Build an apprenticeship into high schools, such as the CDA. This will ensure that there is a skilled workforce right out of high school, especially in more economically challenged areas. We should reduce the schools to prison pipeline. We should work with companies and organizations to place students right of school into a job and build that pathway.
As a part of my interview series about the things that should be done to improve the US educational system I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Calvin E. Moore.
Dr. Moore has been an educator for over 30 years; he’s the first leader of the nonprofit Council for Professional Recognition to also hold its early education credential, the Child Development Associate® (CDA).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?
As the holder of a Child Development Associate® credential, I know it connects me to the early childhood workforce in a special way. I’ve gone through the credentialing process and it catapulted me into the early childhood profession in a way I don’t think a bachelor’s degree alone would have done. It captured my interest and sparked my curiosity after I’d spent four years in the armed services and was looking for an entry into the field.
At first, I thought I’d go right into school to get my bachelor’s degree, but my aunt said, “Why don’t you work at Head Start? It will give you the experience to make sure teaching young children is something you really want to do.” I took her advice, and right away Head Start put me into a CDA program at the local community college. That’s how I got into the field. And my goal is for the Council to keep promoting the CDA and to keep connecting with teachers throughout the credentialing process and their careers.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your teaching career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was in an early childhood classroom with another educator; we saw two boys starting to fight. The female educator wanted to immediately separate and break them up. While I wanted to stop them from fighting, I thought there was a way to turn it into a learning opportunity by helping the boys peacefully talk out and resolve their conflict, instead of letting it fester. This was a successful strategy and opened my eyes to the benefit of having different perspectives, including a male perspective, in the classroom.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’re making continuous improvements and enhancements on a regular basis. We’re working with states to increase their awareness of the CDA and the importance of early childhood education (ECE) teacher preparation and development in the early years. We advocate for increased teacher recognition, funding and teacher pay. Our goal is to have all states support the need for quality teachers in the early years to increase child success in the future.
We’ve also created a High School Career Technical Education Tool Kit; it provides a system approach to earning a CDA in high school through a uniform framework with resources to guide instructional planning and support individualized lessons. The Council’s goal is to guide instructors in planning for implementing classroom and lab experiences that naturally align with the CDA process.
We’re also proud of our CDA Advisory Council, founded last year, that’s an expert group of educators and ECE professionals who meet regularly on issues and matters that impact our sector, and provide their insights, best practices and perspectives.
All of these initiatives and others are found on our redesigned website, which will do an even better job of supporting educators and stakeholders as they learn about the Council and about our products and services. Our visitors will have an enhanced learning experience that is interactive and contextual.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?
Well, I think your question, while very good, suggests we actually have a fully integrated education system! What we have are 50 states with their own systems and priorities; we have a U.S. Dept. of Education, with an early ed focus, and we have a U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, which oversees Head Start. And we see numerous data that point to unacceptable learning outcomes. Perhaps the answer is we really need a fully-functioning, integrated system with a strong focus on early education.
Can you identify 5 areas of the US education system that are going really great?
For starters, we think the CDA is going really great! The CDA is a credential that early childhood educators can earn to demonstrate certain competencies and, in turn, can help them advance their careers. The CDA is carefully administered to ensure that those who earn it know how to put important ECE understandings into practice. Our CDA educators know how to nurture the emotional, physical, intellectual and social development of children.
We have over 800,000 CDAs issued to date; the credential is nationally and now globally recognized in Africa, Panama, Puerto Rico, UAE and China.
The CDA is based on 120 hours of coursework and 480 hours of experience with children.
I think the other great areas relate to the important work that nonprofits and advocacy groups do to try to improve our education system. Here are some that are exceptional:
- National Head Start Association is a nonprofit organization committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in life. NHSA is the voice for more than 1 million children, 245,000 staff and 1,600 Head Start grantees in the United States. Since 1974, NHSA has worked diligently for policy changes that ensure all at-risk children have access to the Head Start model of support for the whole child, the family and the community.
- The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort by foundations, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. The Campaign focuses on an important predictor of school success and high school graduation — grade-level reading by the end of third grade. There are more than 350 communities participating in the GLR Network. These communities are comprised of cities, counties and towns located all across the country. The Campaign provides technical assistance as these communities implement their plans.
- The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is a professional membership organization that works to promote high-quality early learning for all young children, birth through age 8, by connecting early childhood practice, policy, and research. It advances a diverse, dynamic early childhood profession and support all who care for, educate, and work on behalf of young children.
- The NEA Foundation is a national nonprofit and philanthropic organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded by educators, the mission is to work in partnership with others to promote the absolute best in public education. It believes that the most innovative and effective policies and strategies emanate from educators engaged in authentic partnership with policymakers, students, parents, and others who are committed to educational equity, excellence, and opportunity. Through the transformative power of these partnerships, we believe we can improve both students’ and communities’ educational experiences.
Can you identify the 5 key areas of the US education system that should be prioritized for improvement? Can you explain why those are so critical?
- Build an apprenticeship into high schools, such as the CDA. This will ensure that there is a skilled workforce right out of high school, especially in more economically challenged areas. We should reduce the schools to prison pipeline. We should work with companies and organizations to place students right of school into a job and build that pathway. http://www.justicepolicy.org/news/8775
- Address classroom sizes so we have a higher educator-to-student ratio for effective learning. The classrooms are overcrowded and ratio should be reviewed.
- Work with parents and communities to better understand how the education system could/should change and accommodate student learning and teacher preparation.
- Pay and teacher recognition needs to be addressed. We need more educators at all stages in the school system, and for that to happen the educator practice must be recognized through high pay and teacher recognition. We need more people to want to be educators.
- Economically challenged neighborhoods are under resourced. They need the same advantages as other areas. They need to have resources that are equal to other, more prosperous neighborhoods.
Super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Know To Be A Highly Effective Educator?” Please share a story or example for each.
1. Challenge your assumption about who becomes a teacher: I’m a black man who started as an early childhood educator and earned a Child Development Associate credential, which means I know and teach to the credential’s high professional standards. I know a lot of black men like me who’ve chosen this career path. You’ll find us right on the floor with the kids, playing games, leading music lessons and teaching the ABCs. Children, especially those in pre-K, need to see all kinds of people in the educator role because it’ll prepare them for the diversity of the 21st century world.
2. A teacher’s education, training and preparation matters: Very few of us are natural born teachers: It takes practice, mindfulness and reflection to be a good educator. It’s essential to study education theory.
3. Passion for education: In your heart, you must see your mission as bigger than earning a lot of money or getting the biggest office: You must have a passion for engaging a child and seeing that student’s potential. Every action an early childhood educator has with a student is meaningful; this is a big responsibility.
4. Sense of humor: Important lessons occur in classrooms, but you have to have a sense of humor, too. The silly jokes, the missteps (including your own), the spilled milk all can create a learning environment where laughter comes first.
5. Understand diversity, cultures and special accommodations: Be aware that all children are different and have different needs. Good communication with parents, students and other educators creates a collaborative environment. An effective educator adjusts to the child and, in the process, learns more about our world and the people in it.
As you know, teachers play such a huge role in shaping young lives. What would you suggest needs to be done to attract top talent to the education field?
The early childhood care and education field tends to be no man’s land. Nationwide, a meager 2.2 percent of ECE and kindergarten teachers are men, and 44 percent of them leave the field within five years. Roadblocks to men teaching young children include rigid ideas about gender roles, perceptions of ECE as a low-prestige job, lack of benefits and a living wage, the suspicions of families and colleagues who question why men would want to teach young children. In addition, the glass escalator tends to put men on the fast track to advancement when they enter mainly female fields. As a result, men in ECE often wind up in administration, though they leave their hearts in the classroom and stay teachers at their core.
But we should welcome men into the ECE field, so our youngest learners can interact with a gender-balanced workforce. There’s wide recognition that male teachers serve as role models for boys, often relate to them more closely than women do and are more at ease joining in the roughhouse play many boys enjoy. Less discussed but also important is the impact they make on girls. For young girls, a male teacher offers an early opportunity to build relationships with men outside the family. This greater understanding of men helps girls later make successful transitions into the wider world of college, work and adult relations.
Many young men are also seeking their own sense of identity during the high school years. They’re searching for a path in life and exploring their options. So, it’s a good time to introduce them to ECE. Administrators and teachers in career and technical education (CTE) programs can encourage them by talking about men in positive ways and putting up displays that depict men in caring roles. They should make young men aware that teaching can be a gateway to careers in advocacy and policy with the potential to help children nationwide. They should also examine their own gender biases, try to use gender-neutral language in their interactions with students and provide more chances for young men to learn what it’s like to be a preschool teacher.
The efforts we make to meet men’s needs will also enhance the entire ECE field. Having diverse role models of both genders is vital for our youngest children. And both men and women would be better off if the field provided fair benefits and pay. With the right strategies and steps, we can recruit more men into the field. A good place to start is in our high schools with young men who are still looking for their path in life. Recruiting and retaining them will take work and require investment, but it holds the promise of rewards. So, we must man up to enlist more men in ECE — and ensure they do stay.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is by John Quincy Adams, who wrote: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” That’s my mantra for a leader, whether it’s in government or here at the Council. I hope my future actions will inspire those who work for me to dream more, do more and be the best they can be. I want my staff to define how they fit in at the Council and how they contribute. But more than that I want them to work with the spirit of excellence, not perfection, but excellence.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
In the course of my life, I have always been around heroes who nurtured me along the way. An early one was Dr. Richard Arrington, Jr., a deacon of my church and the first black mayor of Birmingham, where I grew up. I knew him and felt a deep connection to him because he made me think I could be like him. Besides him, there were people in the early childhood field who helped me know I was in the right place: Helen Taylor, a former bureau chief in the Office of Head Start, and Ed Green, a great early childhood educator. My heroes also include two former CEOs of the Council, Carol Brunson Day and Valora Washington, whom I’ve always looked up to and admired.
In addition, there’s J. D. Andrews, even though I never had the chance to meet him. I really hate that I didn’t get to be in his presence because he was an important leader at the Council and responsible for a lot of its success. So, I’m still looking to learn more about J.D. because he was one of the people who have influenced my practice and belief system about the early childhood field.
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