We have been highlighting “Transforming the Early Childhood Workforce: A Call to Action for the State of Illinois,” a report released by the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development and the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Education.
In addition, the report offers important recommendations that are useful for other states to note. These recommendations are organized into three categories:
- Knowledge Base
Investment for child education
The authors note that “these categories are not mutually exclusive, but synergistic, as any recommendations for increased qualifications must be accompanied by ‘pathways,’ or mechanisms, that enable existing workforce members to meet new qualification requirements.”
Advancing the capacity of the early childhood care and education workforce is not limited by a lack of knowledge or effective tools, but by a lack of design thinking and political will.”
— ROBERT C. PIANTA Dean of the Curry School of Education, Novartis US Foundation Professor of Education, Professor of Psychology and Founding Director of the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at the University of Virginia
Recommendations on Qualifications
Recommendation 1: Adopt workforce qualifications for all sectors that are aligned with a uniform, competency-based system that specifies the knowledge, skills and practice expectations required for early childhood educators across all sectors teaching children of different ages and abilities.
The report states: “To achieve this goal, a high-level, cross-sector group (e.g., The Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Youth) must require Illinois agencies governing early childhood education workforce qualifications to align their requirements with a uniform set of competencies. This governmental cross-agency group must be tasked with the implementation and oversight of the alignment process and address key policy issues and questions such as where the unified competency-based system should be housed and how it should be governed. This integrated and coordinated effort will require participating governmental agencies to relinquish some autonomy and fully participate in the development and implementation of a uniform qualification system.”
Recommendation 2: Increase qualification requirements for all positions across the early childhood workforce that do not currently meet or exceed national recommendations.
The report states: “To achieve this goal, educator qualification requirements should be changed in statute and/or rules and regulations based on role requirements, using terminology reflective of a uniform competency-based system. The new qualification requirements should then be rolled out incrementally over multiyear timelines to give workforce members a reasonable timeframe in which to earn the required degrees and credentials. Progress towards these goals should be carefully monitored and studied to identify (and, if necessary, mitigate) unintentional consequences.”
Recommendations on Pathways
Recommendation 1: Continue to develop clear, coordinated, competency-based pathways for early childhood educators.
The report states: ” To achieve this goal, we must first develop and adopt a unified system of qualifications. Once this system has been adopted, institutions of higher education can leverage the support of state agencies such as the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Community College Board to: align coursework with competencies; develop and incorporate shared assessments related to these competencies; and increase coordination between two- and four- year institutions to develop and support articulation and transfer.”
Recommendation 2: Develop and implement public policies and early childhood educator preparation programs that intentionally target and support minority students and workforce members to increase their degree and credential attainment.
Recommendation 3: Promote workplace conditions that support teacher development and increase access to opportunities for workforce members to attain needed degrees and credentials.
The report states: “Inside the workplace, conditions and routines must be established to promote and support teacher learning, such as collaborative planning time and teacher evaluation practices that focus on continuous improvement. Early childhood programs—public and private, large and small, school- and community-based—must also collaborate with institutions of higher education to promote professional development outside of the workplace.”
Recommendations on Knowledge-Base
Recommendation 1: Adhere to sound scientific research principles and the science of early childhood development to ensure the appropriate use of data and assessments, with particular attention to the use of child-assessment data for the purposes of accountability and teacher evaluation.
Recommendation 2: Ensure that data systems across all early childhood education programs are accurately and consistently collecting data over time. Establish a method for linking this data to provide a comprehensive portrait of the early childhood workforce. This data will enable researchers and policymakers to conduct longitudinal analyses and inform policy decisions designed to grow and strengthen the workforce.
Recommendation 3: Create a structured collaborative of researchers, policymakers, key stakeholders and, especially, practitioners to identify research questions, design studies to answer these questions and develop mechanisms to coordinate the dissemination of the information in the early childhood workforce knowledge base.
The report notes: “To achieve this goal, we must shift away from the linear progression of research to policy or research to practice and move toward a more integrated, dynamic approach that includes the voices of early childhood practitioners and focuses on the real problems of practice. Rather than operating in silos, researchers, policymakers and practitioners must work together to design studies and use study results to inform policies that will address these problems.”