral,” Weyers said. “But it is very dependent on milk prices and how we do with the crops, if we have a good growing season, because then we don’t have to buy as much feed for the cows.”

Weyers said learning to cope with weather’s whims and fluctuating milk prices is a good lesson for students preparing for lives as farmers.

“We’re dependent on the weather, we’re dependent on milk prices, so our students need to understand this — that if they go into this field they’re going to be very much dependent on what happens with their crops and what happens with their milk prices,” she said. “It’s real life, it’s real-world living, and so that was our goal.”

The center lost about $85,000 in fiscal year 2012, but Felch said that figure doesn’t reflect a fully operational year; its herd still was growing and the center had yet to secure the annual milk-purchase contract it now has with Mullins Cheese.

The herd took time to build, said Vicky Pietz, NTC dean of agricultural sciences.

“We have over 100 animals now; we can have up to 110 on the property for the zoning,” Pietz said. “We started off with a smaller herd so it takes time for your cows to come up through the milking lines.”

Ag Center graduates

Of the 12 students who graduated from the dairy science program in 2013, 11 responded to a six-month follow-up survey from the college. Two of them reported owning farms — one a family farm — and others held jobs such as property manager, farm technician and farm hand.

Weyers said the industry is trending toward large farm operations and away from smaller family farms, so it’s not atypical for those entering the ag business to get jobs as farm managers instead of farm owners.

“The research says that larger farms are coming in and the smaller dairy farms of the ’60s and ’70s is no longer going to be the case,” Weyers said. “It’s tough to make a living when you’re talking about 40 or 60 cows, you’re going to have to have an outside job. … So either the wife works outside the home or somebody does.

“But then you’re seeing these 2,000-herd farms, the large operations, and they need a lot — they need a herdsman, they need somebody in charge of the crops, and that’s where our graduates are going.”

Brian Brendemuehl of Merrill, who graduated in May from the dairy science program, said he and his classmates got both a degree and real-world experience at the academy — a valuable combination when it comes to landing a job.

“It gives you credentials going into somebody’s farm; credentials that you were on a working farm with animals,” Brendemuehl said. “A lot of people will hire upon experience and you also have a degree, so if you have both, you have a leg up on the competition.”

The 30-year-old said the best part of the program was the hands-on learning.

“It gives you a perspective with the cow being there, it’s not all done by simulators,” Brendemuehl said. “You actually can see how things act and how the cows react to what the students are doing with the cows, so it gives you something to expect out in the real world and some perspective of how it’s going to happen.”

Growing a farm

The center, which sits on 110 acres on Highway K in the town of Maine, was developed in partnership with the Dairyland State Academy, a consortium of agribusiness advocates that helped raise money to make the facility a reality. In March 2009, the Marathon County Board voted 29-7 to spend $1 million to develop the center.

Then-county board chairman Keith Langenhahn was one of the yes votes.

“When we took the vote, the flavor of the (county) board was that agriculture is very important in Marathon County and with the average age of the producer at 57 or 58 at that time, we thought it was important to have young people trained to take over the industry and retain the agriculture base in Marathon County,” Langenhahn said.

The center includes a cow barn, calf and heifer barn, robotic milker, parlor and a “green” classroom that has the capacity to seat 32 students. The calf and heifer barn has the capacity to house 40 to 50 animals and the freestall barn has 50 stalls. The main building is equipped with a milking parlor and a Lely robotic milking machine.

The farm includes 83 acres of tillable land planted in a variety of crops — peas, oats, alfalfa, red clover, grass and corn. Through an agreement with Case IH, students are able to use the latest agricultural equipment and precision farming technology.

A farm operations manager oversees the center and is helped by two assistant managers, Pietz said. Two full-time instructors and some adjuncts round out the staffing.

Selling the center

The center is marketed in a variety of ways, Felch said, from career coaches promoting it in the high schools, to getting the word out at events such as the state fair, this month’s dairy breakfasts and organizations such as the FFA.

Felch said farm staffers also give frequent tours and hold high school-geared events where students can see the farm firsthand.

“That’s really what sells them,” Felch said. “That’s the great thing about the Ag Center of Excellence is that it’s that learning laboratory, you have that hands-on opportunity, you’re not just learning in the classroom, you’re actually seeing first hand all those experiences.”

In addition to its efforts to present the center in a good light, Pietz said the college wants to put a good face forward for the agriculture industry.

“We work really hard to make sure the place looks nice, looks clean, stays looking new, so that when folks do come in and tour they leave feeling great,” Pietz said. “They’ve had a good tour, they’ve had a good experience.”

From beloitdailynews.com: “BTC: Either cuts or $4M referendum” — by Hillary Gavan – A $4 million referendum for Blackhawk Technical Colleges (BTC) annual budget would enable the college to offer more career pathways to job seekers and more skilled workers for businesses looking to hire, according to BTC President Tom Eckert, Vice President of Finance & Operations Renea Ranguette and Foundation and Alumni Association Director Kelli Cameron.

In a recent interview, BTC officials explained how enrollment has increased while state funds have been cut causing an estimated annual budget shortfall of $3.5 million. The voters have a choice to either move forward with a referendum or reduce programs and services.

“Our only other option is to shrink,” Ranguette said.

The proposed referendum would mean a tax increase of $37 for a home with an assessed value of $100,000, translating to $3.08 per month. The board would have to approve the potential referendum by the Jan. 16 board meeting in order to get it on the ballot for the April 1 election.

In 2009, Eckert said enrollment increased 54 percent at BTC when General Motors (GM) closed. During the years that followed BTC increased certain programs to meet student needs while making a total of $3.2 million in cuts to services, programs and personnel.

“It was a combination of offering more of the right programs our community needed while making reductions to those that weren’t in high demand,” Cameron said.

Now, in 2013, enrollment remains relatively high as state funding has been cut. For example, the 2011-13 state budget reduced Wisconsin Technical College System aid by 30 percent, reducing state aid to BTC by $1.5 million. And the local operating property tax levy was frozen in 2010.

“Our increased enrollment was bigger and longer than we thought,” Eckert said.

Eckert also noted that there still are many part-time students enrolled at BTC who may be under-employed and are trying to gain more skills as the economy still recovers.

During the time of the enrollment boon, Eckert said many positive changes were made to better address the educational needs of students and employers, which BTC hopes to continue. For example, during its increase BTC implemented more comprehensive student services such as tutoring, advising and career counseling.

“We thought they were key things to students staying in school, and things employers told us they needed,” Eckert said.

An example of an expanded program is welding, which now is offered from 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily and on Saturday to push out welders as quickly as possible due to a welder shortage.

BTC officials also want to keep their focus on health occupational offerings as well including a pharmacy technician program.

Although some programs and services have been increased, Eckert stressed how BTC has scaled back other programs. Employees have increased their benefit contributions and personnel have been reduced. For example, about 30 employees brought on via two-year contracts during the enrollment increase were not kept on board.

However, there are more staff overall since 2007 to support additional student services. Eckert noted about 80 percent of the operational budget is for staff salary and benefits.

The following are examples of operational savings: closed aviation program, $370,000; reduced the size of the electrical power distribution program, eliminated leadership program, and office systems tech position, $270,000; closed day care center, $72,000; increased employee contribution to Wisconsin Retirement System, $1 million; made personnel changes through attrition, $372,000; and cuts to operational accounts and activities, $169,000.

Historically, Eckert said BTC has received less local revenue on a per-student basis than all other small technical colleges in the state. BTC has 2,774 full time equivalent (FTE) students, second only to Moraine Park and Wisconsin Indianhead in its peer group of small technical colleges. However, BTC is eighth in its operational costs per FTE at only $11,745, compared to the average of about $14,000 among its peers.

“Even thought its the third largest among its peers, it charges the least per student,” Eckert said.

He added that the state sets the amount of tuition BTC can charge prohibiting the college from generating additional funds that way.

The Blackhawk Technical College Foundation has sent out surveys via mail and e-mail to more than 12,000 residents in Rock and Green counties to gauge community support for a potential referendum. On Dec. 19 the company conducting the surveys — School Perceptions — will present findings to the BTC Board in an open forum at 6 p.m. in the Board Room at the Central Campus’s administration building.

Eckert maintains it’s critical for BTC to continue its current programming to keep the local economy strong.

“We are a player in attracting businesses,” Eckert said.

He said for every tax dollar spent, communities get about $1.40 back in terms of what students spend. However, some figures put the figure as high as $14 back because of a higher educated populace which leads to a better healthcare, lower crime rats and less reliance on local taxing sources.

From host.madison.com: “MATC’s Walleser nabs enrollment award” — Diane Walleser, vice president of enrollment at Madison Area Technical College, was honored last week by a national association for her work promoting strategic enrollment management.

At the ceremony in Chicago, Walleser was touted by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers for leadership that has led to significant growth in student applications and enrollment since she started in 2005. It also noted an 85 percent increase in students in the college’s liberal arts transfer program during her tenure.

“A new academic pathway model was developed to improve retention and completion rates and shorten time-to-completion,” the association noted. “Academic and peer advisors have been hired and orientation services redesigned to intentionally support student retention and success.”

 

 

From StarJournalNow.com: “Trailer will bring Nicolet College to area communities” —  The Nicolet Area Technical College district covers more than 4,000 square miles so for those living in the district it may not be easy to get to the main campus located just outside of Rhinelander for certain services.

The college has moved to remedy this with a new trailer that will be taken around to area communities to bring the school to prospective students.

“We can really do anything in the trailer that we can do in our office,” Kenneth Urban, Nicolet vice president of teaching, learning and student success, said. “The only thing we can’t do is testing. But financial aid, registration, we can do that in this trailer.”

Urban was one of the leading figures in trying to find a way the college could reach all corners of the district.

“Our district is 80 percent the size of Connecticut so we have a big area to cover,” Urban said. “It is not easy for people to sometimes get the services they need by coming to the main campus.”

The idea to bring those services to the district via trailer was the logical next step so the college began looking for a suitable vehicle.

Fortunately, they did not have to look far.

“Luckily the Wisconsin Technical College System Foundation is the organization that handles federal property in Wisconsin,” Urban said. “They had a FEMA trailer sitting in their lot in Waunakee.”

The trailer, Urban said, was just a typical camping trailer so the college needed to put work into it to make it a mobile extension of the college.

Again, the school did not have far to go to find qualified help.

“We have some very talented students and staff at this school,” Urban said.

Students and staff went to work on gutting the trailer and putting in the equipment and finishes needed to make the trailer function like the home office.

They removed the bathroom and made that they technology hub and electrical hub that feeds the two computer work stations in the area. They turned a couch into a work surface and installed an oak table with the college’s oak leaf logo.

On the outside, of the trailer, the students modified the main side window and inside built a storage case that houses a flat panel television, one of two in the unit.

“The idea is that you would pull up to where you are going to set up, you put the awing down and set up a table in front and have the television playing behind you with information,” Urban said. “We can customize the message to whatever we are doing that day. If we are there for financial aid sign up, we can have a video about financial aid playing. Or if it is a general visit, we can have a video of information about the school playing.”

Urban said the idea is to have at least two school representatives with the trailer when it goes to events in communities to help people with their needs. But he adds the college is still experimenting on how it best works in the real world.

“It has been out on one official event and that was Rediculous Dae in Rhinelander,” he said. “People really liked it. We learned thought that we need paper weights for the papers on the table outside. But that is where we are at right now, we are experimenting to see what we need and how the trailer works best.”

The trailer will be used for two more events this year though those dates have not been finalized but Urban said he is excited to get the unit out in the public.

“We want to take it where the people that will use the college the most will be,” he said. “We will stay away from tourist events, but you will see this trailer at high school football games where a couple of schools in our district are playing each other or other events where people that use the college will be.”

From madison.com: “In child care evolution, ramifications for everyone” — By Doug Erickson – After Wisconsin started rating child care centers a couple of years ago, Stacy Reinacher knew how the phone calls from prospective customers were going to go.

Her small, in-home center in Madison earned just two stars out of five — the most common rating and nothing to be ashamed of, yet disappointing to some parents.

“You’d say two stars, and they’d be like, ‘Really, that’s it?’ And then you wouldn’t hear from them again,” said Reinacher, 37, who operates Stacy’s Quality Daycare.

What tripped up Reinacher was the same thing keeping so many providers from getting higher ratings: a lack of college credits. The rating system, called YoungStar, puts a premium on educational attainment. Centers are stuck at a two-star rating unless at least some of their workers get college-credit-based training.

That’s sent hundreds of child care workers, including Reinacher, back to college — or to college for the first time.

It’s not an easy proposition. Caring for children is exhausting work, and turnover is high in the field. Then there’s the financial aspect.

“These folks aren’t making much money — the average is about $11 an hour,” said Dave Edie, who led the state’s child care office for years. “The question becomes, ‘Why should I get a degree and continue to make $11 an hour?’”

The state is trying to address these barriers, particularly through a popular scholarship program.

Some child care workers welcome this move toward college training, saying it will professionalize the field and finally put to rest the “baby sitter” label. Others, especially veteran providers with decades of experience, say the emphasis on college training is misplaced, even insulting.

Regardless, YoungStar has triggered a fundamental shift in child care in the state.

“I’ve often told my employees that there will come a day when you won’t be able to work in this field without having at least some college training,” said Sharlot Bogart, owner of Teddy’s Place in Sun Prairie and a child care provider for more than 40 years. “That day is coming very soon.”

Four key areas

The YoungStar system rates centers from one to five stars, although two stars is really the practical base. (One-star centers don’t meet basic health and safety standards and usually are in the process of being shut down.)

A center gets rated in four key areas: staff educational qualifications; learning environment; the professionalism of business practices; and the approach to child health and wellness.

Of the 4,571 child care centers that have been rated through YoungStar, the biggest chunk by far, 2,910 or 64 percent, earned two stars. That means they meet all state health and safety standards.

State officials always said most centers would get two stars, at least initially. That’s because the state’s previous approach to licensing focused on health and safety. YoungStar pushes a center to think much more about its early learning curriculum — and whether it has the qualified staff to teach it.

“The better trained the staff members are, the more knowledgeable they are about the stages of child development, and we feel that’s crucial,” Edie said. “You can even have a fairly questionable setting, but if the teachers know how to work with kids, they can do great things.”

The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, where Edie now works, recently crunched the numbers and found the greatest barrier to a center moving up to three stars is a lack of staff education.

Pride, self-improvement

Reinacher does not have a college degree. But on a recent afternoon at her in-home center, she pulled a hefty binder from a shelf and paged through the records from all of the continuing education classes she’s taken in the past decade — 192 hours’ worth.

Those non-credit classes improved her skills and helped her maintain her state license, but they didn’t help her move up the rating’s ladder. She couldn’t become a three-star center unless she earned at least 12 college credits — typically four college courses. Her competitiveness kicked in.

“I wanted to better myself,” she said. “And I didn’t want to be a two-star center like everyone else.”

So 18 months ago, she began taking online classes through UW-Platteville, often sitting down to hours of homework after an exhausting day of caring for six children.

She earned a three-star rating a couple of months ago and is continuing to take classes in hopes of one day acquiring enough credits for a two-year associates degree, giving her a shot at an even higher rating. At her current pace, that would take another three years.

Tuition assist

The classes are sometimes a physical drain but have not been a financial one for Reinacher. To encourage education, the state offers scholarships to child care workers through a $4.7 million annual program that goes by the acronym TEACH.

The scholarships predate YoungStar, but the demand for them has increased dramatically in the last two years. It would be hard to find a government program more beloved right now.

“TEACH is doing amazing things,” said Krystle Lisk, owner of Just 4 Kidz in Cuba City, a two-star center.

She’s taking the second of six college courses she needs for her center to move up to a three-star rating. Her scholarship pays 55 percent of the tuition, plus a stipend for gas and books. Her cost per course is about $400.

The scholarships are even more helpful to employees of child care centers because the employer also ponies up some money. And once the courses are completed, the employer agrees to provide either a one-time bonus (usually around $200) or a raise of 1 to 2 percent.

For Christina Smith, 32, an employee of Play Haven Child Care in Sun Prairie, the scholarship means she pays only 20 percent of the costs, or about $150 per course at Madison Area Technical College. In return, she commits to staying with her employer for at least a year after her scholarship contract is completed.

Smith works full time, plus races to classes over lunch and at night.

“Believe it or not, I’m actually really enjoying it — I’m on the Dean’s List, I’m earning high honors — and I’m able to apply what I’m learning directly in the classroom,” she said.

She’s one of 1,089 child care workers across the state on a TEACH scholarship right now. Funding for the program is stable, and so far the program has been able to enroll all applicants who meet eligibility guidelines, said Autumn Gehri of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, which runs the program for the state.

Big motivator

There’s another big motivator in this push toward college credits. Centers that care for low-income children get more money through a state-subsidy program if they have more stars. That’s part of the state’s goal of getting more low-income children into higher-quality child care.

When YoungStar kicked in, centers rated two stars actually lost 5 percent of their state reimbursement. This was especially galling to these centers, because the overall reimbursement rate for everyone has been frozen since 2006.

“We’d done nothing wrong, yet our wages essentially were being cut,” said Jaime Steindorf, owner of centers in Columbus and Rio, both called Braids N’ Britches.

Her Columbus center initially earned two stars. Steindorf said she sat down her employees and “begged” them to consider college training. To get three stars, at least two of her four lead classroom teachers needed to each pass two college-level courses, and she needed to complete courses as well.

Five of her eight employees signed on, and the center now is a three-star. Steindorf has mixed feelings about YoungStar.

“Honestly, I have to say that the two most highly educated people I ever hired turned out to be my two least-desirable teachers,” she said. “I think education is important, but experience should count for something as well.”

Dynamic profession

This has become a common complaint among veterans in the field, said Karen Natoli, a coordinator of the early childhood education program at Madison Area Technical College. Natoli supports YoungStar but sympathizes with experienced providers who now need credit-based training.

“It’s almost insulting to them because, frankly, many of these providers are wonderful and have been doing high-quality child care for years,” Natoli said.

The state has responded by working with colleges to offer classes that grant credit for prior learning, through mechanisms such as opt-out tests, direct classroom observation and portfolios that document skills.

MATC tries to honor what these providers have done by drafting them as mentors for younger students. Yet it also stresses to these experienced providers the value of credit-based education, Natoli said.

“The brain research in just the last 10 years is so different from what I studied in college,” she said. “I feel like I’m always learning something new, and that’s the approach we’re trying to bring to this, to help make every teacher more exceptional.”

 

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