Policy [M]atters, Episode 7 | Professionalizing Early Childhood Education: How Do We Get From Here to There?

by McCormick Center Staff

January 26, 2017

Policy Matters is a quarterly video chat series between Teri Talan of the McCormick Center and a guest author in early childhood policy. Our guest author for Episodes 5-8 is Stacie Goffin. Want to catch up or revisit the series? Explore previous chats and topics here.

Welcome to Policy Matters episode 7.

Episode 7 is a continuation of episode 6, where Stacie and Teri solidified the distinction between ‘occupation’ and ‘profession’. In episode 7, Stacie and Teri use the parallels they drew from other fields to address the question of how do we get from here to there?

Stacie offers a pathway for the field’s journey toward becoming recognized as a profession, saying it begins with first making a commitment to change, defining the age span encompassed by the profession, and identifying the roles included. She then touches on the critical role of higher education in ensuring the profession’s competencies are universally acquired, while highlighting the state’s role in overseeing the individual licensure process.

Teri highlights what can be learned from other fields of practice that have sought to professionalize, including acceptance of a profession-wide understanding of the core early childhood knowledge and skills and the important connection to state regulation. The conversation dives a bit deeper when Teri and Stacie discuss the potential for specializations. Both Teri and Stacie mention NAEYC’s Power to the Profession as an initiative worthy of our attention.

What other aspects need to be considered on the road from here to there? What questions or comments do you have for Teri and Stacie? Share them 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 Scale, Business Administration Scale for Family Child Care, Escala 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.
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 Valora Washington.



10 Responses to “Policy [M]atters, Episode 7 | Professionalizing Early Childhood Education: How Do We Get From Here to There?”

  1. Diane Nicolet says:

    Thank you for once again leading an important discussion. I truly appreciate the time and effort you put into providing insight, research and “food for thought.” I try not to go to “yes but” thinking and yet I am unable to reconcile several lines of thought. Profession and industry aside, how do we balance what we embrace as best practice and what we know to be the challenges faced by so families. Access versus Affordability (A&A) in quality early care & education? Money being the largest factor in the A&A discussion – do we demand (we are past suggest) that funding given to public schools, HHS and other taxpayer endeavors be shared with private ECE industry in order to hire licensed (highly trained) teachers & administrators and to build schools for top-notch programming? Developing & licensing professionals of the highest caliber to educate the future is a “no-brainer.” How do we ensure that every child & family has access to affordable ECE opportunities; and not simply through public schools and Head Start. May I suggest that, much like with young children, choice is a good thing. Thank & I look forward to #8. Diane in Reno Nevada

  2. Terrissa says:

    I find these episodes very helpful to consider the steps/systems we have in place already in our state to guide toward professionalization and also to define clarification of next steps related to those systems and advocacy needed. Sharing these episodes with current leaders in ECE, whether Teacher in the classroom, administrator at site level, or agency leads, will provide insight as we develop further professionalization steps to assist in distinguishing who are “in the field” as Stacie shared and those who truly are part of the profession and wish to increase the professionalization in Early Childhood.

  3. Thank you for your comments and questions, Diane and Terrissa.

    I hope I won’t come across as shoving aside your questions, Diane, because they demand answers. But when beginning a complex, “no-brainer” journey like transforming a field into a recognized profession, answers to some of our most pressing issues can’t be known in advance. Instead they get figured out as part of what is often a messy change process. Consequently, the nature of the change effort ahead requires commitment to its importance, living with uncertainty, and perseverance.

    This said, you’ve highlighted some of ECE’s very thorny financing issues. For one, historically, ECE programs are the recipients of funding; in contrast, compensation for professions is not dependent on the program setting in which their practices are taking place You’ve also noted the schism between child care, which is largely a market-driven enterprise, and publicly funded programs like Head Start and public school-based Pre-K. In this regard, I’m wondering if you might Louise Stony’s work on shared services of interest

    I think one of our starting points is having exchanges like these to deepen our understanding of the field’s complexities and to examine/propose possibilities that can work for us – some of which may not even yet exist in our imaginations.

    I’m really pleased that the two of you have chosen to “hop on board.” Consider joining the ECE Pioneers for the New Era. It’s a LinkedIn group engaged with just this kind of back-and-forth.

    • Diane Nicolet says:

      Spot on. Next phase in conversation includes stakeholders- paying customers, legislators and boots on the ground. Discourse is a support in the foundation for progress. Thank you for the scaffolding that supports discussion. -di

      • Diane Nicolet says:

        Absolutely. Some of my angst goes back (25 years) to the “worthy wage campaign. The conversation is shifting to profession versus field/industry – that’s a good thing. And the day-to-day struggles have remained the same. Finding a balance in quality, access & affordability continue to be our challenges. What I appreciate most is much like our work with children, families and teachers…….we never give up. Here’s hoping policy makers, parents and business owners belong to this blog. Enjoy your day. Di in Reno

  4. Teri Talan says:

    Thank you Diane and Terrissa for your thoughtful comments. You both are willing to engage in this messy change process. While the tension between access (affordability) and quality must be addressed, I take heart from knowing that others have walked this same road to professionalizing a field of practice. Nurses and social workers are good examples. What I like about these professions as examples for us to consider is that they are both caring professions that have levels of practice and clear pathways to advance in one’s chosen profession.

    I have been particularly interested in the social work profession because social workers are often administrators of social service and child serving organizations. I have been thinking a lot about center directors and P-3 school principals. Where do they fit within the profession of early childhood education? Please weigh in on this issue!


    • Diane Nicolet says:

      Hello Teri – I recently served on our local school board. My experience with P-3 and principal’s suggest that the principal is the lead motivator for school programming that includes preschool children & families that is DAP. Along those lines I wonder how higher education can take a stronger role in educating early childhood teachers and administrators. So often ECE teachers go into the profession wanting to teach young children in a small setting. They quickly learn that being in a publically supported education system pays better wages, benefits and provides richer professional development opportunities. Social work is a reasonable analogy. Jamie Vollmer’s book “Schools Cannot Do It Alone” highlights the evolution of teachers through the century, from baseline teacher to teacher, social worker, nurse, counselor, evaluator, nutritionist etc. I see the same evolution occurring in the ECE profession, whether private or publically funded. No doubt about it, how we perceive our selves in the profession of serving & teaching young children will guide how others’ think about us. Funny thing, I still struggle with basic terms such as: preschool, daycare, early care and education, early learning, lead teacher, head teacher and the list goes on. A part of me wants to align our profession with existing norms (easy for others to understand) and another part says, NO Way, because what we do & not do is unique. Gotta go…….a family needs advice.

  5. Kyra Ostendorf says:

    Loving the idea of thinking creatively about the roles in the profession. One that comes to mind is a Play Specialist – that could be fun and impactful.
    I echo Stacie’s invitation to all here to join the LinkedIn group, ECE Pioneers for the New Era – there’s a good conversation going there and all in ECE are welcome to join.

  6. Jack Wright says:

    I would be interested in Teri and Stacie discussing how a licensed ECE professional would fit in with non-licensed care center staffs. I would think it will take a long time before we have enough professionals to entirely staff even teachers, let alone aides. I would also like to hear a discussion of what licensing would expect of applicant besides a testing of their academic education. Ethics of course, but anything in the area of personality screening. Such screening might be done by requiring observed hours working with children. Thank you both for working with us on this professionalism issue.

  7. Hi, Jack. Your first question speaks to the issue of transition following the field’s decision to organize itself as a profession. This is another place where we can learn from other professions. Physical therapy is in the midst of one as we speak because of its decision go beyond the masters as a requirement for entry into the professional to a professional doctoral degree.

    Re licensure: we can look to the model registration developed by other professions to inform our efforts. One of the things that’s important to keep in mind in these conversations is that we’re in the midst of creating the ECE profession we want. It’s so easy, otherwise, to slip into a fix-it mode. It’s possible that what we think need to be addressed in the present will not be necessary in our future.