C-BEN Announces Gateway to Opportunity Infant Toddler Credential Competency Project Report

Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) is proud to announce the release of the Gateway to Opportunity Infant-Toddler Credential Competency Project report. This report from Illinois shares the process, learning, and outcomes from a multi-year, state-wide effort to develop a competency-based curriculum for early childhood (EC) educators. The curriculum, titled the Infant-Toddler Credential, is a modular approach to teaching EC educators the core skills needed to best serve the state’s youngest students. The project was designed to support and increase access to EC teacher preparation for Illinois’ highly diverse early childhood workforce and is funded by the Illinois Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five grant.

The report is the product of deep collaboration across sectors, including: Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (INCCRRA); Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development; Gateways to Opportunity® Infant Toddler Credential (ITC)-entitled Illinois higher education institutions; Illinois Board of Higher Education; Illinois Community College Board; Illinois State Competency Leadership; and C-BEN.

Through the initiative, C-BEN, INCCRRA, and other collaborators sought to improve early childhood teacher preparation pathways and increase workforce access to online EC competency-based courses. Doing so, Illinois is making higher education and credentials more accessible to new and current EC educators.

A key aspect of the initiative is its modular approach. Collaborators designed individual modules for each Infant-Toddler Credential competency. These modules increased access to learning for current and aspiring EC educators, helping them attain credentials and degrees more efficiently. Together, the modules provide a focused pathway to a professional EC credential.

The initiative also focused on Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs). PLAs allow learners to demonstrate their existing mastery of a competency, helping them move through the modules at a pace that honors their prior experience.

The collective effort resulted in 54 competency modules. The 54 modules include curriculum resources and assessments to be shared across Illinois institutions as they prepare EC educators. The modules are ready to be piloted in 2022 at eight Illinois institutions- Chicago State University, Erikson Institute, Roosevelt University, College of Lake County, Southwestern Illinois College, National Louis University, Northern Illinois University, and Heartland Community College.

C-BEN was integral in developing the 54 modules. They led a comprehensive review of the modules, offering a competency-based lens for the curriculum and assessments.

“Cross-sector collaboration was key to the success of this project,” stated Joni Scritchlow, Senior Program Director from Gateways to Opportunity. “The guidance and support from C-BEN was especially important for our success. C-BEN helped us keep competency at the forefront as we designed the curriculum, which will have a great impact on our teachers and young students.”

“The need for a competency-based approach to EC education is clear,” stated Dr. Jamilah R. Jor’dan, executive director of the Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development. In addition to the national teacher shortage, barriers exist on the path to graduation for aspiring EC educators, especially adult learners who work or have children of their own. Barriers are particularly high for adult learners from diverse, lower-income, or rural backgrounds, which in turn impacts children in similar conditions.

These are issues that competency-based education (CBE) can address. As adult learners often have the prior work experience and capacity to move more quickly through course content, CBE provides institutions ways to assess prior learning and spend more time on the new skills and knowledge needed to succeed.

Collaborators are hopeful their work will create a deep impact on early childhood education in Illinois. First, the project will ensure a well-prepared EC workforce in the state. Additionally, the shared assessments and resources will ensure equitable learning opportunities for the educators completing the programs. The assessments offer their own impact. Based on real-world applications, the assessments created in this project ask EC educators to put their knowledge to real-world use, which will take them much further when working in the classroom.

Illinois has a proven record of innovation in CBE. Illinois is among the nation’s leaders in competency-based teacher preparation in EC, with 98% of its institutions aligning their EC coursework to core competencies. This initiative is another important step for the State as they move forward in the CBE movement.

“C-BEN is proud to have partnered with INCCRRA and Illinois on this critical work,” stated Dr. Charla Long, President of C-BEN. “Time and time again, Illinois proves to be an innovator in the early childhood space, and we are pleased to support them in their latest effort. Our hope is to continue this work across the nation.”

About the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN)

C-BEN is a network of institutions, employers, and experts who believe competencies can unlock the future of learning — making education and training more flexible, responsive, and valuable. We support stakeholders across the spectrum of competency-based learning, from institutions and employers who want to embed competencies into their existing programs to those looking to design full competency-based degree programs from the ground up. For more information, visit C-BEN.org

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