Illinois Study Finds Substantial Increase in Qualifications of Preschool Teachers

CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A new study of the early childhood workforce in Illinois finds that education levels for lead preschool teachers has dramatically increased over the past seven years. The number of community-based lead teachers holding a bachelor’s degree rose to 48 percent in 2008, up from 37 percent in 2001. In addition, almost 20 percent of these lead teachers hold early childhood certification, which qualifies them to teach 3- and 4-year old children in Illinois’ Preschool for All program.

The study, Who’s Caring for the Kids? The Status of the Early Childhood Workforce in Illinois—2008, was conducted by researchers at National-Louis University’s McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership and the Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative at the University of Illinois. The research, funded by the McCormick Foundation, examined progress made since the 2001 publication of the first Who’s Caring for the Kids?

The new study highlights several achievements. Since 2001, Illinois has established an Early Learning Council, implemented Preschool for All, and rolled out a quality rating system, Quality Counts–QRS. State policymakers have also addressed the professional needs of the early childhood workforce through creation of the Professional Development Advisory Council (PDAC), establishment of Gateways to Opportunity, and a credentialing system for the early childhood workforce.

Dr. Teri Talan, study co-author and the Center’s director of research and public policy, says Illinois has emerged as a national leader in the design and implementation of its professional development system. “While state policymakers have accomplished much over the past seven years, we cannot rest on our laurels,” says Talan. “We must continue to invest in the early childhood workforce–teachers, directors, providers, and support staff—if we are to achieve the goals of Preschool for All.”

The latest report found an emerging and integrated system with a coherent career framework for early childhood practitioners, a significant improvement since the 2001 report found that Illinois lacked a coherent career development system. The 2008 update tracked workforce changes and the impact of Preschool for All.

“We must have highly qualified staff, especially among center directors and lead teachers, to successfully implement Preschool for All,” says Paula Jorde Bloom, Michael W. Louis Endowed Chair of the Center and professor of education at NLU. “It’s an important indicator of success to find lead teacher qualifications steadily increasing.”

Additional findings include:

  • Compensation Matters. The wide variation in wages and benefits across sectors is drawing teachers away from community-based programs to public schools. Lead teachers with early childhood certification employed by community-based programs earn 44 percent less than comparably certified teachers in public school programs.
  • Leadership Matters. Director qualifications, including level of education, specialized management training, and experience, are directly related to program quality. Directors with higher levels of education were better able to support the professional development of their teachers and secure funding for Preschool for All.
  • Diversity Matters. Early childhood teachers are not representative of or prepared to teach the changing population of children in Illinois. Most early childhood teachers speak only English, yet more than one-third of children in Illinois speak a home language other than English.
  • The Professional Development System Matters. Illinois has an emerging and sophisticated system of professional development and a career lattice tied to credentials and college degrees. Currently, however, there is little connection between the credentials identified and job opportunities or levels of compensation.

The full report is available at http://cecl.nl.edu/.

Founded in 1985 by Dr. Paula Jorde Bloom, the McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership at NLU is dedicated to enhancing the management skills, professional orientation and leadership capacity of early childhood educators.