5 strategies for expanding early education talent pool

Pre-K educators 'are often underprepared and under-supported,' Head Start report says
By: | January 8, 2021
COVID has provided an opportunity to refocus on the importance of pre-kindergarten and equity in early childhood education, a new Head Start report says. (GettyImages/Leren Lu)COVID has provided an opportunity to refocus on the importance of pre-kindergarten and equity in early childhood education, a new Head Start report says. (GettyImages/Leren Lu)

Pre-kindergarten will likely get more attention in 2021 with President-elect Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress saying early childhood education will be a top funding priority.

While the early childhood workforce is critical to preparing the youngest students for school and future success, pre-K educators “are often underprepared and under-supported,” say the authors of a new National Head Start report, “Broader, Deeper, Fairer: Five Strategies to Radically Expand the Talent Pool in Early Education.”

“A critical question for decision-makers across sectors will be: ‘Who all is going to teach the next generation of learners, and how can we ensure they are prepared and supported in their work?'” says the report, which was done in conjunction with the nonprofit HeadStarter Network and Bellwether Education Partners.

The report offers guidance on how early childhood educator preparation can be improved for the educators themselves, children and families, the report says.


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The COVID pandemic has provided an opportunity to refocus on the importance of early childhood education, the report also says.

“Simultaneously, the national conversation on race empowers early childhood stakeholders to rethink the ways in which preparation and professional advancement can lead with equity, and how a profession that is disproportionately women of color can be valued and compensated for the foundational work they do,” the organizations say.

Here are 5 key strategies explored in the report:

1. Redefine credentials

  • Develop a single, national repository for all Child Development Associate credential training options, including pass rates, credit articulation and standardized indicators of quality.
  • Create a second national credential that indicates that educators have higher levels of competence in key subject areas; this would be considered equal to a four-year degree.

2. Rethink degree attainment

  • Launch an online “super university” specialized for early childhood and combining a number of key elements that currently only exist independently.

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3. Optimize practice-based training

  • Elevate apprenticeships so they become an entry point into the early childhood profession.
  • Establish opportunities for practice-based training.

4. Expand job-embedded coaching

  • Increase opportunities for “credit-bearing” coaching so aspiring early childhood educators can earn credit for on-the-job professional development.

5. Connect in-service preparation to career advancement

  • Create new opportunities for early educators to advance their careers while remaining in the classroom.
  • Explore ways to recognize and compensate early educators for successfully completing certain types of in-service professional learning.

“While this year has tested the early childhood sector, it has also revealed to decision-makers and other stakeholders a necessary path forward—one that leverages the early childhood workforce as a catalyst for positive change,” the authors concluded.