Power to the Profession: An Introduction | Policy [M]atters, Season 3, Episode 1

by Teri Talan and Marica Cox Mitchell

Policy [M]atters is a video chat series between Teri Talan, Senior Policy Advisor at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership, and a guest expert in early childhood policy. Our guest for Season 3 is Marica Cox Mitchell, Director of Early Learning Systems at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Want to catch up or revisit the series? Explore previous chats and topics here.

In Episode 1, Marica introduces and provides context for the NAEYC “Power to the Profession” initiative, which is a national collaboration that seeks to establish a unifying framework for qualifications, compensation, standards, career pathways, knowledge, and competencies within the early childhood profession.

Teri and Marica explore why we need this initiative, who is involved with it, and what the rationale for it is.

Do you have questions for Teri and Marica? Share your questions below. Teri and Marica may respond in the next episode!




VOICEOVER: Welcome to Policy [M]atters Season 3, Episode 3. Policy [M]atters is a video chat series between Teri Talan of the McCormick Center, and a guest thought leader in early childhood policy.

Our guest for this season is Marica Cox Mitchell, Deputy Executive Director for Early Learning Systems from NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

In episode 3, Marica and Teri explore how Power to the Profession aligns with state systems.

TERI: Good afternoon Marica, it is such a pleasure to have you join our policy chat series for this year our topic is going to be Power to the Profession and delving deeper into some of the areas that this touches on; equity
issues, issues about compensation, how this work relates to leadership in the field. Today, I’m hoping that what we can do is establish a baseline for some of our folks who might be tuning into the policy chat. This might be the very first time they’ve heard about Power to the Profession, so I’m hoping that you can share both about what has happened so far, and what’s the rationale for why we need this initiative.

MARICA: Any opportunity to talk about Power to the Profession and increase our advocacy base and ownership and have advocates informing the decisions, we absolutely value, so thanks again for this opportunity.

TERI: So tell me about who when you said that there’s many people involved in this initiative and you’ve mentioned advocates in particular. Can you share a little bit about who’s been involved with this initiative?

MARICA: Sure, so Power to the Profession first and foremost, focuses on the field itself, the early childhood educators themselves. So we want to ensure that decisions made about the early childhood educator’s identity, their accountability, their practice, are made by early childhood educators. So we provide ample opportunity for early childhood educators to inform the decisions that impact their work. We work through our affiliates, our NAEYC affiliates, as well as the affiliates of other organizations that serve on the task force.

TERI: Okay, tell me about the task force. The task force is made up of what? The task was made out of 15 national

MARICA: The task force was made out of 15 national organizations, who like NAEYC, they represent groups of early childhood educators, so they sit at the table, the decision-making table, looking at data from the field, and others to make decisions about how we structure in advance to the early childhood education profession. We also have an important group, you should know this group because you’re on this group, a group of stakeholder organizations.

These are organizations that have systems-level influence, and so we ensure that they too are invited into the conversations so that they can inform the framework of Power to the Profession, as well as to be poised to support the advocacy and implementation.

So it’s a very dynamic multi-dimensional project initiative that involves many many stakeholders ensuring that the voice of the early childhood education professional is at the table.

TERI: Yeah, and I was being a little disingenuous, because I certainly know about the fact that McCormick Center is a part of the stakeholder group, and what I have appreciated is the opportunity to really
provide feedback on some of the decision points that are being made, and to see some of those comments or things that I’ve responded to actually be implemented, and be a part of the next iterative cycle around various decisions that are being made about how to empower and build the profession. So maybe it’s a good time to sort of talk about this decision-making cycle, and what big questions are that need to be answered or defined.

MARICA: Sure, in the rationale for Power to the Profession is we all want a well-compensated profession, we all want effective early childhood educators, we all know that the diversity of the profession also impacts effectiveness. And so to get there we need significant public funding, we cannot do it with existing funding we have. And so to make the case for the significant public funding we need to be very clear about who this profession is and what the public is going to get back  in return. And we have not been able to do that in a very coherent manner, we have some internal conversations to have around our identity and our unique role in this field, and as a result we see that the public too is somewhat confused about who early childhood educators really are.

So first and foremost Power to the Profession is all about coherence and clarity as necessities for compensation. And so we have organized this work into multiple decision cycles right now we have about eight decision cycles they may appear to be linear but they’re highly interconnected. So we’re gonna go through a series of questions and conversations with these decision cycles, and in the end by December 2018 would then have this unifying framework that we can use to define and describe our profession and also make this strong case for why we need significant public investments to support our work.

So we have to draft decision cycles right now that have been informed by stakeholders, the task force, again the profession itself. The first one is around professional identity, so who exactly are early childhood educators? And that document, and the recommendations put forth, is that as early childhood educators, we exist as one of many professions and occupations in a wider early childhood education field. That we work with others and partner with other professions in this field, but our responsibility, and our role is unique within this wider context.

TERI: So in terms of the role of the early childhood educator, are we defining it to be birth to age 8? Those that are concerned about and involved in supporting the learning and development of children between those ages, correct?

MARICA: Absolutely, so we are gonna definitely use the birth through age 8 frame, and I also want to point out that it’s all settings and sectors. So we work in all settings and sectors, supporting the learning and development of young children birth through age 8.

TERI: So when we talk about sectors, we’re talking about schools, and Head Start, and child care, and family child care.

MARICA: Absolutely.

TERI: Okay, and you mentioned there was a second decision cycle, what was that decision cycle about?

MARICA: Sure, so having established the unique identity of the early childhood educator in the first decision cycle, the second decision cycle focused on what are the competencies that will define the early child education profession. As you know, we do have lots of competencies in this early childhood education space, as they exist today, but competencies vary in its focus, in the population, in depth, and breadth.

And so the task force is recommending that we first don’t start from scratch in building competencies, we leverage the work that’s already been done and use the NAEYC 2010 initial and advanced preparation standards as the foundation for creating competencies. And so the competencies that will define the early childhood education profession will first start with the NAEYC professional preparation standards, with some updates.

The task force clearly articulated some conditions for using that document, and it’s very clear about the revisions that need to be made to be able to elevate that document in that manner and ensuring that we all are using the one set of competencies as a part of the way we’re defining our work.

TERI: So one of the things that I think is really interesting about getting… the work I’ve done thinking about Power to the Profession, is comparing this work to the work that other professions have done over time. It’s almost like we’re trying to learn our lessons from what other professions have gone through, and not make any mistakes so we can move quickly and and navigate the rapids, so that we get to where we want to be in a in a more efficient way than maybe other professions. And I’ve sort of at times referenced surgeons, because I remind people that surgeons used to be barbers, and the barbers used to cut hair, would cut off arms, and pull teeth, and do anything that was related to I guess using a scissors. And it took a long time for medicine to become a profession, and surgery and surgeons to become a sub-specialty, and we are kind of in those beginning stages right now with early childhood education. Because frankly, people say this is taking too long and I say it’s not nearly as long as what happened in other professions.

So I just wonder what’s your take on that? Do you feel like this processin terms of a two-year timeframe is doable? Obviously it’s gonna take a lot more work past that two years. What happens after that date that you laid out?

MARICA: So you’re right, the two-year timeframe for some, it’s extremely aggressive, for our advocates who understand the complexity of the decision-making process, of implementation signs, two years does definitely seem… two years does seem jarring to have all of these conversations and this unifying framework in place. But for others who recognize that this is a long long time coming, and we’ve had many many conversations, decades of work in the space, they also find that two years is doable.

So we have to recognize that while Power to the Profession as an initiative is new, Power to the Profession certainly built on decades of conversations around this topic, and so we are optimistic and confident that with the support of the field, the task force organizations, and stakeholder organizations we can definitely get this unifying framework in two years. But also one to point, you know, learning from other professions, that this is a continuous process, that while at the end of two years we’re gonna have this unifying framework in place, we’ll always have to come back to this unifying framework and make revisions.

And so this is only a start, we are committing to being like the other professions, being agile enough to respond to new research, new practices, and then always being a profession.

TERI: Okay, thank you. So what so far has given you the biggest pause, or surprised you the most in doing this work so far?

MARICA: I think it’s just learning about other you, professions, we all come into this work with our early childhood education hats, as we should, and we think inwardly. We look at ourselves and try to figure out how we can make this work. I’ve think the biggest surprise has been pausing a little bit and stepping outside of our early childhood comfort zone and saying, “wait a minute how are other professions organized? Who makes decisions about competencies? Who holds higher education accountable for meeting the demands of the profession? How protective are other professions around who can enter their profession, and who can use the names like registered nurses or CNAs, and architects?”

And so I think what has surprised me the most, is learning from other professions, and that there are some structural components that has to guide this work. That as we exist today look significantly different from how other professions are structured. And so if we want to be respected as a profession, we must also look and structure ourselves like a profession. Providing ample opportunity, though, for us to customize our structure, and our framework, in a way that reflects our unique culture and context.

TERI: Wow that’s really, that’s very helpful, and I’m sure you’re documenting the process as you go along. Not just achieving our goal, but thinking about what this process looks like and how we can continually reflect back on it. So I want to say, I think this is good for our first session.

I’m hoping that there will be people who will respond to this policy chat with questions for you, for me, things that we should consider in our following on policy chats. Because this is really all about us, it’s about everybody in this work, working together to make this profession exactly what it needs to be, internally, and recognized externally. So I want to just thank you for all the hard work you’re doing Marica, and for agreeing to participate with us and this policy chat series. So thank you.

MARICA: Thank you, thanks for this opportunity.

VOICEOVER: Thanks to Marica for joining us and thanks to you for watching. Join the conversation with Teri and Marica in-person at Leadership Connections National Conference.

In the meantime, what questions do you have about Power to the Profession? Tell us in the comment section below. Until next time!

TERI: Good morning, this is Teri Talan with Marica Cox Mitchell and we’re just excited to be here for the third session of the policy video chat having to do with Power to the Profession. So this is our third in the series, our first policy chat which is still available online, introduced the topic of Power to the Profession, our second policy chat focused on compensation issues, and this, our third policy chat, is going to focus on how Power to the Profession engages, works with, supports the work of state professional development systems.

So I just want to ask Marica to get us started about how have the state professional development systems, and system leaders been engaged to date in the Power to the Profession?

MARICA: Sure, first just want to say thank you for providing this opportunity for us to have these open conversations, and pretty much model what we want others to do in the field. Power to the Profession is an opportunity for us as early childhood educators to define the profession in our own terms, and to do that we need to have some really open frank conversations. And you’ve provided many opportunities for us to do so. Power to the Profession has involved state leaders, state policymakers, in multiple ways.

One is first we have NAEYC affiliates engage in this work, ensuring that they are building relationships, looking at the lessons learned they have from their perspective, to inform decisions we’re making at a national level. We have the McCormick Center, National Governors Association, and others serving as part of the Power to the Profession stakeholders group. And that group is informing Power to the Profession, and making sure that Power to the Profession is also elevated in conversations with state.

National Registry Alliance is a good example of a system that is currently focused on workforce development in states. And so we have provided multiple opportunities at the national level as well as the state and local levels to ensure that the decisions we are making certainly aligns with what works best, but also noting that we ask for change if we too are unwilling to change. And that Power to the Profession as the decisions are being made, are forcing us all including in NAEYC, to look in the mirror and say what can you do better and what can you change?

TERI: Yeah thank you, I think I mentioned in our last policy chat that I had the opportunity to lead a discussion about Power to the Profession at our steering committee of the professional development system for early childhood in Illinois. It’s been a really interesting experience because people who had varying levels of knowledge and involvement in Power to the Profession, many people had responded to the decision cycle inquiries as individuals, and yet we really hadn’t thought deeply about it from the representation of the system itself. And so a couple things have happened, and I bring this up because I think it’s kind of a model for how things might happen, or should happen in other states. Is that we’ve had… the first place of impact in doing this was that we wanted our strategic plan to be proactive about being involved in the process. And so we’ve always had a committee that had to do with being kept apprised of trends in the field, but this time in our strategic planning process, that just happened to coincide with Power to the Profession’s discussion that we started having at the state PDAC level (Professional Development Advisory Council), was that we want to be proactive in not just being aware of trends, but helping to shape the direction.

So I think a really positive thing that has come out of this is that we are going to continue meeting with those who are interested and formulate a response from the state perspective, and share that with Power to the Profession, you, and others in that professional development system way. And it made me realize that there’s different perspectives depending what hat you wear, and I can speak to that personally from the point of view that I’ve responded to each of the decision cycles. Both as an individual, also representing the McCormick Center, but I hadn’t really represented the broader state system perspective. So that’s why I asked you about how state PD systems are involved, because I think it’s really important that they are a part of the decision-making and iterative process that you’ve designed for power to the profession.

MARICA: Yeah, absolutely, and we recognize that there is good work done in the field that in this measure to advance as a unified profession, we’ll certainly build on what works well, and state PD systems have had some really great lessons learned, and share with us where they feel the gaps were and also point to where we need to focus to improve the workforce.

So we are definitely using their perspective, and yes, some have responded as a collective, others asked on individuals. And this is an all-hands-on-deck moment and so all perspectives are welcomed in the task force including NAEYC will be looking at all perspective to make the unifying definitions for the profession.

TERI: You know one of the things that came to light, as we were talking in a follow-up session around Power to the Profession, was the issue about the nomenclature, and I’m wondering, you know, if this is something that you’ve had feedback from other state systems; that the idea of everyone being an educator, even though at different levels 1, 2, & 3 was a little like how our field got started where everyone was called a teacher regardless of their preparation.

So I know that that is an issue that was hotly discussed at a meeting we had earlier in the week and I’m wondering: How has that decision been received, or that proposal, or early educator 1, 2, & 3?

MARICA: So we’re in the middle of that process right now. The first draft was released by the task force and we’re seeking input on that first draft. So we’re still going through the initial quantitative, as well as qualitative feedback. I could just share some of the feedback we’re hearing more from the qualitative side.

It’s about making sure that each level has clear responsibilities, being very open about where those responsibilities overlap, but at the same time being clear about where the boundaries exist within the scope of practice, both for the education level as well as the preparation programs. So particularly level 2, the distinction between level 2 & 3, as articulated in the first draft of decision cycles 3, 4, & 5, is where we’re having more conversations.

TERI: Okay, okay, yeah, and here’s where I might get a little provocative, because this was a thought that occurred to me from the conversations that I’ve been a part of.

Which I’m just thrilled, I mean, because that’s what we want. We want everyone to really be connected, and participate, and hear, and feel like they’re their heard, they’re engaged, and that’s definitely happened with the state team work in Illinois.

But one of the things that I was struck by is most of the professional development system work at the state level career lattices, have really gone along the route of numbers 1, 2, 3, maybe you know more than 1, 2, 3, and have not really distinguished those levels by roles.

And yet, what I was hearing from my colleagues is that they want Power to the Profession to do that. So it’s kind of like an interesting thing to me because I’m like all about how do we align, how do we make sure that we’re connected, where do we see our state system relative to this national work? But in some ways, it’s like this hard piece about distinguishing preparation and qualifications related to responsibilities and roles, should come at the national level.

And so, it’s that balancing act, that I’m just so aware is at the heart of some of these struggles around nomenclature and leveling. But I just I thought it was just really interesting, because what I was hearing was this desire for NAEYC or Power to the Profession to make that move to being really clear in terms of the nomenclature, that goes along with those different competencies, and different scope of responsibility.

MARICA: Absolutely, and so in this, again this is just the first draft, because nomenclature means so many different things in so many communities, as it’s currently used. The task force decided to stay with the ECE 1, ECE 2, ECE 3 label, and be relatively agnostic right now.

They may decide to rethink that strategy, I think, as they get more feedback from the public. But for this moment in time, using existing labels would derail the process, and not have our experts in the field look at what’s behind those labels, which is really the depth of the preparation as is release of the competencies as well as the responsibilities.

TERI: Well thank you Marica, and I’m sure that people who are tuning into this video chat need to know that it’s an open process. That nothing is written in stone yet, and hearing you say that things are open for revisiting I think is a really important message.

So I thank you for that openness and encourage people to get involved and to embrace these issues, not just as individuals but within the workforce development work that they may be engaged in at their state. Bring these issues forward, get some collective responses to be shared with from that collective perspective as well.

MARICA: Absolutely, and just say something else about some career lattices as they exist today, in connection to the leveling of the first draft. I think it’s also important to point out that it also lays the foundation for compensation. That what we also see in career lattices is not only that the levels don’t indicate distinct scope of practices, we also see that there is known correlation with compensation.

And so another benefit of being very clear about the depth of preparation, as well as the responsibilities, is it also then justifies and makes a stronger case for compensation. So the compensation will be aligned to the responsibilities of the individual, as well as a depth of the preparation.

TERI: And the competencies of the individual.

MARICA: Absolutely, absolutely.

TERI: Good to know, all right.

I want to encourage folks who are following our policy chats to attend Leadership Connections, because Marica will be back, and we will be having a Public Policy Forum at Leadership Connections on May 11th, and the focus of that session will be looking at the role of program leaders in relation to Power to the Profession. So stay tuned for the next chapter in-person and come to Leadership Connections to ask your questions of Marica and others head on.

So thank you very much Marica, for participating in this series and I look forward to our continued work together supporting and empowering the profession.

MARICA: Absolutely, thanks Teri for this opportunity.

VOICEOVER: Thanks to Marica for joining us and thanks to you for watching. Join the conversation with Teri and Marica in-person at Leadership Connections National Conference.

In the meantime, what questions do you have about Power to the Profession? Tell us in the comment section below. Until next time!

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.

Marica Cox Mitchell is responsible for NAEYC’s major program efforts in early childhood program and higher education accreditation. She is also leading the alignment among and between our Center for Applied Research, accreditation, and higher education with early childhood and higher education systems across the country. Mitchell has been in the early childhood education field for more than 16 years and has worked in both administrative and classroom settings. Before assuming her current role, she served as the Director of Higher Education Accreditation for NAEYC. Prior to this position, she led the Early Childhood Professional Development Unit at the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education where she developed and monitored a wide range of professional development resources designed to increase the quality of early learning programs and advance cohorts of early childhood professionals. These resources included the TEACH Early Childhood DC scholarship program, DC Career Guide for Early Childhood and Out of School Time Professionals, DC Trainer Approval Program and accreditation facilitation projects. She also worked with stakeholders to evaluate and propose enhancements to the DC Quality Rating and Improvement System. She was promoted to Director of School Preparedness (Readiness) before her departure from the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Mitchell also facilitated the pilot and implementation of the Full Service Community School Model while serving as a specialist with the District of Columbia Public Schools. Early in her career, she supported the launch of NAEYC’s Early Childhood Associate Degree Accreditation system as a staff member.