The U.S. faces a confluence of crises: a pandemic, economic destabilization, and a long-coming reckoning with systemic and historic racism. The early childhood workforce is a linchpin to a stronger, more resilient future for our country, but educators are often under-prepared and under-supported. Published by the National Head Start Association in partnership with the HeadStarter Network and Bellwether Education Partners, "Broader, Deeper, Fairer: Five Strategies to Radically Expand the Talent Pool in Early Education" explores how early childhood educator preparation could be improved for the educators themselves, as well as for the children and families they serve.
A critical question for decision-makers across sectors will be: “Who all is going to teach the next generation of learners, and how can we ensure they are prepared and supported in their work?” Building on ideas from the Early Childhood Workforce Catalyst participants and several in-depth conversations with practitioners and experts across disciplines, this paper reflects the unique opportunity we have, born out of the pandemic, to capitalize on society’s newfound acknowledgment of the importance of early childhood education. Simultaneously, the national conversation on race empowers early childhood stakeholders to rethink the ways in which 1) preparation and professional advancement can lead with equity, and 2) how a profession that is disproportionately women of color can be valued and compensated for the foundational work they do.
Among the strategies explored in this paper:
- Redefine Credentials
- Develop a single national repository for all Child Development Associate credential (CDA) training options, including pass rates, credit articulation, and information on standardized indicators of quality
- Create a second national credential that layers onto the current CDA and indicates that educators have an increased level of understanding across key subject areas and is held in equal esteem to a four-year degree
- Rethink Degree Attainment
- Create an online “super university” tailor-made for early childhood, combining a number of key elements that currently only exist independently of one another
- Optimize Practice-Based Training
- Elevate the role of apprenticeships as an entry point into the early childhood profession
- Establish additional opportunities to expand practice-based training
- Expand Job-Embedded Coaching
- Increase opportunities for “credit-bearing” coaching, i.e., formalize opportunities to receive credit for on-the-job professional development
- Connect In-Service Preparation to Career Advancement
- Create new opportunities for early educators to advance in their careers while remaining in the classroom
- Explore ways to formally recognize and compensate early educators for successfully completing certain types of in-service professional learning
While this year has tested the early childhood sector, it has also revealed to decision-makers and other stakeholders a necessary path forward—one that leverages the early childhood workforce as a catalyst for positive change. Current events present an unmissable opportunity to reevaluate the status quo and reimagine what could be.
Explore the five highlighted promising strategies to improve early educator preparation.
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