Summer Intern at the Institute: Meet Ramisa

The Institute was pleased to have a summer intern, Ramisa Bashar, this year through the Opportunity Network, an organization devoted to helping high school students achieve their college and career goals with a variety of supports beginning their sophomore year of high school and lasting throughout college. Ramisa was kind enough to share her reflections on her summer internship with this guest blog post. We wish her the best of luck as she begins her college career at Queens College in September!

Ramisa Bashar

Hi, I'm Ramisa Bashar, the summer intern.  I am a fellow at the Opportunity Network, a nonprofit organization that serves as a career and college readiness program for students from underrepresented communities.  Through this program, I learned about an internship at the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute and jumped on the opportunity.  The internship piqued my interest because the Institute is affiliated with CUNY and I plan on attending Queens College in the fall, so I hoped to network with CUNY staff and alumni while there.  Additionally, it was an opportunity to learn about the administrative positions and work that is involved ‘behind-the-scenes’ in nonprofits.  I began working at the Institute before I had officially graduated high school, which made me considerably younger and less experienced.  But, to my surprise, the staff gave me respect and expressed a desire to collaborate.

Upon entering the office my first day, I knew I liked it.  Like most, my expectations of the people in high administrative positions were: white and male.  However, the commitment to diversity and inclusion at the Institute is observable: women in positions of power and people of color working at every level.  I recall Dona Anderson, the Institute’s Deputy Executive Director, explaining the importance of having the staff as diverse as the people whom they served.  I relaxed immediately and felt that I could contribute to not only the Institute, but any future position at a major company or organization.

The largest project I have helped with is database entry for Start with Stars, a project under QUALITYstarsNY that helps to improve challenged programs not yet ready to participate in QUALITYstarsNY.  I worked closely with Becky Plattus, the Special Projects Manager, to prepare for the new version of the Aspire website.  This involved reviewing and compiling spreadsheets, continuous tests of the website for bugs and errors, and ultimately inputting data.  I had the exciting opportunity to speak one-on-one with web developers and be a part of a new phase of the Institute, as they transition into the digital age.

Eventually, I also learned about different aspects and initiatives of the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute.  For example, in a meeting for the Leadership Initiative, I learned about the NYS Children’s Program Administrator Credential (CPAC) — a credential for teachers and administrators that indicates they are prepared for the management and leadership work involved with early childhood.  One of the Leadership Initiative directors spoke about the experience so passionately, that I can see myself obtaining the certificate.

Child Development Associate (CDA) Certificate 2018 Graduation

Claudine Campanelli

This accomplishment was like giving birth to a new beginning of my life and to set an example to my kids that through hard work and perseverance you can accomplish anything you put your mind to if you have faith”.

– Ray (CUNY SPS Child Development Associate Certificate Graduate June 2018)

On June 1, 2018 41 students walked the stage at Lincoln Center to receive their Child Development Associate Certificate from CUNY School of Professional Studies. The individuals came from all parts of NYC’s five boroughs with different reasons for embarking on an educational path that lead to the certificate. They all shared a common desire, to be a great teacher and enjoy their work with children and families.

A group of students were continuing their professional development to further their career in early education. Some of the students returned to school after being away from formal classroom experience for many years. Other students decided they needed a change in their career and wanted more meaning to their work. A small cohort of students joined the program with a unique background and reason for partaking in the course. The group were all parents of NYC ACS Head Start programs. They participated in their programs as volunteers, committee members and delegate representatives. They were provided an opportunity to gain their CDA to continue to give back to the community that has provided so much to them and their families. They can now work as teacher assistants and lead teachers in the classrooms they once volunteered in.  All of our students shared several semesters of intense course work and field experience, and bonded over sharing their stories as “student interns”.

I am truly proud of the students and instructors. Each day they came to class and their internships having to be open to new information, being open to learn something new and even face being challenged to shift old beliefs and thoughts about child development. The courses meet the requirements of New York State undergraduate early childhood courses and the National Council of Professional Recognition Child Development Associate (CDA) competency model. Each graduating student can go on and take the national credentialing exam.

The graduation was a culmination of all of their hard work. Several of the teaching faculty from the CDA program joined the stage with the students and shared in the excitement of such a great accomplishment. It was great to see students blowing kisses and waiving to them as they crossed the stage. A genuine shared moment of joy and pride.

The Institute salutes the hard work of 42 CDA graduates, some of them pictured here with their instructor and the Institute's Higher Education Coordinator, Claudine Campanelli. Claudine oversees the CDA program and the CPAC program in conjunction with the CUNY School of Professional Studies.

The Aspire Registry Summer Newsletter

The Aspire Registry team has released their summer newsletter. Since 2015, the Aspire Registry Newsletter has discussed the latest Registry news and events, and highlighted the work of New York professionals in the field of early childhood. The newsletter also provides information about useful resources and tips for early childhood professionals. The newsletter is distributed to over 25,000 Aspire Registry members, a number that continues to grow.

In the summer newsletter, the Aspire Registry invites its members to explore the interactive Core Body of Knowledge (CBK): New York State’s Core Competencies for Early Childhood Educators. The CBK outlines the knowledge, skills, and dispositions required to work with young children. It is an essential resource for all early childhood educators, offering a road map for building meaningful relationships with children, families and colleagues and for developing oneself as a professional in this incredibly important field. While print copies of the CBK are available to order on the Institute’s website, the interactive CBK is online and allows users to easily navigate each core competency. Some competencies include links to additional resources or have corresponding videos of teachers and children in the classroom.  The Aspire Registry Team also shares information about the Aspire Statewide Training Calendar, a tool to search for professional development opportunities, and the Aspire Registry Attendance app that trainers use to take attendance. When trainers use the attendance app, members immediately get credit for attending the session on their Aspire Profile! In addition, the newsletter features a spotlight on a new member of the Aspire Registry Team, Roger David Torres. Roger shares what excites him about his new role as an Aspire Registry Associate and his hobbies outside of work.

To read the newsletter, click here.

Teachers Speak Out

This week, Defending the Early Years (DEY) launched its two-minute documentary, “Teachers Speak Out”. In this first mini-documentary, public school kindergarten teacher, Bianca Tanis, discusses the hijacking of early education and the growing crisis among early learners. Too many children are being identified as having special needs or behavioral issues when they simply need to move, play, and learn through exploration.

The New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute believes that young children need and deserve the best start possible in their early years. When young children are protected, nurtured, and encouraged to learn about what interests them they have a better chance of thriving in childhood and securing healthy and productive futures. The Institute encourages you to watch and share this important mini-documentary, available here in English and Spanish.

To watch the documentary, click here.




The Aspire Registry Spring Newsletter

The Aspire Registry team has released their spring newsletter. Since 2015, the Aspire Registry Newsletter has discussed the latest Registry news and events, and highlighted the work of New York professionals in the field of early childhood. The newsletter also provides information about useful resources and tips for early childhood professionals. The newsletter is distributed to over 25,000 Aspire Registry members, a number that continues to grow.

In the spring newsletter, the Aspire Registry shares information about the New York Association for the Education of Young Children (NYAEYC) Annual Conference. The Aspire Registry Team considers NYAEYC one of their most valued partners. Together they are working to make sure all early childhood providers have access to training and technical assistance.  Sessions at the conference being offered by other projects housed at the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute are highlighted as well as the very first Training of Trainers on The Aspire Registry. In addition, the newsletter features a spotlight on Chantel Smith, a Preschool Special Education Teacher in Westchester County. She shares why she decided to pursue a degree in early childhood and her favorite part of teaching young children.

To read the newsletter, click here.

NYAEYC Annual Conference

On April 19th, the New York Association for the Education of Young Children (NYAEYC) will hold their annual 3-day conference. The conference will include various educational workshops, exhibit tables, and presentations, including some by Institute staff. This year’s presentations from our team are below. For more information about the conference, click here. We hope to see you there!

Pre-Conference, Thursday, April 19th 

Training of Trainers: The Aspire Registry for New York’s Early Childhood Workforce (invitation only)

Diana Diaz and Louisa Higgins


Friday, April 20th

A Town Hall Meeting of the Governor's ECAC

Sherry Cleary and Patty Persell

Learning Communities: A Good Place to Foster Continuous Quality Improvement

Sara Lamaoreaux

Relationship Based Coaching

Sarah Longwell Stevens

Inspiration from Librarians: Storytime  as a Family Engagement Experience

Helen Frazier

Read more…

Yesterday was Equal Pay Day; Today Early Childhood Teachers Make their Voices Heard about Pay Inequity

Check out a recent article by Elizabeth McCarthy released on on April 11:   

Teachers who work for community-based organizations deserve equal pay

While teachers in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Oklahoma have been striking to protest their low and stagnant wages, New York has been lauded for offering the highest average salaries for teachers in the nation. In fact, most would agree that the powerful United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Union has negotiated a fair contract for teachers in the New York City Department of Education (DOE), with annual salary increases, including a three percent raise scheduled for next month. But if all of our teachers are truly being treated fairly then why are preschool teachers, their students and families planning a rally on the steps of City Hall today? 

Because, in direct contrast to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s admirable dream to make New York City the fairest big city in America, the story behind our early childhood education programming is still a “tale of two cities.”

Universal Pre-K and programs offering universal education for three year-olds draw teachers from two systems: the DOE, and a network of community-based organizations (CBOs). The DOE provides Pre-K classes in New York City public schools during the typical school year – 6.5 hours a day for a little less than ten months. CBOs provide seats in early childhood programs for about 55 percent of all Pre-K and three-year-old participants under very different parameters. These programs operate in communities where families qualify for free or subsidized child care so classrooms operate ten hours a day, twelve months a year. These centers not only provide the UPK and 3-K curricula, they often have additional on-site early intervention, mental health and family support services to address vital community needs – for no additional cost.

Read more…

The Disappearance of Child-Directed Activities and Teachers’ Autonomy

A recent report released from Defending the Early Years documents survey results of kindergarten teachers about the disappearance of child-directed activities. The report finds that schools in the wealthiest and poorest school districts in Massachusetts have reduced the amount of time kindergartners have for child-directed activities such as free play, rest, recess, snack and lunch. While these activities have been reduced, the study found that high socioeconomic status schools (SES) schedule 30 minutes more daily, two and a half more hours weekly, than low SES schools. In addition, a survey of kindergarten teachers in the wealthiest and poorest districts in Massachusetts revealed that most teachers are required to use scripted curricula that leaves some children bored or frustrated and teachers do not have enough time to reflect on and adapt their teaching. The report concludes that low SES kindergartners experience educational conditions that do not prepare them for a career in the creative economy where creativity, personal agency, and sense of purpose are necessary. Advocacy at the state and local level is recommended to compel schools to adopt practices that address the needs of children rather than the needs of administrators in pursuit of higher test scores.

The New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute believes in access to excellence for all of New York’s young children, starting at birth. This report points out the need for policy makers and administrators in Massachusetts and across the nation to cease treating children as data points and to design responsive educational environments led by empowered early educators that nurture the whole child. The Institute works with state and local government to translate best practices and research into effective public policies for all sectors and services that impact the lives of young children, including public health, economics, housing, workforce development, criminal justice, mental health, education. These efforts help to ensure that young children receive high quality services in school, at home, and in their communities so that they are better prepared for school and life.

To learn more about the Institute’s work, click here.

Children’s Screen Time Action Network Conference

Angelica Velazquez is the Director of the Institute’s Informal Family Child Care Project. She is also on the board of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC). We asked Angelica to share information about CCFC and their upcoming Children’s Screen Time Action Network Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

What is the CCFC?

The mission of CCFC is to support parents’ efforts to raise healthy families by limiting commercial access to children and ending the exploitive practice of child-targeted marketing. In working for the rights of children to grow up, and the freedom for parents to raise them, without being undermined by corporate interests, CCFC promotes a more democratic and sustainable world.

What does CCFC do?

CCFC has built a powerful movement to end the exploitive practice of marketing to children and promote a childhood shaped by what’s best for kids, not corporate profits. This advocacy is grounded in the overwhelming evidence that child-targeted marketing undermines healthy development and the belief that society bears responsibility for, and benefits immeasurably from, the wellbeing of children. CCFC works to reduce marketers’ access to children through a variety of tactics and approaches. These approaches include changing attitudes, changing how children spend their time, changing children’s environments, and changing rules.

What is the goal of the Children’s Screen Time Action Network Conference?

The goal of the conference is to teach, learn, and develop innovative solutions to the serious issues surrounding screen and device use among children.  The conference will also promote collaboration by bringing together professionals dedicated to reducing children’s screen time, such as teachers, childcare providers, social workers, and family therapists.

Are there any featured speakers at the conference?

The conference will include a variety of speakers and presenters including, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, author, Taking Back Childhood: Helping Your Kids Thrive in a Fast Paced Media Saturated Violence Filled World , Victoria Dunckley, Integrative Child, Adolescent & Adult Psychiatrist, author, Reset Your Child's Brain,  Douglas Gentile, author, Media Violence and Children, Diane Levin, author, Beyond Remote Controlled Childhood, Susan Linn, author, Consuming Kids and The Case for Make Believe, special guest Paula Poundstone, NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me and author, The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness  and many more.

Is this the first conference of its kind? If so, what prompted the creation of this event?

Yes, this is the inaugural Children’s Screen Time Action Network Conference. The Children’s Screen Time Action Network launched in November 2017 to share screen overuse resources with those providing direct service to families, including tools to share with parents, methods that work with families, and ways to communicate about screen limits without judgment. The conference provides an opportunity to share these resources and collaborate across disciplines such as pediatrics, education, and child development.

What are the benefits of attending this conference?

The benefits of attending this conference include learning about health risks related to screen and device overuse, workshops designed to communicate more effectively with parents, meeting other professionals who believe that reducing children’s screen time is necessary and possible, and exploring opportunities for partnerships.

What are the next steps/future implications of the conference?

It is our hope that participants will leave with lots of great information, strategies and resources to bring back to their respective roles and communities.  We further hope that the exchange of information, insight and experience started at the conference will continue within CCFC and in communities, institutions and homes as we continue to build momentum around these important issues.

To register for the conference, click here.

Good Leaders Make Good Schools

A column in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times (David Brooks, March 12th) discusses how strong leadership improves city schools. The article highlights schools in Washington, New Orleans, and Chicago that have increased test scores, increased graduation rates, and an increased percentage of students going to two – or four-year colleges directly after graduation. These improvements are due to talented leaders who build a culture within these schools and collaborate with their staff. These leaders embody trustworthiness, honesty, optimism and determination. In addition, Chicago has one of the highest principal retention rates of any large urban system. Principals are given support, training, and independence.

The New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute believes in access to excellence for all of New York’s young children, starting at birth. This article points out that the excellence of schools and programs is reliant on the quality and caliber of the leader. The Institute, in partnership with the NYC Department of Education, launched the Leadership Initiative to support site-based leadership as a key strategy towards ensuring that every child has access to excellence. Through this initiative, current early childhood leaders, as well as those who aspire to leadership roles in the future, receive assistance and support to identify and meet individualized leadership development goals. They also have access to coaching and have the opportunity to engage in a range of professional learning activities including events, seminars and conferences that serve as opportunities for growth and development. Each of these efforts help to ensure that the children in these programs receive the high quality learning experiences they need to thrive and be successful.

To learn more about the Leadership Initiative, click  here.