A Comprehensive Competency Framework for Early Childhood Educators in Nebraska to Facilitate Career Advancement

Breakout Session

A Comprehensive Competency Framework for Early Childhood Educators in Nebraska to Facilitate Career Advancement

Tue, Jun 25, 2024 | 3:50 - 5:00pm CDT

About this session

Track: Early Education
Audience level: Intermediary

Early childhood educators work with children ages birth to eight years in a variety of settings. Several sets of state and national competencies that inform certification and accreditation (e.g., Nebraska Core Competencies, NAEYC, and DEC Competencies, Nebraska Department of Education Rules 20 and 24, Zero to Three) delineate what early educators should know and be able to do. Although there is considerable overlap between these competencies, early childhood educators (ECE) in different settings are required to follow different sets of competencies. However, research indicates that regardless of setting, young children need the same kinds of quality experiences to support their learning and development. Moreover, it can be burdensome and confusing when early childhood educators must follow multiple sets of competencies and standards (e.g., Nebraska Core Competencies, Rules 20 and 24, NAEYC), and challenging for teacher preparation that are accountable to meet varying national accreditation standards (i.e., InTasc).  

To address this challenge, the Responsive Equitable System for Preparing Early Childhood Teachers (RESPECT) across Nebraska project conducted an analysis of the competencies required and used by early childhood educators and teacher education programs in Nebraska and consolidated them into a single set of competencies that can be used by early childhood education professionals in Nebraska, with subsets of competencies delineated for those working in specific settings (e.g., family child care) or working with specific age groups (e.g., infants and toddlers).

Importantly, the RESPECT competency framework will facilitate the education and career advancement of ECE professionals because curriculum in higher education and certification requirements will be aligned to the competencies and will facilitate transfer and accumulation of credits toward degrees and certification. Currently in Nebraska, we have no way of acknowledging the professional competencies of workforce members who acquired their early childhood knowledge and skills outside of a college classroom. Yet, seasoned early care and education professionals bring expertise, experience, and diversity to early care and education. The RESPECT competency framework will lay the foundation for designing a functional equivalency model whereby professionals can demonstrate, and be recognized for, the expertise they have acquired through working in the field.  

To make the core competencies most universal and appropriate, we included Core Competencies for Trauma-informed and Developmentally Appropriate Practice (Health Federation of Philadelphia, 2008) and the Diversity-informed Tenets for Working with Infants, Children, and Families (Irving Harris Foundation, 2018). We included these because creating healthy social and emotional environments for young children requires a meaningful understanding of trauma, how it can affect development, and how trauma-informed practices are beneficial for all students, educators, and families. Systemic recognition of the value of racially, linguistically, and culturally diverse populations have been largely underrepresented in many existing frameworks; thus, we have intentionally sought to center a culturally-sustaining lens within our competencies.  

In this session, we will introduce the RESPECT Competency Framework and the processes involved in its development. Specifically, we will explain the processes used to cohesively integrate and build on the strengths of multiple competency frameworks into a single comprehensive framework that defines common expectations while addressing current needs for our early childhood workforce. We will then share how this Comprehensive Competency Framework will be used to support early childhood educator preparation and credentialing in Nebraska. We will further explain how trauma-informed and culturally-sustaining practices have been embedded in this framework and the intentionality for this integration. Approximately 15 minutes each will be allotted to these points of discussion (total 45-50 minutes), with the remaining 20-25 minutes reserved for audience discussion. This will involve discussions to solicit points of reflection and questions that will inform the successful implementation of the Competency Framework in Nebraska.

Intended Audience: Head Start personnel, School representatives,  Early childhood educators

Learning objectives

After this presentation, participants will

  • Be familiar with the Comprehensive Competency Framework for Early Childhood Educators developed by the RESPECT across Nebraska project.
  • Identify the processes employed by the RESPECT team to integrate multiple competency frameworks into a new Comprehensive Competency Framework for Early Childhood Educators.
  • Understand how the RESPECT competency framework will be used in Nebraska to support early childhood educator preparation and credentialing.
  • Recognize how trauma-informed and culturally-sustaining practices in early care and education have been intentionally integrated into the competency framework.