How can credentialing be used to recruit, train, and retain early childhood educators, or perhaps even return professionals who have left the field? In today’s episode of Impacting the Classroom, you’ll learn more about the CDA® credentialing process, how it works, and how it can be beneficial for educators and program leaders alike.

Today’s guest is Dr. Calvin E. Moore, Jr., an accomplished leader in early childhood education. Dr. Moore was appointed CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition in May 2020. He’s the Council’s first CEO to hold its early education credential, the Child Development Associate® (CDA). Dr. Moore even participated in Head Start as a child, and then later as a teacher, so he’s seen the value of early childhood education from multiple perspectives.

Listen to the episode to hear what Dr. Moore has to say about why the CDA is so important to the early childhood space and what credentialing can do to help with the current teacher shortage and to help diversify the field.


Marnetta: Hello and welcome to Impacting the Classroom, the podcast that brings together policymakers, educators, and researchers, discuss what's happening across the education landscape. I'm your host, Marnetta Larrimer.

Darlene: I'm Dr. Darlene Estes-Del Re. Today, we're excited to be joined by the CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition, Dr. Calvin Moore. Welcome Dr. Moore. We are so excited to have you, and we're so looking forward to this conversation.

Calvin: Hello, good afternoon. I'm so excited to be with you as well and I'm looking forward to our conversation. I'm sure it's going to be dynamic.

Marnetta: I hope so. Usually, it is far more dynamic than we can ever expect. CDA has been around for a while and it's been such a great resource for educators who are trying to elevate their practices in their spaces. Dr. Moore, for those who may not be familiar with the CDA, can you talk about what it is and how it can help educators to build their professional skill set?

Calvin: You're absolutely right. The CDA has been around for 46 years, and we're very excited to celebrate that achievement and milestone. More than 800,000 individuals have been awarded the CDA in its history. It is the most widely used early childhood credential in our country, and indeed across the world. We're so excited.

It's a staple of our field and that it's the best first step for individuals either coming into the field or for those who've been in the field for a while, they want to seek some type of credential to affirm their place in our field as early childhood educators.

The other thing I would say is that the National Credentialing Program is an assessment program, where the CDA candidate comes to the council saying that they're ready to participate in our credentialing program and then we walk them through the credentialing process, which includes a professional portfolio, verification visit by a professional development specialist, and a national CDA exam.

Marnetta: Wonderful. Before they get to that point, what is the process? What do they have to do before they get to that point?

Calvin: Great question. There are some preparatory requirements. They're required to complete 120 clock hours of training, they have to have 480 hours of experience actually working with young children in the setting that they're pursuing, either preschool age, infant toddlers, we have a family childcare CDA. They have to be experienced in working with young children and we require 480 hours. They have to complete a professional portfolio and really document their competence in six competency areas. There are 13 functional areas that guide their journey as a professional.

Marnetta: Wonderful. Thank you so much for that. I just have a couple of follow ups for that. For those that are still like, I'm really interested, but I'm not really sure what topics, are these really going to help me as an early childhood teacher? If you had to say, what are the top three—and it was hard because there's so much great stuff in the CDA—things that why this is such a fit for early childhood versus I'm a second grade teacher? Why is this such an anchor for the early childhood space for that infant/toddler preschool?

Calvin: That's a great question. I just want to stipulate. I received my CDA in 1992. As a professional, I wanted to say in this conversation today that it really provided the foundation for me as an early childhood practitioner.

Of the core competencies, the top three that I would point out to you is competency number one, to establish and maintain a safe healthy learning environment, competency number two, to advance physical and intellectual competence. Then I think competency number five is really important, where we guide the practitioner to ensure a well-run purposeful program that is responsive to participant needs, and that includes other families. Not just the child but the families that they serve as well.

Darlene: That's great. I'm always a huge fan of any coursework that helps people understand both children and families, especially the development of the child, like how can we support that development and safety? Of course, it's always so helpful, so thank you for that context.

It reminds me, too, as we think about the CDA and how beneficial it is for individuals and their own pathway. I love how you said it's the best first step. I couldn't have said that better myself. We know that it's so helpful for individuals, but I'm thinking more about a topic we've talked about on this podcast, where we've dug a little bit into the current challenges that have accelerated. They've always been challenges for the early childhood field. But with Covid and the pandemic, they have just really accelerated the challenges of recruiting and retaining educators.

We know that one report has shown that more than 160,000 educators have left the field. Some have left for jobs that are paying more. We know with retail now paying a minimum of $15 an hour. We know that our early childhood programs just simply can't afford to pay that. And we had Teachstone.

As we talked to directors, we're hearing more and more directors themselves who are having to step inside classrooms and cover classrooms because either there's a shortage of the staff, they've left, or because of the Covid pandemic.

Dr. Moore, you've talked about (again) those benefits of the credentialing for the individual. But I wonder—you're such an expert in the space—could you tell me more about credentialing in the space, of how it can be used to support this current shortage of early educators?

Calvin: We've been paying attention to the research just like you and we are alarmed at the numbers of teachers that are leaving the field. I think it's going to be important for us to work together to find solutions and strategies that not only recruit more into our field, but actually retain those that are in the field and actually bring back those who have left. I think the CDA and other credentials in our field play an important role in both the retention and actual return of early childhood professionals.

...It's going to be important for us to work together to find solutions and strategies that not only recruit more into our field, but actually retain those that are in the field and actually bring back those who have left. 

One of the things that we've been thinking about is hosting listening sessions, where we actually connect state leaders with people on the ground working in programs, because we believe that as providers obtain credentials like the CDA, they should demand higher pay and there should be a strategy at the state level to reward those individuals when they achieve those credentials.

I also think that there should also be an active career lattice that people can identify outside the field, and put pressure on business leaders who rely on childcare to do more to advocate for change, and not just paying more wages, but systematic change to make sure that providers not only have a livable wage, but they have benefits as well. I think all of those things working together—listening, finding strategies, and then funding those strategies—will help us retain those employees.

Marnetta: Yeah, so you're going to have these sit-and-listens. What other advocacy work for the early childhood field does the council do?

Calvin: That's a great question. We just hired our first Director of Public Policy, and she's going to be hosting a Hill Day for the CDA stakeholders in March. It's the first time that we've gotten our feet wet in the advocacy arena because we've always relied on others in our field to advocate for the CDA. But we've decided, Marnetta, to use our own voice, to tell our own story, and then activate our network.

I mentioned at the onset, we have over 800,000 individuals across the country, whoever received this wonderful credential including myself, we want to arm them with the skills they need to advocate for themselves at the federal state and local level. We believe our Hill Day is our first opportunity to do that.

I was checking a few days ago, already 200 individuals across the country who are important players in this conversation, have registered for our first Hill Day and we're excited.

Marnetta: You have a huge voice. I love that you guys are stepping into that arena because I think it's going to be not only impactful for the field, but you're going to be looked at differently. It's not just going to be this mass service, it's going to be this other work. Not that you weren't doing great things anyway, but I think it just elevates the work that the CDA Council is doing.

Calvin: I think so. We're not trying to steal anyone's territory here. We are really narrowly focused on the CDA credential itself and how important it is as a lever of change in our field.

Marnetta: I'm curious if the Hill Day has a virtual element, or in-person only, or is it hybrid? How is that working?

Calvin: That's a great question. Our first Hill Day is totally virtual. We're setting up workshops and webinars for people that have registered. They're going to go through a series of role playing exercises to prepare them to meet with their particular member of Congress.

Toward the end of the week, we've set up appointments for them to actually meet with them in triads and maybe duos, and sometimes larger groups depending on the registrants. It's going to be a virtual event, and we're setting up actual appointments with staffers and members of Congress toward the end of the week so that they can meet virtually with them as well.

Marnetta: How would one attend? How would one sign up to attend that?

Calvin: If you go to our website, there is a landing page and individuals can register. Just search for the CDA on the Hill and you'll get to our landing page. There's a button that says register here, you'll be taken to a survey where we can take all your information and you'll get the agenda for the week.

Marnetta: Wonderful. Thank you, Dr. Moore. We talked about credentialing. I'm wondering what other strategies program leaders may want to use to recruit, retain, and train educators.

Calvin: I've been thinking deeply about this since I began my tenure at the council. One of the things that we have lifted up as a recruitment strategy is to start early. We published a high school CDA toolkit. It's a beautiful publication. It's free for anyone who's interested.

We believe program leadership look to start early, and recruit professionals to work in their programs even in high school, and support high school CDA programs. If you know someone who is interested in starting early, please send them our way. It's a beautiful opportunity for them to learn how we have been helping programs around the country, start these programs, support these programs.

Believe it or not, people working with young children have a role to play in high school CDA programs. These high school programs will need early childhood programs to have practicum experiences to get that 480 hours of experience under their belt. We believe that is a pipeline directly into their programs once the high school graduates with the credential.

Marnetta: Yeah, and definitely going to enhance the workforce and opportunities. I remember being in high school and I'm just like, what am I going to do? That type of opportunity, that type of offering would have been a great gateway. And earlier start to my journey, I got here, but it would have been an even earlier start had that been an option back in my time as well.

Calvin: Yes, and we know that there is a connection between the high school CDA program and apprenticeship models that are popping up all over the country. We believe that that answers the question. Okay, now you got the high schooler, but how are you going to keep the high school? We believe that connecting them with apprenticeship programs allows them to get started in the field and then be assured that they will get raises as they continue in the field long-term.

Darlene: Dr. Moore, I'm just curious. I'm actually based here in Tennessee and Tennessee is really deeply looking also at not just high school like that outreach like you're doing which is so important, but they're almost really thinking about starting a little bit even sooner, and earlier, and getting into the middle school, and still thinking about not where they can actually do some of the things, but they start to do this career exploration, and just to have some exposure, and things like that. I'm just curious around any thoughts or what you might be thinking about, not just high school, but is there an earlier space?

Calvin: That's an interesting notion. When you were talking, I reflected on my own experiences in middle school. I think you're right. That's the first time we began to think about careers as middle schoolers.

I remember being a part of HomeEc program—making cinnamon rolls, making my own apron, figuring out how to get myself acclimated to the kitchen in a different way—but also to explore other careers that I think are important to the workforce as well. Childcare fits within that career technical school model. The earlier you start, the better. Particularly, when you're trying to diversify the field and attract more men into the field, the earlier you start, the better.

Darlene: That's right.

Marnetta: Even in middle school, caring for children — like you are babysitting. If I'm doing this, then I'm far more effective. I'll learn so much more and I can earn more money because I'm doing all of these other stuff. I'm not just your regular babysitter. I didn't even think about that, Darlene. That's a really good point.

Calvin: I think we are what we experience. I think if we could get qualified teachers who are interested in childcare, in those middle school programs, in those high school programs, we are more likely not only to spark the imagination of young people about our career, but to really capture them early and make sure that they understand it is a viable option. We have not solved all of our issues around financing, around pay, around benefits, but I think it is a viable career option for a young person looking to establish themselves as an early childhood professional.

Darlene: I think there's such a great opportunity. You have to get creative and innovative, of course. I think that as we look to what's ahead of us, we have to lift up, why we want to stay or even start with becoming a teacher.

We need to do that attraction piece to say, this is the best career you might ever, ever have because if you're making such a change in difference, so the earlier we can get those messages and get their exposure. All you have to do is, like from my own experience, experience that light bulb or that difference made in one child and you're hooked. You're like, this is what I want to do, so I think starting earlier. I love that you guys are definitely in the high school space, but maybe going to tease you a little bit to think about that middle school space.

Calvin: Yeah, I really like we pushed and stretched, Darlene. You've done that this morning. I have to get that strength up.

Marnetta: You were talking earlier about diversifying the field. We have a clearer absence of men. We often miss the opportunities that men provide in mentoring and showing up for children in a way that women can't, in the field. Talk to us more about that and those opportunities, and how we can bring more men into the field.

Calvin: This has been part of my life journey as an African-American male in the field, a female-dominated profession for sure, for many years. In many ways, our field has been feminized because it's occupied by mostly women. I think we have to do a lot more to make the space welcoming for men, not just catching them early like in high school, but I think that we have to look at ourselves and see why we don't attract men, and then borrow some strategies from other fields who may be struggling with the same thing, like the nursing profession or the trucking profession. They may have some similar challenges, and they may have some successes that we can borrow and implement in the early childhood field.

Some of the things that I have done in my career to attract more men into the field is simply talking about it, talking about my journey, making sure that programs have to be really intentional when they're recruiting individuals to work in their programs, and really specifically say that they're looking for qualified men to fill these roles.

A lot of people don't think about that. If you want a Spanish speaker, you actually put that in your advertising. If you want a male teacher, maybe try putting that in your advertisement. Also, think about ways in which you can include men in other ways.

When I did my dissertation, I looked at a center who had a male teacher in every classroom. They had a male bus driver, the family service worker was male, the center director was male. What they had reached was critical mass where men were concerned. I think if you have more men in the center, men begat men. Men hanging out with other men just shooting the breeze. You change the dynamic of your center when you make the space welcoming for fathers and important men in children's lives, and thereby attract more men to work with.

You change the dynamic of your center when you make the space welcoming for fathers and important men in children's lives, and thereby attract more men to work with.

Marnetta: Is that how you got into the field?

Calvin: I got in the field by accident. I had been in the military for four years. I came back home after serving my country, and my aunt who knew I was going to finish my degree in Education said, why don't you go work for that head start program and go to school part-time? Work full-time and go to school part-time? I took my aunt's advice and the rest is history.

They enrolled me in the CDA program. Like Darlene said, I caught fire looking into the eyes of young children who were wanting to know as much as I can. So I have my aunt to thank for encouraging me to work and get the experience under my belt as I was finishing my degree, and it worked out. The rest is history, as I said.

Marnetta: Amazing.

Darlene: I love that. You know what, I was just thinking, I was visualizing you in that moment and thinking about all those little boys looking back at you and seeing you. I wonder, we never know how our impact is. Years later, how many of those little faces that were looking at you are now looking at new little faces because they saw you as a professional that they too could be one day? First of all, thank you for your service to our country. Thank you, also, for the service for the children and families because that's an incredible story. I thank you for that.

Calvin: You're welcome. It's my pleasure.

Darlene: Great. Dr. Moore, this is just so much to think about, especially in the time and space we are in. I also think about just the opportunity to think about leaders. So many leaders have degrees in different spaces and they could be directors over early childhood programs. They might not have got the good dose of those competencies that are wrapped up into the CDA. If you think about how we support leaders so that they can help push out the importance of a CDA to their staff, what might be your message be to them?

I know that's maybe just coming off the top of my head, but I just think about, if you don't have the support of leaders, then sometimes teachers feel like they don't understand how I need to work with children or the families. That could lead to why I leave the profession if I feel like I don't have leadership support. What have you found in your own journey or in other programs you've seen? What has made a great leader to support the CDA? What have you seen in the great leaders who have been helpful?

Calvin: I think leaders are critically important in our field and certainly in this full idea that we've been talking about better recruitment, better retention. I think as we lift up leaders, it's important for them to know that credentials like the CDA really say to the families that they serve, that they care about high quality, that they care about qualified individuals working with young children.

I say to leaders in our staple of the world, that you want to have CDAs working for you, that you want to prove to the communities where you're serving that you have a commitment to high quality and the CDA is part of that, that you have to look for ways to not only allow yourself to stand out in the marketplace, but to also demonstrate this commitment to our fields, to always push yourself, which is a core mission of the council.

We improve performance and recognition of early childhood professionals, which is what leaders should be doing, pushing their teachers to do more, to be more, and to serve children with high quality, and to also recognize them when they do achieve those higher standards. The CDA really fit within that mold and we rely on leaders to support their teachers in that way.

Marnetta: This is all good stuff. I'm on fire now. I will say I was on your CDA fliers for a couple of years. I attended a conference. They took a picture of me and I was on the advertising flier wherever.

Calvin: You're a poster child? Oh, my goodness.

Marnetta: Yeah, that's another story. Anyway, based on this conversation and people getting excited about the CDA and they knew about the CDA. It's always been this amazing thing. I know in the state of Louisiana, it's a staple for our educators and childcare. It's a minimum. We need this because our children are important. For educators looking to get their CDA, what opportunities may exist for them to get scholarships, grants so that they can elevate their interactions with children?

Calvin: Most states have CCDF funding that they really earmark for scholarships and CDA teacher preparation, which includes 120 clock hours of training. Many of them pay for the publications that go along with that training. Of course, they pay for the assessment fees and that's for the initial CDA credential and the renewal.

Anyone who's looking to earn their CDA and need support, please reach out to your CCDF administrator at your state, childcare administrator for more information. If you have trouble finding that information, please visit our website because we have information about programs and scholarship opportunities across the country, probably in a state near you or in the states where your listeners are. We want to make sure that we connect those people to the resources they need to get this wonderful credential.

I know when I received my credential, I was working in a head start program as I mentioned earlier, and the head start program paid for all of my training and publication. There are varied opportunities to get the CDA. Sometimes you're working for a program that has a support system, but at the very least, there should be some state support for you as well.

Marnetta: That is wonderful. Not only do we have this beautiful credential that exists, you can get it and not pay for it.

Calvin: That's exactly right.

Marnetta: Because that really removes that barrier for getting it, so I'm glad that we talked about it out loud because that might just be the last piece that somebody needed to know before they venture into getting and applying for their CDA. I appreciate that. Thank you.

Darlene: Cost is sometimes the barrier, but I also think too, people are like, okay, they've got me fired up, I'm there, I really want to do this. I'm a little worried because my own support system might not be there. Talk to me about how the CDA might be built to support them on their journey and is there flexibility? Because we're also talking about folks that are in it all day doing the work with the work. Maybe folks are just trying to figure out like, how do I fit that into my schema?

Calvin: I would offer several things. We have wonderful training programs across the country who also embed those wrap-around services within their program to help the candidate succeed. There are also online training programs for folks who need that option, and it's a viable option for them.

I would also say, Darlene, that we accept training that the individual has already taken. If it fits within one of our eight subject areas, they don't have to do it over. They get credit for that training. There's a way for them to make this teacher preparation experience easier for them and we can help them. All they have to do is call the council and we can walk them through some of those very difficult waters to navigate.

We've been thinking a lot about teacher preparation lately as we've been reimagining the process. We also want to help people with test anxiety. We know that there's a national exam. People are naturally anxious about that. There are ways that we can support candidates throughout the credentialing process that will make it easier for them.

Marnetta: Living in an early learning space like childcare, you have to get licensing hours. It's great that the licensing hours already have to meet the standard to work, that I can use for this credential. It's not an extra thing. I'm kind of killing two birds with one stone.

Calvin: That's right.

Darlene: Thank you so much, Dr. Moore. I wrote so many notes. I'm hanging on to so many things. I am so excited just to hear you also talk about the need for systemic change, the fact that you're doing these listening sessions. Not just listening, but then strategizing because it's one thing to listen, but then not to do any action behind it, and then that leading to your first Hill Day.

Just seeing the journey forward and starting early to get kids interested, and being teachers, and why this is so important, and most important just sharing your story, I think the most powerful thing I've heard today is your story. Just to get out there as an inspiration to young men, and that this is a space that our young boys so much need that.

I appreciate you just having this conversation with us today to lift up early childhood, the field, the profession, the CDA as a pathway. I’m going to be talking about this all day, but I'm going to let Marnetta close this out and just know that this transcription and our related resources, we post it on our website, Marnetta?

Marnetta: And remember, behind great leading and teaching are powerful interactions. Let's build that culture together.