Improvements In The Illinois Early Childhood Workforce
Jan 14, 2009
Research consistently shows that early childhood is a critical period of growth and development. Young children particularly need nurturing, responsive caregivers and teachers as they begin building the foundations for future success and well-being. Across the nation, states are responding to the research by implementing comprehensive early childhood systems that increase the training and education of the early childhood workforce. This is particularly evident in Illinois. The McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership and the Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative recently released a joint report, Who s Caring for Kids? The Status of the Early Childhood Workforce in Illinois 2008. The report is a follow-up to a paper published in 2001, which examined the conditions of the early care and education industry in Illinois. Identifying changes that have occurred since then, the new report finds that major improvements have been made to the field. These improvements include greater training and education opportunities, increased state coordination of early care and education activities, and expanded access to early childhood services and resources. Six major developments are highlighted:
- Establishment of the Illinois Early Learning Council
- Establishment of the Illinois Professional Development Advisory Council
- Creation of the professional development network, Gateways to Opportunity
- Launching of the universal pre-kindergarten program, Preschool For All
- Creation of the early childhood resources project, Illinois Early Childhood Asset Map
- Launching of Illinois Quality Counts Quality Rating System
Similar to issues faced by other states, several challenges continue to face the early childhood workforce in Illinois. Among them is a need for greater compensation, particularly among community-based programs. While the educational level of lead teachers in community-based programs has increased, the report finds that these teachers are being drawn to public schools where salaries are higher. In addition, the report highlights a need for highly qualified leadership. Since 2001, the proportion of directors that reported having a college degree or higher declined from 72 percent to 66 percent. Given the changing demographics of the Illinois population, the report also observes that there is a growing need for a diversified early childhood workforce. There is an increased demand for caregivers and teachers better trained in serving families from different cultural backgrounds.
Overall, the report finds that Illinois has made significant steps to ensuring that the state's young children have the nurturing care and supports they need for optimal growth.