Maryland Celebrates 10 Years of Professional Credentialing
The theory that better child care providers lead to higher quality child care is commonly agreed upon in the early childhood community. The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Office of Child Care has spent the last ten years turning this theory into a reality. Funded in part through CCDF, Maryland has provided incentives and recognized child care providers who meet education, experience and professional activity requirements above those established by state licensing regulations.
In a field with very high turnover, the Maryland Credentialing program aims to build a well-educated, fairly compensated, cohesive workforce of child care professionals. The goals of the program include promoting a well-qualified workforce, increasing the overall quality of child care, and increasing the status and compensation of child care professionals. According to Lindi Mitchell Budd of MSDE Office of Child Care, “The guiding force is to upgrade the quality for children.”
Child care professionals in the United States earn an average of approximately $21,000 per year, and the relatively low wages often result in a high level of turnover in the field. The Maryland credentialing program ties together goals of improving the quality of child care by improving the training and experience of child care professionals and making child care jobs into careers worth investing in by increasing compensation and status of workers in the field.
Over 12,000 providers have been recognized, and substantial gains have been made in school readiness for Maryland’s kindergarteners. The percentage of Maryland kindergarteners fully ready to start school increased to 81 percent in 2010-2011. The increase was up 3 points from 2009-2010, and continued the 32-point increase of the past 10 years, which began with school readiness at 49 percent in 2001 – 2002.
Providers agree that the program has been effective. Heidi Garlick, Director of the Chesapeake College Early Childhood Development Center, and her lead staff have been participating in the program since 2002. “The program is beneficial to staff by promoting the importance of continued education and involvement in our field and it provides recognition and financial rewards for being a professional and for ‘a job well done,’” Garlick says.
Plans currently in place would continue the program, something providers like Jo Smetak, Lead Teacher at Running Brook Children’s Nursery in Columbia, MD would advocate. “Before the credentialing program, I loved my work and took pride in it, but I didn’t understand how to value the work beyond my own little sphere,” Smetak says. “The training empowers me, and it gives me a way to connect with colleagues, to share ideas, and to keep learning and growing in this increasingly important, really essential field.”