The Center for the Study of Education Policy (CSEP) is the recent recipient of a $300,000 grant from the McCormick Foundation and a $200,000 grant from the CME Group Foundation to support the pilot and validation of Leaders for Early Learning (LEL) Micro-Credentials (MCs). Through this joint funding, CSEP will pilot and assess four Leaders for Early Learning MCs that were developed in fall 2020 and spring 2021 through a $50,000 grant by the McCormick Foundation.

MCs are a digital form of micro-certification earned by demonstrating competency in a specific skill. With MCs, educators learn by doing and apply their learning to demonstrate competence in order to earn the micro-credential. The targeted audiences for the LEL MCs are district and school leaders who have leadership oversight of early childhood classrooms, particularly pre-K and kindergarten classrooms. 

The LEL MCs tie to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) priorities for the implementation of the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) designed to capture a statewide snapshot of children’s school readiness. Currently, teachers receive training on KIDS, but the state does not have a corresponding system for training district and school leaders. The LEL MCs can help to fulfill this need.

With this support, 70 administrators will pilot the MCs over the course of two years, and project staff will study the validity of these MCs as an effective means to grow administrators’ skills to improve the quality of pre-K and kindergarten classrooms. These improvements will result in more children entering kindergarten ready to learn and developmentally appropriate classrooms aligned with the KIDS assessment.

According to Lisa Hood, project director, “We are excited to roll out the development of the LEL MCs as we believe that this project will build an online system of training for district and school administrators to learn about developmentally appropriate practices, the usefulness of KIDS data for improving whole child development and classroom practices, and serve as a data source for working with families and community partners to align and improve B-3 education systems. We believe that if leaders see how these practices are rigorous and that KIDS data can be used to monitor and improve student learning outcomes, we will see leaders that support KIDS and developmentally appropriately practices in their classrooms. We especially appreciate the opportunity of two private funders—CME and McCormick Foundation—to come together and support statewide work that we can do in partnership with ISBE.”

The LEL MCs build from previous work conducted by CSEP that created a free library of early childhood classroom videos, tools, and resources to develop effective pre-K-third-grade teachers and leaders. Materials can be found on the PK3 Teach Lead Grow website.