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Ole Miss to offer new online master's degree

OXFORD, Miss. —   The University of Mississippi School of Education is offering a new online master's degree in early childhood education. The Master of Education program is designed to prepare professional educators for a variety of roles within the field.

"If you look at the states leading in education, you will see that they have invested a substantial amount of resources in early childhood education," said Burhanettin Keskin, UM coordinator and associate professor of early childhood education. "All the research is clear on the long-term value of programs focused on pre-K education."

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, several studies show quality preschool programs can produce lasting gains in academic achievement, including gains in reading and mathematics. Studies also show an estimated $7 return on every $1 invested in public pre-K education in the form of long-term cost savings.

The 30-credit degree program includes a program track that leads to licensure from the Mississippi Department of Education. Coursework within the program will cover child development, theoretical foundations, educational research, the integration of arts and play in pre-K learning, contemporary issues and more.

UM began developing its program in 2013, after the School of Education received $1.1 million in external funding from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation to develop both undergraduate and graduate level curricula in the field. Last fall, UM launched a 12-hour undergraduate pre-K endorsement option for elementary education majors.

"Our early childhood faculty have designed a program that integrates sound research with effective practice to provide early childhood educators with a program that will enable them to be experts in the field," said Susan McClelland, chair of the UM Department of Teacher Education. "Research clearly demonstrates that early interactions between children and teachers focused on creating an engaging learning environment helps children acquire new knowledge and skills and enhances verbal communication. Our faculty have done an exceptional job in designing such a program."

The online M.Ed. program requires applicants to hold a minimum 3.0 GPA on the last 60 hours of their undergraduate coursework as well as competitive Praxis II content scores or competitive GRE scores. The licensure track requires students to hold or be eligible to hold a teaching license in elementary education.

The new degree program is an opportunity for education professionals to expand their knowledge and skills in way that directly benefits young children and, by extension, Mississippi and beyond, Keskin said.

"Think of early childhood education more about providing optimum environments for children so that they can unfold their capabilities rather than solely 'educating' them," he said. "You can have two identical seeds, but the one that gets the best sunlight and soil and water is more likely to do better than the one that does not."





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