UIC earns $3.8M grant to enhance early childhood education

Catherine Main Senior Lecturer and Coordinator of Early Childhood Programs
Catherine Main. Photo: Laura Hayes.

The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a $3.8 million, four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to further its work, along with several partners, supporting early childhood education and to prepare early childhood educators.

The Chicago Early Childhood Preparation and Pathway Partnership, or CECPP Partnership, aims to serve 100 residents over five years and will involve as many as 2,000 Chicago preschoolers and up to 100 Chicago Public Schools early childhood classrooms and/or Chicago community-based organizations.

Catherine Main, senior lecturer and program coordinator in the College of Education, is the principal investigator for the grant. Kate Zinsser, assistant professor of psychology and principal investigator at the Social-Emotional Teaching and Learning Lab at UIC, is a co-principal investigator.

Main and Zinsser have partnered to develop one of the only early childhood education residency programs in the country to provide teachers with focused instruction on not only academic content, but also evidence-based teaching strategies to promote social-emotional learning.

The residency program, called the UIC Alternative Early Childhood Licensure program, is designed to prepare early childhood teachers in Chicago’s underserved communities. 

“The program provides a viable pathway for teacher residents to gain state teacher licensure and graduate-level coursework while maintaining employment and strong relationships with young children and their families at their current workplace,” Main said.

The aim of the program is to recruit and select traditionally disenfranchised people, particularly women of color, to advance their education, strengthen their teaching practice and improve outcomes for children, according to the grant.

The initiative is designed to help address acute early childhood teacher shortages, the lack of teacher diversity in lead teacher roles, and to combat teacher turnover and increase teacher retention.

The grant calls for the enhancement of the UIC program by offering, “intense UIC coaching support, increased content in socio-emotional learning, STEM and inclusion of diverse learners.” Other co-principal investigators in the College of Education include Michelle Parker-Katz, clinical professor in special education, and Kathleen Sheridan, associate professor in the department of educational psychology. 

The grant creates a partnership that will bring in key stakeholders from government agencies, community organizations, university teachers and researchers.

Partners include researchers at George Mason University, the Chicago Public Schools, the City of Chicago’s Office of Early Learning, and the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development.