Project to Examine Viability of 'Lead Teacher' Credential for Early Childhood Educators

Should lead teachers in early childhood education have their own credential? A new feasibility study is underway to research the practicality of that idea. The project work is being undertaken by the Council for Professional Recognition and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, at the behest of the Early Educator Investment Collaborative.

Two of the organizations have a direct stake in the outcome. The Council for Professional Recognition, for example, has helped establish standard competencies for early childhood educators by offering the Child Development Associate credential. Since the establishment of that certification, 800,000-plus CDA credentials have been issued. For more than three decades, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has focused on advancing quality teaching and learning through voluntary advanced certification of primary through high school teachers. National Board certification is considered a "gold standard" for educators.

Currently, however, no nationwide standard competencies exist for lead teachers. The issuance of a national certification would give each state a consistent, basic requirement for early childhood education lead teachers and "would allow them to 'port' their credential'" to another state, instead of having to apply for that state’s credential," the two organizations explained in a blog article.

Throughout the year, the two organizations will hold focus groups virtually and in person among "lead teachers, administrators, labor union staff, deans of students, state and local policy makers, workforce registry managers, nonprofit associations, accreditation organizations and parents" to assess the level of support for such a credential.

The ultimate goal, according to the organizers, is to make sure that every child has access to high-quality early childhood education programs led by educators "who teach to the highest standards and are well prepared, supported and compensated." Currently, about five million people are part of the early childhood profession in the United States.

The collaborative said it chose the council and the national board to conduct the study because they have expertise in competency-based certifications.

The participants in the project will call on practitioners in the field for help in building on existing national early childhood education work. For example, the council's work with Power to the Profession--a national collaboration led by the National Association for the Education of Young Children--will serve as a key resource for the study.

"The youngest learners in our country deserve to be taught by the highest quality educators," said Peggy Brookins, president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, in a statement. "We believe this work, in partnership with the council, can elevate the early childhood educator profession by strengthening the trajectory from preparation to high standards of accomplished practice."

More information about the study is available on the Council for Professional Recognition website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.