A Moment with Dr. Moore

January 27, 2021

An Equity Lens on Early Education

COVID-19 has changed almost all aspects of our lives from the words we use to what we wear. The buzz phrases of 2020 stressed the need to “social distance” and “flatten the curve.” Business suits gave way to sweats, and the fashion must-have was a flashy mask. Dining went to outdoors only, and many jobs moved into the home. We’ve had to rethink the way we hold meetings, go grocery shopping—and give our youngest children the care and education they need.

As we face the new normal, we should remember that challenges bring new chances for success. The pandemic has shown the essential role our early educators play by allowing families to work while their children continue to learn. Now we can ride this wave of recognition if we look to the future with open minds. We need to take a “broader, deeper, fairer” look at ways to expand the ECE workforce, says a new report from Bellwether Education Partners, Head Start Association and Headstarter Network.

The report comes at a crucial time, I pointed out in a recent blog. As COVID-19 choked our country, folks outside the ECE field came to see what we’ve known for years: our educators are essential since they make society work. Supporting child care means preserving jobs, saving small business and keeping our economy going. The new public focus on ECE makes this a prime time for us to pause, reflect and reimagine our field. We need to think about how to fill gaps in service and finance our vital workforce better.

As part of the discussion, we should also acknowledge how COVID-19 has widened inequities in education. Closings of early childhood settings across the country have led to the greatest learning loss for vulnerable children and youngsters of color. So, as we rebuild, we should put a sharp equity lens on early education. Since children learn best from teachers who look like them, the Council is striving to make the ECE workforce more diverse. We’re also working with the Children’s Equity Project to fight systemic bias and make equity a key part of how we credential new teachers.

A deep respect for diversity has long been a bedrock of the Child Development Associate® (CDA), the most widely renowned credential in the field. As a CDA holder, myself, I can tell you how it led me down a career path and gave me the confidence to work with young children. The time tested, research- based credential can give our educators some crucial tools at this time of crisis—and beyond.

As we move ahead, the Council is committed to bringing out the diverse voices of our workforce. Our credentialing process is candidate-focused and includes a reflective dialogue that gives CDA students a chance to express their views. We recently convened a CDA Advisory Committee to get more input and insights from the field. The members of our committee are sharing perspectives and the best practices they use in responding to pressing issues in our profession.

We also want to partner with other child advocacy groups to make the CDA even better. The credential is already widely pursued in 20 states across the country. Now, we’d like to see all 50 states make it a requirement for their early childhood settings.

You can help by joining our discussion of new ways the ECE field can meet the demands of the new normal. Let us know how you’re using your skills to steer young children through the crisis and help them keep on learning. Your diverse views will help us make a difference as we turn equity into far more than a buzz word in our field. Let’s rethink ECE so it’s really broader, deeper and fairer for all our youngest children.

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