Wisconsin: Infant and Toddler Professional Credential

Mar 08, 2007

The Wisconsin Infant Toddler Professional Credential is an example of how a state can promote a strong workforce and supported caregivers for infants and toddlers. This state example was originally written as part of Starting Off Right: Promoting Child Development from Birth in State Early Care and Education Initiatives and updated for the Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care project.




Wisconsin has several initiatives designed to increase the skills of the infant-toddler workforce, including an infant and toddler credential, access to scholarships and other supports, and a bonus system based on credit-based education levels. The Wisconsin Professional Infant Toddler Credential planning process began in 1998 with funding from the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) infant and toddler earmark to address the lack of a credit-based professional development program for infant and toddler teachers and child care administrators. At the time, Wisconsin required 10 hours of training for licensed infant and toddler caregivers, but the training was not required to be credit based. Wisconsin contracted with WestEd to create a curriculum for the infant and toddler credential. Several state agencies (the Department of Workforce Development, the Department of Public Instruction, and the Department of Health and Family Services) and the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA) worked jointly with institutions of higher education to develop coursework for the credential that was appropriate for providers and uniform across the state. WECA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting teachers, child care providers, and children and to working to improve child care and early education; it is also the state affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

WECA, along with The Registry - Wisconsin\'s Recognition System for the Childhood Care and Education Profession, facilitated a process to develop the credential. The groups consulted experts with infant and toddler knowledge-including faculty from universities and the state technical college system, as well as early child educators-to determine the number of credits in the credential and to identify existing gaps in higher education in early care and education.

The Wisconsin Infant Toddler Professional Credential includes 12 credits (four three-credit courses) available at all state technical colleges and some universities. This includes a final course requiring a field experience and a portfolio, which is presented to a commission upon completion. There has never been a waiting list to participate. To recruit providers, administrators mailed brochures to all regulated child care providers and visited early childhood conferences.

At the same time that the credential was being developed, the state was considering implementing T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood ® WISCONSIN, modeled on the North Carolina T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood ® program. State leaders decided to adapt the T.E.A.C.H. model to focus on and support expanded access to a statewide infant and toddler credential and the statewide administrator\'s credential already in existence. Participants in the credential program can apply for scholarships through the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood ® WISCONISN program administered by WECA.

Wisconsin also provided some grants to higher education to develop creative approaches to delivery of instruction for infant and toddler courses and other credit-based opportunities. A key component of the state strategy is to expand opportunities for professional development, including offering classes online and on weekends and evenings.

Between 1999 and 2008, 634 providers received an Infant and Toddler Credential. The Early Childhood Associate Degree (A.A. degree) became an eligible activity as part of T.E.A.C.H. in 2001 and has since surpassed the infant and toddler credential in number of participants, in part because the state legislature considered a Quality Rating System (QRS) in the past that would provide higher reimbursement rates for teachers with AAs. T.E.A.C.H. also added a Bachelor\'s Degree scholarship in 2001.

The R.E.W.A.R.D.TM WISCONSIN Stipend Program provides stipends based on credit-based education and experience. R.E.W.A.R.D. provides compensation only to providers and teachers who seek credit-based coursework, a practice that departs from some state wage-incentive programs. Funding for the program fluctuates from year to year, with the majority of the funding being allocated to the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program. The Scholarship and Bonus Initiative received a reduced funding level for the 2004-05 budget cycle, and the R.E.W.A.R.D. program was suspended for 2004. The stipend program was reinstated in 2005, and a revolving-door application process was put in place in August 2006, with limited funding available since that time. Stipend allocations continue to be monitored to determine when applications need to be put on hold, until additional funding is garnered.

Wisconsin\'s Recognition System for the Childhood Care and Education Profession, created in 1991, provides a 14-level career ladder. The Registry data is linked to the T.E.A.C.H. program and is used by WECA to track the amount and type of training and education attained by members of the child care workforce to determine the level of compensation within the R.E.W.A.R.D. program. The Registry Career Ladder is undergoing additional changes, with a roll out date expected in early 2009.

Although originally targeted to infant and toddler teachers and administrators, the R.E.W.A.R.D. stipend and T.E.A.C.H. scholarships are now available to teachers working with children from birth through school age. But the program primarily targets birth to five teachers.

Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards: The second edition of the WMELS was released during Spring 2008. This expanded version of the Standards reflects expectations for children beginning at birth to first grade. As birth to three enhancements and additionally, the developmental continuum, example behaviors of children and example strategies for adults were added to the Standards the language was changed from the original age group of three through the completion of kindergarten to the age group "birth to first grade". Typically, most children attain the developmental expectations within this time frame, though there is individual variability.

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Evaluating Program Impact

The Professional Infant and Toddler Credential was designed to increase the quality of infant and toddler child care and to improve access to credit-based education. Both T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood ® WISCONSIN and the R.E.W.A.R.D.TM WISCONSIN Stipend Program grew out of research linking teacher education levels to better-quality child care and child outcomes. At the time of implementation, Wisconsin had a Child Care Research Partnership, housed at the University of Wisconsin Extension, that conducted an evaluation of T.E.A.C.H. and found in 2003 that annual turnover was 11 percent for T.E.A.C.H. participants, compared to a turnover rate of 30 to 40 percent for all child care providers across the state. The most recent data indicates that the overall turnover rate for T.E.A.C.H. scholarship recipients since 1999 is 7 percent. The annual turnover rate for scholarship recipients is 3 percent. As of 2008, 634 teachers completed the infant and toddler credential.

The Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA), which administers the T.E.A.C.H. program, also collects demographic and academic data on the participants, including grade point averages, completion of credits, income and compensation, number of years in the program, the types of setting, credential or degree sought, and residence. Data for each legislative district are provided to state legislators on a regular basis, with information on teacher participation, credit completion and degree completion, and institution of higher education participation.

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Funding for T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood ® WISCONSIN and the R.E.W.A.R.D.TM WISCONSIN Stipend Program comes from the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) quality set-aside and the infant and toddler earmark. In 2008, R.E.W.A.R.D. and T.E.A.C.H. were funded at a total of $3.475 million. (Both programs are funded through the same line item.)

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Relationship to Other State Child Care and Early Education Initiatives

Both T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood ® WISCONSIN and the R.E.W.A.R.D.TM WISCONSIN Stipend Program fall under the jurisdiction of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) and are administered by the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA). Staff from WECA have participated in ad-hoc state-level meetings, including the Quality Care for Quality Kids committee (which explored a Quality Rating System), the Child Care Reimbursement Rate Task Force, the T.E.A.C.H. steering committee, higher education boards, and several association boards.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

The Scholarship and Bonus program steering committee makes policy recommendations to DCF, which has final authority on T.E.A.C.H. and R.E.W.A.R.D. policy. Wisconsin also must follow national T.E.A.C.H. policies as required by their license agreement with Child Care Services Association in North Carolina.

The main places for collaboration across organizations and state agencies are the Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners (WECCP) and the Early Childhood Comprehensive Services (ECCS) grant planning process, managed by the Department of Health Services (DHS). The ECCS grant has a birth to five focus and includes a broader audience, inclusive of health practitioners as well as child welfare agencies. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) also manages a Strengthening Families initiative, focused on connecting early care and education with child welfare policy, that includes cross-agency planning.

The recent expansion of the state pre-kindergarten program, 4K, included Community Collaboration Coaches and technical assistance supported by the Department of Public Instruction. While this resulted in partnerships between schools and community organizations that had not collaborated before, it also moved much attention to preschoolers rather than infants and toddlers. DCF, DHS, and DPI have coordinated an approach to funding to support Community Collaboration Coaches to provide coordination and collaborative planning at the local level to support communities in serving children birth to five.

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Additional Opportunities and Challenges

  • The new Department of Children and Families was established on July 1, 2008. The Division of Early Care and Education now includes child care regulation and licensing, the Child Care Subsidy program, quality child care initiatives, and the State Head Start Collaboration Project.
  • The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSMCE) have indicated interest in launching efforts to unionize family child care providers in Wisconsin. In some states where unionization has occurred, reimbursement rates have increased, providers now have access to low-cost health insurance, and quality-improvement efforts have received increased funding. In other states, unionization has been a divisive issue.
  • AFSMCE has organized family child care providers in Wisconsin. It is too early to know what their policy agenda is and whether this will have a positive impact on increased funding for child care in Wisconsin. SEIU is working with a nonprofit organization, TRIADA, to provide low-cost health insurance to group child care centers. This initiative will begin in 2007.

An agreement between the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families and AFSMCE Council 40 & 48 - Wisconsin Child Care Providers Together was signed on July 21, 2008. The agreement includes the following Articles: Definitions, Recognition of the Union, the Child Care Provider Bill of Rights, Union Rights, Non-Discrimination, Parent Rights, Payments and Co-Payments, Maximum Reimbursement Rates, Grievance Procedure, Health Benefits, Liability Insurance, Regular Meet and Confer Sessions, Education and Training, Quality Rating System, Language Accessibility, General Provisions and Miscellaneous Benefits, Successorship, and Term of Agreement.

  • The Department of Children and Families shares a good relationship with other agencies, including the Department of Public Instruction. Through this collaborative relationship, which has been built over many years of shared planning and advisories, they have been able to share funding and ideas. For example, the agencies collaborate and share funding to provide Community Collaboration Coaches to provide a point of contact in each region to support and facilitate collaborative efforts between schools, child care, Head Start, and others in the community. The coaches also provide information on the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards to all types of early care and education providers.


  • The state is polarized on issues surrounding child care and the role of the family, including women working out of the home.
  • Wisconsin has a history of funding high-quality services with the Centers of Excellence initiative and the quality improvement grant process, which has now ended. There is a need for funding and policy attention to birth to five quality and system development, as well as for more resources for birth through three years olds to complement the 4K program growth.
  • Providing training opportunities is an ongoing challenge, as is providing an incentive for providers to attend. There has been success with the establishment of counselor positions, housed at the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, to support early care and education teachers interested in accessing credit-based education opportunities through TEACH scholarships, and specifically in the availability of the infant and toddler credential.
  • During public hearings, child care directors have expressed that they understand the need for professional development and higher education but that they cannot afford to pay higher salaries once teachers obtain degrees, and the teachers pursue employment in the public school system.

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Advice for Other States

  • The infant and toddler credential can serve as an introduction to higher education and cultivate providers\' interest in degree programs.
  • Even if caregivers have a degree, they may be interested in developing specialized knowledge about infants and toddlers that may not have been provided in their education program.
  • Share curriculum and models with other states.
  • Invite all stakeholders to the table early in the process. Continue talking and bringing together key stakeholders throughout the planning and implementation process.

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Additional State Information

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Interview with Katherine McGurk, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development,on February 23, 2006 and updated on April 17, 2007; additional updates provided on October 28, 2008.

Interview with Jeanette Paulson, Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA), on February 28, 2006 and updated on April 17, 2007.

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