Volume 9, Number 1
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Member Spotlight: Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute
Early Childhood Program
Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute
A National Indian Community College
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute’s (SIPI) Early Childhood Education program provides students with an opportunity to complete an educational program that directly affects employability in rural, tribal communities while increasing the community’s economic capacity to meet not only its childcare needs, but tribal members’ educational goals as well. SIPI’s Early Childhood Education Associate of Arts degree improves the availability and quality of licensed childcare resources and early childhood professional resources in Native American communities while helping family members enter the workforce as trained, knowledgeable early childhood professionals who can help children begin school prepared for academic success.
The overall objective of the college’s Early Childhood Education Program is to provide students access to knowledge, skills, and professional ethics surrounding the fields of child development, family development, and community development, while assuring the provision of quality services that address the complex needs of diverse families in the 21st century. The program furthers SIPI’s capacity to deliver rigorous, high-quality instructional experiences and outreach for American Indian students and tribal communities and increases the number of American Indians successfully completing a program of study in early childhood.
Program coursework addresses seven general early childhood education competency areas required by the New Mexico Department of Education licensure in early childhood education. The college’s program is part of the New Mexico Higher Education Department’s statewide Early Childhood Education course transfer matrix. This ensures that SIPI’s courses are 100 percent transferable to New Mexico four-year institutions and that its graduates enter a four-year New Mexico institution as a junior.
New Mexico’s Seven Areas of Competency. The program includes New Mexico's seven competency areas:
- Child Growth, Development, and Learning
- Health, Safety, and Nutrition
- Family and Community Collaboration
- Developmentally Appropriate Content
- Learning Environment and Curriculum Implementation
- Assessment of Children and Evaluation of Programs
Courses also address topics of particular relevance to Indian communities such as cultural and linguistic diversity of children. Curriculum and training are grounded in basic principles of child development with respect for a child’s developmental level, learning approaches, interests, and cultural heritage while strengthening students’ skills in content and pedagogy.
SIPI began its transition to the Early Childhood Education Associate of Arts Degree when it developed and offered Childhood Development Associate Certification (CDA) courses beginning in 2000. These classes were offered to 28 American Indian Head Start teachers at nearby Pueblos and reservations. Upon completion of the three-course sequence, students applied for a CDA credential through the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition. This initiative provided a pilot test for SIPI in identifying, developing, and implementing a comprehensive range of academic and student support services while laying the foundation for the college’s Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education.
By spring 2001, SIPI’s Early Childhood cohort numbers totaled 63. Spring 2003 cohort numbers were 122. Currently, there are 51 students enrolled at SIPI with a declared major in Early Childhood Education. The majority of students have careers as Head Start and Early Childhood teachers in their tribal communities. As of 2007, 45 American Indian students have completed an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education.
SIPI’s Early Childhood program serves the following tribal communities:
- Alamo Navajo
- Isleta Pueblo
- Jemez Pueblo
- Jicarilla Apache
- Laguna Pueblo
- Mescalero Apache
- Ramah Navajo
- San Felipe Pueblo
- Santa Clara Pueblo
- Santo Domingo Pueblo
- Zia Pueblo
- To’hajiilee Navajo
- Taos Pueblo
- Cochiti Pueblo
- Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
Development of the college’s Early Childhood Education Associate of Arts degree is a direct result of a Congressional mandate in the reauthorization of Head Start, which required at least 50 percent of all Head Start teachers to have at least an associate’s degree in early childhood education or a related field by the year 2003. In the state of New Mexico, only 18 percent of all Head Start teachers met this requirement, including both Indian and non-Indian Head Start programs. Upgrading teacher training remains a critical function of program curriculum in the development of teacher understanding in all aspects of a child’s growth, development, and diversity. Designing effective learning environments that provide opportunities for young children in individualized and cooperative ways to develop skills and strategies for decision making, problem solving, self-control, and social interaction depends on the knowledge and skills of the teacher, the person with the greatest impact on the classroom environment.
In addition, the Elementary and Secondary Act’s No Child Left Behind, as reauthorized by Congress, mandated that educational assistants employed in schools receiving Title I funds—and this is 100 percent of Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools—have either an associate degree or 60 postsecondary credits by 2005, as a condition of employment in Title I programs. SIPI’s A.A. in Early Childhood Education meets the needs of the education workforce in Indian country.
SIPI’s laboratory school and childcare facility, currently under development, will also be used to provide practicum training and education to preservice early childhood educators attending SIPI. SIPI’s child development students primarily come from low- and moderate-income tribal communities throughout New Mexico. Ultimately, SIPI will be assisting these communities in meeting their resident childcare and early childhood educational needs by providing early childhood education classes that encompass culturally relevant curriculum based on statewide standards and articulates with baccalaureate programs in New Mexico. In addition, more Indian families will be able to work and Indian children will be ready to enter school and succeed.
Head Start Program Information Report for 1999-2000 Program Year: Staff Qualifications Report – National Level Summary.