Soobin Oh is the senior early education advisor at Children’s Institute and adjunct faculty in the Master of Early Education Program at Portland State University. Here he shares his perspective on the importance of the new Master of Science in Education with a Concentration in Leadership in Early Childhood Education program offered by Southern Oregon University.

SOU responds to the increasing recognition that early childhood education is an important field by offering an online Master’s program that supports new early learning leaders. The recent passage of the Student Success Act, with its investments in early childhood programs, will create new jobs for both educators and leaders. SOU’s courses seem designed with these leaders in mind. They foreground equity and ethics, and encourage leaders to be thoughtful and intellectual in their approach to curriculum and instruction.

Scanning across the landscape of higher education and preservice preparation for early learning leaders, there are limited options. Public education administrators have formal structures, certifications, and pathways, and there are stark disparities in the number of available programs and projected salaries for early childhood leaders compared to public school administrators. We have much work to do to create better bridges between early learning and elementary education, and supporting new leaders is of the utmost importance.

The launch of this program also demonstrates that early childhood education is maturing as a field. Historically, early childhood educators have been disrespected or treated as babysitters. This program represents a step in the ongoing process to “professionalize the field.” This is something the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is also working toward through its Power to the Profession initiative.

We need a new generation of early childhood leaders. I’m glad to see Southern Oregon University forging a path by which these leaders can emerge here in Oregon in an online format that can support working professionals who are already in the field.

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