UCF’s College of Education will team its Early Childhood Development & Education and Elementary Education programs at the end of the semester to enhance the preparation of grades K-6 teachers and to better address the needs of local schools.

Students on track to earn bachelor’s degrees in Early Childhood Development & Education will be able to continue their coursework as planned. Beginning this fall, the two programs will be merged under a modified Elementary Education bachelor’s degree, giving students a wide-reaching education that incorporates elements of both programs.

The move comes after receiving feedback from area employers about the types of graduates they’re most interested in hiring.

“Graduates from the reworked program will leave UCF with the flexibility and certification eligibility to fill positions in both elementary and early childhood environments,” said B. Grant Hayes, the college’s executive associate dean.

The change to UCF’s programs will be phased in over the next several years. During that time, faculty members from both programs will work together to re-create the Elementary Education curriculum to include early childhood elements.

Students currently working toward Early Childhood bachelor’s degrees will not be affected by the program changes. Those under pending status and community and state college students who have declared an interest in the major and are working toward acceptance into UCF also can complete their degrees as planned.

Students interested in earning bachelor’s degrees in Early Childhood Development & Education can still do so through a new 2+2 program with Seminole State College. Starting this fall, students can complete their core early childhood classes at Seminole State, finish their last two years of school at UCF and earn a 4-year degree from UCF.

In addition, the college will be adding Early Childhood Development specializations into several of its master’s degree programs. The Early Childhood Development & Education minor and the Early Childhood Ph.D. program established last fall will not be affected.

“The change to our curriculum shows our college’s commitment to being responsive to a changing educational environment, and it helps to fulfill our goal of preparing our teacher candidates in a way that maximizes their potentials for gaining employment in Central Florida and throughout the state,” Hayes said.

Students who have questions about the program merge are encouraged to attend an open forum, which will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, in room 130 of the Teaching Academy.