Learning Together: A CDA Pilot Project

Future Ready Collier partner organizations, with pilot funding from the Early Learning Coalition, have embarked on an initiative to facilitate a better completion rate among candidates for Child Development Associate (CDA) certification. The preferred minimum credential for employment among early childhood educators is a CDA paired with a two-year degree. Stakeholders are proactively enabling candidates who have completed all CDA coursework to finalize their portfolio and undergo structured assessment to earn the certification. This effort coincides with goals to increase rates of achievement of Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees, to ensure a more robust pipeline of educators equipped to meet existing student need. Collaborators agree this is a both practical and valuable means of helping teachers, schools, and students alike.

A primary motivator behind this effort was recognition that a substantial number of CDA candidates were successfully completing their coursework and 120 required work hours, and are only stalling at the final stages, necessitating preparation of a portfolio and formal observation by professional development specialists authorized by the Department of Children and Families. So far, 8 would-be educators entered into an initial cohort convened by the Guadalupe Center, and 6 have completed. Participants committed to attending 8 two-hour sessions, requiring their employer support. Renate Engels of the Guadalupe Center underscores the importance of such programming as an effective professional springboard. “One teacher came to me and said how this helped her feel, ‘Oh, man, I can do this,’ so she enrolled in an AA program,” says Engels.

With proof of concept, indicating that formal backing enables these candidates to move more efficiently towards certification, partner organizations, including direct service providers and educational institutions, are eagerly exploring expansion of the pilot. The program intends to recognize the need to support essential quality standards, and underscores the value of cross-organizational collaboration. A key objective of Future Ready Collier is to identify needs within the Southwest Florida education system and take concrete action. While still in its early stages, this pilot project is a positive indicator that cooperation is possible, and benefit for Collier County’s students and teachers attainable.

Written by: Caroline Ridgway, C1b1 Communications