Reimagining the Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™ Process

August 9, 2021

Reimagining CDAThe Council for Professional Recognition recently announced plans to reimagine the process for earning its Child Development Associate® (CDA) credential.

Dr. Calvin E. Moore, Jr., the Council’s CEO, sat down to discuss what is in store for this initiative and what it means. Dr. Moore answered questions about how and why the Council came to this decision. Excerpts from the interview are below.

 

Tell us about your journey and how you became involved with the Council for Professional Recognition?

My journey with the Council began in 1992 when I earned my CDA®, but I have been close to the Council for a long time. When I was president of the Alabama CDA Forum, we honored the president of the Council at the time, Dr. Carol Brunson Day, with an award. I felt honored to be asked by the previous CEO to serve on the Board of Directors. My journey with the CDA was one of particular interest to the community because it is one that we hope all CDAs will achieve in their career. By this I mean, having the CDA as a launching pad to set educators on a career path, whatever journey they want to pursue. For me, that meant going from a teacher aide to state administrator and ultimately a deputy director within the Administration for Children and Families in DC. The CDA was the launching pad for my career. I was the first person on the governing board to earn a CDA. I am very proud that I brought that perspective to the board. And now I bring that to the office of the CEO.

 

Tell me a little about the Council’s Reimagining the CDA® Credential Process initiative and why now?

This process started several months ago. We were thinking about changes we might make to the CDA process, not the CDA credential. We formed a Blue-Ribbon Panel composed of thought leaders in the field. We began talking about design thinking as a methodology for change management and thinking deeply about our processes. Design thinking is a process where we seek to understand our users, in this case, CDA candidates. We look at the process from different aspects and identify alternative strategies and solutions. Honestly, I was so captivated by the methodology. I thought we could expand on this idea and use it across all the components of the CDA process. Thus, the Reimagining Initiative was born.

 

The process began with discussions with the Blue-Ribbon Panel. Tell me what you heard and learned from the panel?

The panel was made up of individuals from different areas of our sector: state-level influencers, other like-minded organizations, authors, current early childhood educators, board members, all people very dedicated to early education. The panel members were able to talk honestly with us about the Council’s challenges – both past and present – and we were able to listen because we knew this guidance was coming from a place of honesty and trust. We heard a variety of things, including that it would be best to offer a virtual modality.

 

Have you been a part of or led similar initiatives in the past? 

I have been involved in several initiatives like this one. The most similar one was when I was CEO at Plaza de la Raza, an early childhood education organization operating Head Start, Early Head Start, and State Pre-K programs serving over 2,000 young children In Los Angeles County.  The organization was in the midst of a crisis. I led them in transformational change to revive the organization through a $2.6 M capital campaign, recruited new board members, and created a new vision for the organization.

 

How is that informing this process? 

Having worked on these sorts of initiatives provided me with the institutional memory to rely on. I am reminded that sometimes when you are embarking on change you must manage risk and your fears. Since I have been through this before, I am not risk averse. Additionally, I believe that whenever you go through change you also benefit from those failures that may happen along the way. I think I am a better leader because I have been through these experiences.

 

Why is change hard and why should we embrace it?

Change is hard because people naturally fear being placed in their most vulnerable position. We get comfortable in our own jobs and change makes us uncomfortable, so we may tend to avoid it. But one thing I have learned is that change happens all the time and is all around us – seasonally, it happens in our families – and naturally, it would happen in the workforce. So even though we may fear change, we constantly grapple with it in one way or another.

We also must manage expectations as it relates to change. How can we be successful? I am clear about what we are looking to do with this Reimagining Initiative. We are looking to make the process more efficient and candidate-focused and see how much technology can help us do that.

 

You call early childhood educators superheroes. Why?

I think they are superheroes!

When you think of superheroes, Batman, Superman, even the Incredible Hulk, they are endowed with unique qualities to meet the challenges at hand, which also applies easily to the early childhood workforce. Not only are our educators endowed with unique abilities, whether it is the CDA credential, 20 years’ experience in the field or the love of children. They also have the unique quality to be able to do more with less. They deserve our respect and admiration.

 

What does the initial phase of the initiative look like?

The initial phase of the initiative is about perspective gathering and learning from our stakeholders. We spoke with candidates, professional development specialists, early childhood leaders in the field. We gathered their views on the CDA process and learned as much as we can from those working in the field to gather information about how the process can become more efficient.

 

When do you expect the process to be complete?

There are three phases in the overall process:

  1. Perspectives gathering
  2. Defining the problem
  3. Ideation

September 2021 is when we hope to complete the first phase of the process.

The next two phases should be done by the end of the year. We hope to finish testing and implementing a new process by June of 2022.

These phases will inform the prototype that we will then test in the field. We are looking to pilot the program in early 2022. That being said, if there are things we learn along the way that can be implemented quickly, we will certainly consider them. And I should note that this initiative will in no way impact those CDA candidates currently going through the process.

 

What impact has the pandemic had on early childhood educators?

The workforce has been decimated by the pandemic. So many childcare centers closed, and many of them will not ever reopen. I understand from center directors across the country that they are having a hard time with enrollments, creating a bottleneck situation. Once their children are back, they cannot find qualified staff, so it is a two-pronged situation. Lots of people have had to move on to other jobs in other sectors. Also, we know that parents are reluctant to bring their children back and need a lot of support in feeling comfortable with this since children under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated.

Then there is an economic impact to all of this as these educators are going back to low-paying jobs; combine that with the emotional trauma from the pandemic, it is tough.

 

What are your hopes for the future of early childhood education and educators?

One of the interesting things that happened because of the pandemic is that it raised visibility for the early education sector. People began to understand how important we are to the economic fabric of this country and that has been demonstrated by the amount of funding that is being put into the early childhood sector as a result. We believe it will make a significant difference in the longer term. To date however, the sector has not been provided adequate funding and investment universally. It is time that we support the sector and see this investment as a public good.

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