The early childhood field is going through a major transition. With more researchers pointing to the importance of high-quality early childhood education as a major factor in a child’s future success in school and life, and the need for a child’s teacher to be well educated, the field is under scrutiny. “Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth through Age 8,” a report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Science, recommended that lead teachers in all settings have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education as a foundation for their practice, basing this on the science of early childhood development. The early childhood field is far from achieving this, yet there is a huge push to advance this goal. The final report developed by the Power to the Profession Task Force calls for major investments in early childhood educators, including comprehensive strategies to make college degrees affordable and accessible for the incumbent workforce. The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® (T.E.A.C.H.) scholarship initiative is seen as a proven vehicle to make that happen, given the post-secondary education the workforce needs and the real career and wage mobility it deserves.
With the goal that every child in an early childhood setting has a teacher who is well educated and well compensated, the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship initiative strives to provide the opportunity for incumbent early childhood educators to access an affordable college education, have adequate workforce support while pursuing more education and earn fair compensation commensurate with their educational achievements. The T.E.A.C.H. scholarship consists of several components. These include financial support for tuition, books and other expenses, paid release time, annual compensation enhancements upon completion of required credit hours and a counselor who provides personalized support for scholarship recipients and their employers. Currently, T.E.A.C.H. scholarship programs operate in 21 states and D.C.
The various state programs are supported by the T.E.A.C.H. National Center (National Center), which provides ongoing technical assistance to the various states’ programs. The National Center also conducts oversight to ensure that these programs maintain fidelity to the basic design of the T.E.A.C.H. model. To support this mission, the National Center created an extensive database used by all programs that captures data on current and previous T.E.A.C.H. scholarship recipients in the states. While this database was developed to facilitate scholarship administration, uniform reporting and model fidelity of the state programs, it has proven useful for research and evaluation as well. A key feature of the database is that it includes information obtained at the time of application and additional information that is individually updated throughout the time each recipient is served by the program. Although this database is usually employed as a scholarship management system, data are regularly monitored and examined by National Center staff, making the system quite useful for developing high quality data that can be used for strategy development and research and evaluation studies.
However, individual scholarship recipients are not routinely tracked in the T.E.A.C.H. database after they complete their T.E.A.C.H. contracts. As a result, it has been difficult, if not impossible, to conduct any systematic assessment of the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship recipients’ longer-term careers and experiences. In order to address this situation, a longevity study was proposed and implemented to examine the long-term career trajectories of T.E.A.C.H. scholarship recipients who graduated from an early childhood education program with a college degree. To fill this gap, a study was developed that would conduct systematic surveys of recent graduates of early childhood college degree programs (i.e., AA or BA) who had been supported by T.E.A.C.H. scholarships. These surveys would allow investigators to follow these graduates prospectively for up to three years, receiving reports from them every six months about their employment, wages, career trajectory, professional development and other work and life situations. Using these data, it will be possible to develop a more thorough portrait of T.E.A.C.H. graduates’ accomplishments and experiences. This report is the first in a series of reports that will flesh out that portrait by drawing on these data.