Policy [M]atters, Episode 5 | Professionalizing the Early Childhood Education Field: What Does it Mean and Why Does it Matter?

by McCormick Center Staff

July 21, 2016

Welcome to Policy [M]atters, Episode 5.

Policy [M]atters is a video chat series between Teri Talan of the McCormick Center and a guest author in early childhood policy. The chats, which began in the summer of 2015, take place and are distributed on a quarterly basis. (Want to catch up or revisit the series? Explore year one of the chats and topics here.)

Our guest author for the next year (four episodes) will be Stacie Goffin. Stacie has authored several books, including: Professionalizing Early Childhood Education As a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era, Early Childhood Education for a New Era: Leading for Our Profession, and Ready or Not: Leadership Choices in Early Care and Education, which was co-authored by Valora Washington.

In episode 5, Stacie offers context on how and why the field has arrived at the topic of “professionalization.” Teri inquires about the term’s meaning. Stacie draws several parallels to other professions, such as nursing and medicine, while providing two attributes that define a profession.

The conversation then turns to the topic of whose interest is being served—children or the early childhood education workforce? Can multiple interests be served at the same time? Is talk of compensation for the early childhood workforce self-serving? Listen to the chat to hear Stacie and Teri’s take. Share your perspective in the comments section below.

What questions do you have for Teri and Stacie? What feedback do you have on the Policy [M]atters series? Share them, too, in the comments section below.

Dr. Teri Talan is the Michael W. Louis Chair at the McCormick Center and Professor of Early Childhood Education at National Louis University. She is co-author of the Program Administration ScaleBusiness Administration Scale for Family Child CareEscala de Evaluación de la Administración de Negocios, and Who’s Caring for the Kids? The Status of the Early Childhood Workforce in Illinois.

A recognized leader and author in early childhood education, Stacie Goffin has led change initiatives spanning higher education, local, state, and national organizations; organizational development; and advocacy, resulting in change for systems, policy, and practice. Stacie is a member of the McCormick Center’s Advisory Board and is a frequent presenter at the McCormick Center’s Leadership Connections national conference.



4 Responses to “Policy [M]atters, Episode 5 | Professionalizing the Early Childhood Education Field: What Does it Mean and Why Does it Matter?”

  1. Kate Tarrant says:

    Thank you Teri and Stacie for such a cogent and provocative discussion about professionalizing our field. I hear you talking about a real paradigm shift in which the complex and important work of nurturing young children’s whole selves is valued and aspiring educators enter into our field with high expectations and capacity to support children and families. So much of our systems are setup to compensate for not getting this right from the start. What thoughts do you have related to getting us from here to there? What role does government play? What about those of us working with policymakers? Are adequate system financing and fair compensation precursors?

  2. Larisa Moe says:

    I found the is distinction made between an occupation and profession interesting. There are many who see early childhood as just a job, but others of us see it as a profession and would like to have it recognized as one regardless of a geographical location, size or ages served. Linking the two words will help emphasize the importance of the field to both persons working in the field and the families served.

  3. Teri says:

    Kate, your questions are spot on! I suggest that Stacie and I address these questions in-depth in our next policy chat. For the moment, however, let’s consider an early childhood system in which all lead educators enter the field with the capacity to effectively support young children and their families. Could government financing, currently being spent on quality improvement efforts, be re-allocated to support compensation commensurate with the qualifications and competencies as defined by our profession? Why not structure QRIS to recognize and reward fairly compensated as well as well-qualified educators? Using a QRIS 3.0 approach and creative tax credits are some of the policy levers needed to drive change.

  4. Stacie Goffin says:

    Hi, Kate. Those are terrific questions, and I’m glad Teri and I are going to be exploring them during our next policy chat. I also appreciated your cogent summary. I can’t resist noting, though, in response to Teri’s comment, that deciding to advance ECE as a recognized profession will invite us to think about professional roles and their scopes of practice – think, for example, of physicians who refer you to a doctor with a different specialty because addressing your health issue extends beyond their defined scope of practice. So if teachers’ scope of practice is defined, the use of the term “lead” could potentially become obsolete.

    Thank you, Kate and Larisa, for expanding the chat beyond Teri and myself!