A Moment with Dr. Moore

April 27, 2022

Time to Reimagine and Rebuild

“I remember being five years old and walking into my first day of kindergarten,” said Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education, in a recent speech. “At the time, I was learning English, and I felt I didn’t belong. It turned out to be a horrible day, and my mom had to pick me up early from the nurse’s office. I’m not sure if it was because of being overwhelmed, being around kids who spoke English a lot better than I did, or maybe a feeling that the challenge ahead of me was too great,” Cardona said as he recalled the fear that gripped him that day until his mom managed to lift his spirits up. “On the way home, she told me it would be OK, that school would open doors for me to be anything I wanted to be—and she was right.”

Today Cardona is committed to rebuilding our nation’s system of education from pre-K to adult learning. As COVID wanes, “this is our moment to address the inequities that have existed in our school systems for far too long,” and now have widened even more, as he explains. “COVID has turned students’ lives upside down.” And “it was especially difficult for English language learners,” like he once was, “students with special needs and those with messy home lives—absent parents, food insecurity, homelessness and domestic violence among other issues.” These students are most in need of teachers who are qualified, caring and skilled.

Teachers who have these key traits can make the strongest impact when children are still in their first years. Yet early childhood teachers are too often undervalued and underpaid. So, they’ve been fleeing the field—a problem that long preceded the pandemic, Cardona points out. “We need to think differently about how we support our educators, or else we shouldn’t be surprised that they walk away.” And the many early childhood teachers who continue to quit their jobs have led to a crisis as ECE programs fight to recruit and retain staff.

So, our field can’t return to the way it was pre-pandemic, Cardona is firmly convinced. That system didn’t work for anyone, either teachers, children or parents. And “now that we are at the doorstep of a new chapter in education,” he says, we need to go through it. Sure, returning to the status quo is the goal for many cities, states and folks, but it would be a step back for our field. So, Cardona recently convened a virtual panel of early childhood stakeholders and leaders to discuss topics such as the early childhood workforce, child care and pre-K, early intervention and family engagement. “Creating a culture of intentional collaboration,” he says, “is more important now than ever” to give early childhood teachers the boost they need and set the bar higher for our field.

The Council is pursuing this goal by working to reimagine the Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™ process. Like Cardona, we have embraced a culture of collaboration to enhance all components of the CDA® process and make it more efficient for the rising teachers we serve. So, I began this ambitious project by convening a Blue-Ribbon Panel made up of people from all different parts of our sector: likeminded early childhood groups, state decision makers, subject matter experts, educators and others who are committed to early learning. These panel members talked to us frankly about the Council’s challenges present and past.

We’ve encouraged their honest input and commitment to future action. Still, change is hard, as I learned by leading efforts like this in the past. I remember grappling with the status quo as CEO of Plaza de la Raza, an early childhood group operating Head Start, Early Head Start and state pre-K programs serving over 2,000 children in Los Angeles County, CA. The organization was in crisis, and I led them in transformational change by raising $2.6 million, recruiting new board members and creating a new vision for the organization.

Now I’m investing resources and time to reimagine the CDA process and inspire more people to enlist in an embattled field that needs them. I’m committed to this effort because I share Cardona’s conviction that “when we invest in our teachers, we invest in our students.” Qualified teachers who hold a CDA can open doors for children like the fearful five-year-old boy that our secretary of education once was before he went on to fulfill his dreams.

Every child deserves this chance. And it’s high time for us to surmount our own fears by shaking up the status quo. We must seize this moment to embark on a reset in early learning. And I know our field is up to the challenge since we’ve shown our mettle during the pandemic. Sure, it’s tough to take a bold stance after the trauma of COVID. “We’re all tired,” Cardona points out. “But it’s been really clear that our schools not only have to reopen but need to reimagine and do even better than they did before the pandemic.” Success depends on having more teachers with the skills to help young learners become whatever they want, as Cardona did. And that’s what drives our ongoing work to reimagine the CDA process, make it more candidate focused and boost the ranks of qualified teachers. It’s a strong, first step toward rebuilding our field.


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