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Advancing the Illinois early childhood education workforce: A model college and career pathway

This policy brief proposes a postsecondary education and career pathway model for Illinois early childhood educators. This pathway model is grounded in recommendations for the early childhood educator profession from both the National Academy of Medicine and the National Association for the Education of Young Children, as well as work from the federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant awarded to Illinois in 2013-2017. This proposed pathway model, the Illinois Early Childhood Educator Preparation Pathway, provides clarity about competencies and qualifications for various levels of employment in early childhood education. The proposed pathway also draws from best practices in career pathway development by aligning stackable credentials to two- and four-year degree programs. As a result, the Illinois Early Childhood Educator Preparation Pathway model offers resolutions to widely varying requirements for training, education, and employment across different settings which are perennial challenges in this field. It also offers those working in the field a well-defined route to furthering their competence and education that sequences and articulates coursework across institutions and improves time to degree. Finally, the proposed pathway creates new options for innovation in the field to systematically develop, assess, and recognize key professional competencies. This policy brief delineates the proposed pathway within the Illinois context, describes the underlying rationale for its development, and concludes with recommendations for Illinois policymakers and state agencies, as well as higher education, to advance full implementation of the pathway and support the realization of attendant benefits to the early childhood education profession, children and families, and the state. (author abstract)
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