Should Lead Teachers Have Their Own Credential?

January 20, 2020

Published by NIEER on January 20, 2020

Written by Valora Washington, PhD, CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition, and Peggy Brookins, NBCT, President and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

The quality and standards for early childhood education (ECE) can vary widely across the U.S. and often depend on where you live. The Council for Professional Recognition (CFPR) has helped establish standard competencies for early childhood educators by offering the CDA (Child Development Associate) credential. Over the past 45 years, more than 800,000 CDA credentials have been issued. For over 30 years, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) has focused on advancing quality teaching and learning through voluntary advanced certification of primary through high school teachers. National Board certification is “the gold standard” for educators.

But currently, no nationwide standard competencies exist for lead teachers. Who should be a lead teacher? What competencies are necessary?

Feasibility study on lead teacher certification

CFPR and the NBPTS will answer those questions and more in a year-long feasibility study to determine the viability of a National Early Childhood Educator Lead Teacher Certification, thanks to a contract award from the Early Educator Investment Collaborative. The goal of the certification would be to ensure that every child has access to high-quality ECE programs led by educators who are well-trained, supported and compensated.

With nearly five million people employed in ECE professions in the United States, a national certification program could have far-reaching impact. For example, a national certification would give each U.S. state a consistent, basic requirement for ECE lead teachers. It would also allow lead teachers to “port” their credential if they move to another state, instead of having to apply for that state’s credential.

How you can help

We’re reaching out to the NIEER community to ask for your guidance and support for this research project to be successful. CFPR and NBPTS will be conducting focus groups throughout 2020, both virtually and in person, with stakeholders including lead teachers, administrators, labor union staff, deans of students, state and local policy makers, workforce registry managers, nonprofit associations, accreditation organizations and parents to assess support for national lead teacher certification.

National standards are essential elements in the effort to professionalize our field. The Council and the National Board are uniquely positioned to conduct this initiative due to our collective expertise in competency-based certifications. We hope you will support this initiative and we look forward to sharing the findings with you in 2021.

Next month: What is an Early Childhood Education Lead Teacher?

In February, we’ll be back with some thoughts on what makes a good early childhood education lead teacher. What competencies should a lead teacher have? What credentials, education, or experience?

We’d like to hear your thoughts on this, so please reach out and let us know by emailing us at

For more information on the Lead Teacher Certification Feasibility Study, please visit us at

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