Our Founding Story and History

The Gatekeeper of Quality

In 1975, with the support of local philanthropists, Paula Jorde Bloom designed and brought to life the child care center of her dreams in Alamo, California. Classrooms were spacious. Windows were abundant. Farm animals and a vegetable garden were thriving in an expansive yard. Children were happy and engaged with a developmentally appropriate curriculum. Yet, something was missing. Operating a sustainable program required more skills and knowledge than Paula felt she possessed.

Dr. Paula Jorde Bloom

“While I had been a very talented and accomplished classroom teacher, I had no clue about program administration and had had no formal organizational leadership and management courses,” Paula reflected. “At that time, I didn’t know the difference between a debit and a credit.” This experience fueled Paula’s passion and life’s work.

Paula dedicated the rest of her life to not only bringing national attention to the role of leaders in early care and education, but also to inspiring those leaders to learn more and improve the quality of their programs. She went on to be an instructor at Mills College and the director of the campus lab school. Paula completed her doctorate at Stanford University, moved to the Chicago area, and started as an assistant professor at National Louis University (then National College of Education).

In 1985, she applied for and received a $600 Membership Action Grant from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to start the Early Childhood Professional Development Project. Ultimately, the project, which focused on directors of early care and education programs, led to the founding of another center. This one, though, would focus on leadership development for those in early childhood. Her goals for the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership were to identify, define, and support the competencies of early childhood program administrators and to bring credibility to the importance and complexity of the administrator’s role.

Throughout the next 30 years, Paula devoted her work to supporting program administrators, whom she referred to as the “gatekeepers to quality.” She authored scores of journal articles and resources including the widely read Director’s Toolbox management book series and the Early Childhood Work Environment Survey (ECWES), an organizational climate assessment tool. She also co-authored the first valid and reliable tools to measure early childhood leadership and management, the Program Administration Scale (PAS) and the Business Administration Scale for Family Child Care (BAS).

Paula’s far-reaching impact on the field of early childhood is widely recognized and much celebrated. For Paula’s retirement celebration in 2014, scores of colleagues across the country called the McCormick Center to leave Paula voicemails of endearment, congratulations, and a tremendous amount of gratitude. You can listen to some of them here, as well as read Paula’s inspiring retirement address. Unsurprisingly, Paula did not stop working when she “retired.” Instead, she worked on new editions of several of her most widely read books and trainer’s guides. And, despite knowing her time among us was nearing an end, Paula continued to work on projects and offer insights that will undoubtedly move the field forward. Paula passed away on February 17, 2018, after living with cancer for nearly two decades.

Paula took a $600 grant and built a thriving, nationally recognized organization with an annual budget of more than $5 million. Today, the McCormick Center is a driving force in improving the quality of early childhood education nationwide, supporting administrators in their passion to provide high-quality programs for the families and children who depend on their leadership.

Thank you, Paula. Thousands of children, families, and early childhood leaders have a brighter future because of you.

Leadership books and resources authored by Paula are available for purchase from New Horizons, a publishing company she founded that specializes in resources to support program administration.

Visit New Horizons

Our History

1985-1989

Dr. Paula Jorde Bloom launches the Early Childhood Professional Development Project, which creates several widely used tools within its first few years.

1985

With a $600 Membership Action Grant from NAEYC, Paula launches the Early Childhood Professional Development Project.


1986

The first organizational climate assessment specific to early childhood work settings is published. More than 35,000 individuals have since completed the Early Childhood Work Environment Survey (ECWES) and their centers have received a summary profile.


1987

The Early Childhood Job Satisfaction Survey (ECJSS) is developed. The first research using the ECJSS to describe the factors impacting organizational commitment is published.


1988

A Great Place to Work is published and distributed as a membership benefit to all NAEYC members.


1989

Measuring Work Attitudes in the Early Childhood Setting is published, summarizing the reliability and validity studies of the ECJSS and ECWES.

1990-1999

The Early Childhood Professional Development Project becomes the Center for Early Childhood Leadership.

1990

A major grant from the Head Start Bureau supports leadership training leading to a master’s degree for 34 Head Start directors in Chicago.


1991

Blueprint for Action is published. A centerpiece of the Center’s training, this book provides a framework for understanding the dynamics of organizational change in early care and education programs.


1992

The spotlight begins to shine on early childhood directors with a featured article in Educational Horizons and a research article documenting the effect of leadership training in the Early Childhood Research Quarterly.


1993

Taking Charge of Change (TCC), the Center’s flagship leadership training program, is launched. More than 500 Illinois directors have since participated in TCC and a train-the-trainer model has disseminated the initiative in other states.


1994

The Center becomes a partner in the McCormick Foundation’s Focus on Quality initiative supporting center accreditation in Chicago.


1995

The McCormick Fellows Leadership Training program is launched with 32 directors receiving coursework leading to a master’s degree and on-site technical assistance to achieve center accreditation.


1996

With an organizational development grant from the McCormick Tribune Foundation, the Early Childhood Professional Development Project becomes the Center for Early Childhood Leadership with an expanded vision that includes policy and public awareness activities.


1997

The Center hosted a statewide symposium of policymakers to explore the feasibility of a director credential. Center faculty spearhead the work of developing core competencies for the credential.


1998

With grants from Work/Family Directions, the Center conducts Preschool Science Training and Family Friendly Directors training. The first issue of The Director’s Link, the Center’s quarterly newsletter, is published.


1999

IBM sponsors the Center’s move into technology training and the publication of a technology manual for early childhood administrators.

2000-2009

The Center for Early Childhood Leadership gets a new name, conducts workforce studies, launches a national conference, conducts classroom assessments, and establishes the first online national director credential. Faculty author the PAS and BAS.

2000

The Center conducts a comprehensive study of the early childhood workforce in Illinois, resulting in the publication of Who’s Caring for the Kids? The report served as an important resource for policymakers for strengthening the state’s professional development system.


2001

Leadership Connections National Conference is launched. Dr. Adelaide Sanford, chair of the New York Board of Regents, was the first keynote speaker, paving the way for dozens of notable presenters from education, law, medicine, business, and other fields over the years.


2002

In partnership with Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (INCCRRA), the Center conducts five cohorts of The Next Step, an advanced leadership training program designed to prepare professional development advisors for the state’s emerging professional development system.


2003

The Center published Zoom: The Impact of Early Childhood Leadership Training on Role Perceptions, Job Performance, and Career Decisions.


2004

The Program Administration Scale (PAS) is published. Designed to measure, monitor, and improve leadership and management practices in early childhood programs, the PAS has been embedded in quality improvement initiatives across the country.


2005

With $3.6 million in gifts from the McCormick Foundation and the Josephine and John Louis Foundation, the Center is renamed and an endowed chair is established. Dr. Bloom is named the first recipient of the Michael W. Louis Endowed Chair.


2006

Three initiatives in Chicago take flight: The Next Generation of Chicago Leaders supported seasoned directors in developing leadership succession plans; Coaching for Results developed a cadre of skilled instructional leaders; and Go for the Gold helped directors achieve their Illinois Director Credential (IDC).


2007

Illinois launched Quality Counts quality rating system (QRS) and the McCormick Center assumes the role of conducting all on-site classroom and program quality assessments required for the star-rating system.


2008

Research supporting the reliability and validity of the Business Administration Scale for Family Child Care (BAS) is completed and the instrument is published by Teachers College Press. An update to the Who’s Caring for the Kids early childhood workforce study is also published.


2009

The McCormick Center launches Aim4Excellence, a national online director credential that utilizes cutting-edge technology to deliver engaging content. To date, more than 2,500 early childhood educators have enrolled and more than 1,300 have earned their credential.

2010-2017

The McCormick Center provides quality monitoring and trains various specialists in Illinois, pilots an initiative for family child care providers, publishes the Whole Leadership Framework, and develops the L.E.A.D. Early Childhood™ Clearinghouse.

2011

The McCormick Center’s assessment work expands as it takes on the state’s Preschool for All quality monitoring.


2012

Online modules for Getting Ready for the PAS and Getting Ready for the BAS are launched.


2013

Illinois receives a Race-to-the-Top–Early Learning Challenge grant and launches ExceleRate QRIS. The McCormick Center takes the lead in providing professional development for quality specialists, infant-toddler specialists, and mental health consultants.


2014

The Center partners with the Ounce of Prevention Fund on a new initiative—Lead. Learn. Excel—to improve instructional leadership in early care and education programs. Paula Jorde Bloom, founder and endowed chair, retires.


2015

A new initiative for family child care providers, Taking the Lead, is piloted in Chicago. The McCormick Center celebrates its 30-year anniversary and 15 years of memorable Leadership Connections™ National Conferences.


2016

With input from leaders in the field, the Center develops the Whole Leadership Framework, a seminal, practical guide to the interconnected and overlapped domains of early childhood leadership: administrative leadership, pedagogical leadership, and leadership essentials.


2017

A grant from the McCormick Foundation enables the McCormick Center to develop L.E.A.D. Early Childhood Clearinghouse, a comprehensive resource that is razor focused on early childhood leadership—birth through age eight. The Clearinghouse serves as an important catalyst for leadership advocacy efforts.

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