The Path to a Career Ladder
EEC has long recognized the need for a career ladder (or lattice) to define professional growth in early education and out of school time and its potential to remedy the inadequate compensation of educators in our field. The development of a career ladder is in the agency’s enabling legislation and has been advanced by recommendations of the 2008 Workforce Development Task Force in its report, “Steps Forward,” work by the Professional Development Workgroup of EEC’s Advisory, as well as ad-hoc work groups on the issues affecting family child care and school age child care in this regard. Most recently, the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children (BTWIC) released its “Blueprint for Early Education Compensation Reform” in September 2010. First among the report’s recommendations is the development of a career lattice. EEC and BTWIC partnered on this common goal.
The goal was to develop a single career ladder that is applicable across settings in EEC’s mixed delivery system. The ladder is focused on educators working directly with children and those who are responsible for their professional development and the development of curriculum. It does not include staff whose jobs are primarily administrative or fiscal. The ladder addresses levels of responsibility (job functions) and the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to execute these functions. Although the ladder may eventually be integrated into QRIS standards or licensing regulations, it was not initially drafted to align to these standards and regulations. Programs are not required to use this initial career ladder. This initiative is not intended to produce the final, finished career ladder for our field. The goal was to create an initial career ladder that is relevant to educators in all early education and out of school time settings, that can form the basis for discussion by stakeholders, and that leads to a more finished ladder that is acceptable to the field.
Quality is important at every level of the ladder. “You are competent” even if you have alternative qualifications instead of a degree. All sectors of the field and the workforce are valued. Everyone must recognize themselves in the ladder. Our field is not a dead end; there are opportunities for professional growth. Lifelong learning and professional growth does not necessarily mean pursuing a degree. Reflective practice is key to professional growth. Professional development requires peer support and networking.
What are the characteristics of a career ladder?
1. The Career Ladder must:
• Focus on the individual educator (as opposed to QRIS which is program-focused)
• Include alternative pathways beyond degree attainment
• Be comprehensive but comprehendible — simple to use and understand
• Define learning outcomes (competencies)
• Include equivalencies for different levels of professional development, like in-service training and credit for prior learning
• Be an integrated component of the workforce development system.
2. The Career Ladder should:
• Define a pathway for ECE/OST educators that illustrates the next step in professional growth
• Identify common professional development needs
• Be a template for mapping the workforce development system
• Recognize an educator’s increasing competency with compensation
• Link college courses to EEC core competencies to frame collaboration with higher education.
3. The Career Ladder must connect with:
• EEC QRIS, Core Competencies, Regulations, and related EEC initiatives
• Current research
• Improved outcomes for children and youth
• A system of measurement EEC is not mandating the use of this Career Ladder by early education and OST programs. Many programs already have a ladder that meets their needs.
This ladder is intended as: A resource across EEC’s mixed delivery system that:
• Articulates how increasing responsibility aligns with greater knowledge and skills (competency) and professional advancement;
• Establishes a common starting point for work on more refined pathways like a career lattice;
• Provides a frame to address compensation and other broad issues that affect our entire workforce.
A reference that programs and educators can use to:
• Develop a career ladder that is specific to their program;
• Assess and improve a ladder that already exists;
• Map intentional professional growth for educators;
• Plan professional development for different levels of responsibility;
• Aid supervisors and directors as they guide and mentor staff.
- This basic first version is a common starting point to build upon. It will evolve and develop as educators gain experience with it and grow professionally.
- This ladder includes only educators who work directly with children and families and supervisory positions that support the professional development of other educators. It does not address administrative functions or other positions.
- Position Titles and Certifications have been omitted intentionally at this stage of the ladder’s development. The goal is to define responsibilities that cut across early education and out of school time settings rather than tying these and other elements to an identified position or credential.
- Educators can enter the ladder at any level that they qualify for whether they work in a home-based or center-based setting.
- The responsibilities identified at each level may look different in different types of care but they require the same underlying skills. An educator at the Leadership Level in center-based care is likely to provide other educators in the program with formal supervision. Her Leadership Level counterpart in family child care may fulfill these same responsibilities in the context of a family child care system or educator support group. 6. Although this ladder reflects some licensing requirements and some QRIS standards, it is not intended to align with either of these.
The Massachusetts Career Ladder
for Early Educators