Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Challenge of Training and Credentialing Early Childhood Educators

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Challenge of Training and Credentialing Early Childhood Educators

Article excerpt

The separate traditions in the preparation of professionals for schools and for child care have created two distinct realms that are fraught with problems, yet rich with resources. Collaboration between the two realms is a signal that the field is coming of age, Ms. Phillips avers.

AS EDUCATION approaches the 21st century, we are witnessing a joining of forces on many fronts. Collaboration and joint planning have become hallmarks of education in some communities. Nowhere is the opportunity for collaboration clearer than in the training and credentialing of two groups of educators: teacher/caregivers for early care and education and teachers for elementary schools.

There is much to be gained on both sides. As preschool educators struggle to establish career development ladders, stable and predictable professional preparation, and salaries and working conditions capable of attracting and retaining a high-quality work force, they can learn a great deal from the experience of elementary educators. And as elementary educators consider advancing their own training and credentialing efforts to accommodate such 21st-century issues as cultural pluralism, collaboration with families, child-directed/active learning, and cooperative leadership, the long experience of early-care providers with such issues has a great deal to offer them.

I will explore this complex picture from the perspective of the providers of early care and education, focusing primarily on children from birth through age 4. I will describe the educators who serve this population, the major strengths of their professional preparation, and a set of strategies for collaboration that can help to overcome some of the major problems with professional preparation in the field.

A Profile of the Work Force

Construed broadly, the "early care and education" work force is composed of teachers and caregivers who work with children between birth and age 8 in centers and other group settings.(1) However, I will concentrate here on center-based, group programs for the youngest children -- those who have yet to enter the public schools.

The National Child Care Staffing Study surveyed 1,309 classroom personnel at 227 child-care centers in four major cities. The researchers found that 12% of respondents held a bachelor's degree or a graduate degree in a field related to early childhood education, that 24% had at least one high school course in early childhood education, that 7% had vocational training related to early childhood education, that 19% had some college education related to early childhood education, and that 38% had no education related to the field at all.(2)

From these and other data it is clear that huge variation exists in the training backgrounds of child-care personnel. Even most of those workers who hold the CDA (child development associate) credential report that they received their training from a combination of sources, ranging from workshops in the community, to college courses, to on-site training at the child-care centers where they work.(3)

Two conditions help explain this extreme diversity. First, two sets of standards for staff qualifications exist: regulatory standards (which represent the minimum qualifications required by law) and voluntary professional standards (which are less frequently met, at least in part because they are higher). And second, the regulatory requirements governing child-care programs are inconsistent.

Personnel Standards Of the Profession

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has been especially important in defining standards of quality for programs for young children as well as standards for teacher preparation.(4) These professional standards have been approved for teacher education and certification through state departments of education and institutions of higher education. In addition, professional standards for credentialing caregivers for children from birth through age 5 are represented by the CDA national credential program. …

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