QUALITYstarsNY End-of-the-Year Learning Community Event

June 15, 2016—Quality Improvement Specialist, Charlene Harvilla (center of back row), is celebrating a successful year of Learning Community meetings with QUALITYstarsNY program administrators in the Southern Tier. Front Row:  Nichole Fuller, Lori Smith, Leigh Tiesi, Lori Hayes, Rachele VerValin-Petit, Martha Kirby. Back row:  Judy Murphy, Chrissy Caslin, Emily Drake, Marlene Schwartz Patrick, Charlene Harvilla, Grace Mohrien, Deborah Fitzgerald, Gail Holleran, Rose McCabe.

QUALITYstarsNY supports Learning Communities across New York State, which aim to create collaborative coaching opportunities for early childhood professionals to improve existing knowledge and practices, develop new skills, and promote continuous quality improvement. Each Learning Community establishes measurable goals based on QUALITYstarsNY standards and programs’ self-assessment efforts, and works to meet those outcomes throughout the year. On June 15th, QUALITYstarsNY hosted its end-of-the-year Learning Community event in New York State’s Southern Tier. During the past school year, early childhood program directors focused on The Director’s Toolbox Series by Paula Jorde Bloom to make the most of their leadership role and skill set aimed at supporting and nurturing staff, families, and children in their programs. 

“The QualitystarsNY Learning Community/BAEYC Directors' Academy is a nice opportunity to collaborate with other administrators in the area and to learn new skills that will improve our centers. I look forward to attending each month," said program director Gail Holleran.

Monthly meetings featured inclusive practices that allowed many leaders to share practical suggestions and collaborate on shared visions for high quality early childhood education and care. By providing time to come together with their colleagues, these meetings fostered a sense of community and shared learning. The response was very positive. The final meeting of the year featured a lively discussion about ideas for proposed Learning Community meetings next fall. 

Quality Improvement Specialist, Charlene Harvilla, enjoys a longstanding relationship with area directors: all area administrators are invited and attendance is high. While each meeting is an opportunity to discuss timely topics of interest that translate into enhanced leadership skills, directors are also able to stay informed about QUALITYstarsNY and other Professional Development events in the area. QUALITYstarsNY has partnered with the Binghamton AEYC to co-chair these meetings, which draw on several local resources for information and host presenters throughout the year. In addition to Learning Community events, QUALITYstarsNY and BAEYC sponsor monthly workshops for early childhood staff and providers on timely topics such as curriculum, assessment, and diversity.

Getting to know Institute Staff: Meet Raedell


Raedell Wallace is the Co-Director of Career and Professional Development at the Institute. Her work focuses on the Institute’s Career Development Services Center, which provides free, comprehensive career development services to all current and aspiring early childhood professionals. Their services include academic planning and advisement, career and vocational assessment, resume preparation, interview and job search strategies, and teacher certification support. We asked Raedell to share some of her reflections about her work with us.


What is your current role? In your own words, how would you describe the work you do?

The Career Development Services Center (CDSC) is the one-stop-shop for everyone who has or wants a career in early childhood – advising, job search support, career exploration, professional development planning, and more! One-on-one or in small groups, our team helps individuals assess where they are currently and determine the steps necessary to create and achieve their goals.

Who do you work most closely with at the Institute? What outside partners/organizations do you work with?

The CDSC works closely with many different city agencies and organizations where our clients originate and where many of them end up employed. We also work with the CUNY colleges and universities to support our client's coursework needs. Our internal work is most closely linked to the Aspire registry, where the individuals we support are able to document their professional development and progress towards their goals.

What motivated you to work in the early childhood field?

Our work, at its core, is pursuing the best for young children. For us that means making sure that the adults responsible for their care and education are well prepared and highly skilled.

If you could learn a new skill today, what would it be?

One new skill I want to learn is how to best use data to inform our practice and tell the compelling story of the early childhood workforce we serve.

What brings you joy in your work?

The best thing about our work is knowing that we've impacted the life of an individual that will ultimately go on to impact the life of a child. This is what brings us to work every day, and what we want to be remembered for.

If you had one piece of advice for a new early childhood teacher, what would it be?

In spite of all you face every day, at the heart of your work are children – and they always deserve the very best we have to offer.

To learn more about the Career Development Services Center, please visit http://www.earlychildhoodny.org/cdsc/

Elevating the Workforce


The challenges and opportunities we face make for ‘interesting times’.  At the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute (Institute) we seek to strengthen and elevate the early childhood workforce.  We’ve built a comprehensive system of workforce development, known as New York Works for Children, and work with city and state agencies, and nationally, to strengthen and create new policy that recognizes the professional nature of the work and the need for supportive workplaces and adequate compensation models.  New York’s first statewide workforce data base known as The Aspire Registry has been implemented and already has 20,000 educators in it –  and will continue to grow every month. QUALITYstarsNY, the state’s quality rating and improvement system, focuses a considerable amount of resources on workforce development in both the classrooms and at the leadership level.  The Institute has created new and dynamic paradigms of professional development that have been successful in building the skills of teachers and leaders.  Developing training and coaching competencies has begun to elevate the field of professional development.  Launching a study of New York’s institutions of higher education at the 2-year, 4-year and graduate level has helped to chart a course for the future. We have made great strides in New York, but there is much to be done.

Since the federal government, through the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services commissioned the Institute of Medicine study, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation (http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2015/Birthto8/BirthtoEight_brief.pdf), much has been developed in the way of supporting material to continue to chart pathways to a stronger workforce.  Our colleagues at the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California at Berkeley continue to generate critical information that strengthens our messages and contributes to our policy agenda (http://cscce.berkeley.edu/files/2016/Early-Childhood-Workforce-Index-2016.pdf).

The Institute is active in its work to advocate for stronger policy and significant changes in compensation, while at the same time creating much more robust access to higher education, career and professional development, and quality improvement.

For more information and ways to find support:

  • Please visit the Institute’s website at www.earlychildhoodny.org.
  • Consider visiting the Career Development Services Center (for free career advisement, job search support, certification help and more call for an appointment at 718-254-7353).
  • Join the Aspire Registry for New York’s early childhood workforce  (contact: info@nyworksforchildren.org).
  • QUALITYstarsNY participants receive resources that support career development for site staff.  For information about QUALITYstarsNY, contact: infor@qualitystarsny.org.    
  • The Institute sponsors a credit-bearing CDA (Child Development Associate) Credential.  For financial aid and enrollment information, contact Dana Benzo at 718-254-7353 or cda@earlychildhoodnyc.org.
  • The Institute sponsors a credit-bearing director’s credential, the Children’s Program Administrator’s Credential (CPAC) which is recognized by the state and QUALITYstarsNY.  For information contact 718-254-7353.


Sherry headshot 


  Sherry M. Cleary,

  Executive Director

Early Learning Career Pathways Initiative: Credentialing in the Early Care and Education Field

Posted on 1 of July, 2016 by in Policy

High-Quality Early Learning Settings Depend on a High-Quality Workforce: Low Compensation Undermines Quality


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education released a new report yesterday, High-Quality Early Learning Settings Depend on a High-Quality Workforce: Low Compensation Undermines Quality. The report describes the challenges that the early childhood workforce faces in providing high quality care and education for our youngest children and the challenges that compensation presents to expanding quality.

Median annual earnings for child care workers in all 50 states are below 150% of the poverty threshold. Low wages make it difficult for early childhood programs and higher education teacher preparation programs to attract, train, and retain highly qualified teachers and leaders. Significant increases in annual earnings are badly needed to improve program quality across the early childhood system in every state.

Another important challenge in the early childhood field is parity between similar positions in different settings within the workforce. The report features state profiles that highlight median workforce earnings for various positions within the early childhood field, including child care teachers, preschool teachers, and kindergarten and elementary school teachers. There is a clear discrepancy in earnings between these types of positions, which is of particular concern when research continues to show how important high-quality settings, relationships, and interactions are to the first five years of a child’s life. For example, teachers serving children ages birth-3 years make significantly lower hourly wages in comparison to those teaching children ages 3-5 years ($10.40/hr vs. $14.70/hr, respectively). In New York, kindergarten teachers make almost twice the annual earnings of preschool teachers ($60,120 vs. $31,100, respectively).

The Institute is working actively on this issue. Earlier this week our Executive Director, Sherry Cleary, attended the Clinton Global Initiative and facilitated the Early Learning Workforce group, where the participants agreed on the following goal:

Develop and implement a comprehensive and equitable financing model that provides voluntary, accessible, affordable, and high-quality early learning including an essential and substantial increase in wages and compensation for early childhood educators.

A substantial amount of support is needed to address the challenges of low compensation in the early childhood workforce. City and state initiatives around the country have shown that increased compensation can have significant and positive impacts on program quality. It is time for a national conversation and national action to implement those changes across the country.

The Aspire Registry June Newsletter

CaptureThe Aspire Registry team has released their June newsletter. The newsletter includes the latest Aspire Registry news and events, and also provides useful information for early childhood professionals to grow in their practice. This month’s newsletter includes an article on how early childhood professionals can use the Core Body of Knowledge to learn about different professional development areas they can explore this summer.

The Aspire Registry team also provides information about their current processing time. Since last year, the Aspire Registry team has shortened their processing time from an average of 6 to 8 weeks to just 6 business days. In 2016, they have already processed over 3,500 applications. Lastly, the newsletter includes an announcement about a new feature coming soon to the Aspire Registry—the New York Works for Children Job Board! The job board will make it easy for Aspire Registry members to find open positions and specify what types of positions they would like to receive via email. The new job board also gives users the option to upload their Professional development record!

Click here to read the newsletter: The Aspire Registry June Newsletter 2016

The Institute’s Informal Family Child Care Project (IFCC) Recognizes Brooklyn Borough Professional Development Series on Building Relationships Participants


Photo credit: Kelly Williams

On Wednesday, May 25, 2016, the IFCC team held a recognition ceremony to celebrate the participants who completed their Brooklyn Borough Professional Development series on Building Relationships. The providers participated in a 5 week class on Wednesday evenings and covered topics such as responsive caregiving with children, supporting and partnering with families, and creating safe learning environments. The IFCC team wanted to recognize and celebrate the participants for their commitment to their professional development, their communities, and to the children and families they work with. The providers’ dedication is especially important given that the majority of the participants are informal providers, and thus they are not required to complete professional development hours.


Photo credit: Kelly Williams

The ceremony opened with a few remarks from the Institute’s Executive Director, Sherry M. Cleary, the IFCC Project Coordinator, Angelica Velazquez, and the class facilitator, Andrea Maldonado. The participants then shared their thoughts and feelings about their experience and discussed what’s next for them in their careers and professional development. Many of the participants shared their goals to become licensed, or to pursue the CDA credential or an advanced degree.

The following participants were recognized:

Sandra  Dixon

Leticia Harper

Michelle Higgins

Margaret Hunter

Treniece Johnson

Marjorie Lomax

Gorgiana Price

Donna Reid

Gertrude Upsher


Photo credit: Kelly Williams

Congratulations to the participants for all of their accomplishments and hard work throughout this series! 

Getting to know Institute Staff: Meet Dana


Dana Benzo is the Project Coordinator of the Institute’s higher education initiatives. We asked Dana to share some of her reflections about her work with us.

What is your current role? In your own words, how would you describe the work you do?

I am currently the coordinator of the higher education arm of the Institute. I oversee the credit-bearing Child Development Associate (CDA) Certificate program (undergraduate) and Children’s Program Administrator Credential (CPAC) program (graduate) offered in partnership with the CUNY School of Professional Studies (SPS). I would say my primary function is to build the competency and capacity of the early childhood workforce through formal education, ongoing professional development, and high-quality relevant field experiences.

Who do you work most closely with at the Institute? What outside partners/organizations do you work with?

I collaborate with all aspects of the Institute, but work most closely with the New York Works for Children team, Career Development Services Center, QUALITYstarsNY team and the Pre-K Support team. Outside of the Institute, I work with the other early childhood faculty from CUNY’s Schools of Education; the NYC Department of Education, Division of Early Childhood Education; and numerous early childhood programs and professionals throughout New York City. I also work very closely with the New York State Association for the Education of Young Children (NYSAEYC) through my role of providing ongoing professional development to the early childhood workforce statewide. I deliver the NYS Trainer Institute, a 6-part series for providers of professional development; professional development sessions on the NYS Core Body of Knowledge and the NYS Pyramid Model, for the entire Early Childhood Education workforce; and the NYS Early Learning Guidelines, for those working directly with children. I also was involved in the revision of the Training and Technical Assistance Professional (T-TAP) Credential and creation of NYS Coaching Competencies.

What motivated you to work in the early childhood field?

I entered the field 23 years ago as a part-time aid at a preschool in Central New York because I loved children and working with them felt natural. I quickly realized a love of children was necessary but not sufficient to work effectively with young children and their families. I continued my education and moved my way up the career lattice from aid to assistant to certified teacher to director with children from birth through 6th grade. I’ve worked in parochial, public, private, and subsidized programs in upstate New York, Long Island and New York City. My experiences have motivated me to remain in the field. I have such a huge respect for children and all they bring to the world. I am motivated on a daily basis to find ways to provide all children with the most optimal environments, experiences, and interactions in which they can thrive.

If you could learn a new skill today, what would it be?

I am actually in the process of learning a new skill right now. I’m preparing to launch some of our CPAC courses online beginning in the summer 2016 semester. Therefore, I am currently enrolled in an intensive course to learn effective design and facilitation skills for teaching online.  

What brings you joy in your work?

Remaining curious and connected to the ground. I find in order to be the most effective in my work I need to spend time on the ground (literally) with children, families, teachers, and leaders. I know what I experienced when I was a teacher and leader but I need to know what is happening now – what are the struggles, successes, obstacles, and triumphs – so I can find ways to help, support, and celebrate with the early childhood professionals I work with. I love hearing from former students or programs I’ve worked with that express that my time with them made a difference, personally or professionally, and a difference in the lives of the children and families they serve. This motivates me to keep doing the work I do for children.

What do you want to be remembered for in your current role?

I would be honored if I was remembered as being someone who believed in the capacity of others – children and adults – and played a role in empowering them to meet their fullest potential. I would also like to be remembered as someone who wants nothing but the best for children. I’m often told I have very high ideals for the early childhood field, and I do, because children deserve nothing less.

If you had one piece of advice for a new early childhood teacher, what would it be?

Focus on building your knowledge, understanding, and application of child development. When this foundation is strong, it will become second nature and will be the basis to guide your practice. In your career, you will be asked to implement various programs and meet certain requirements and expectations. You will feel confused and overwhelmed, but if you remain grounded in your foundation of child development, you will be able to decipher the numerous “asks” and still do what is best for children. 

To learn more about New York’s Child Development Associate Certificate and Children’s Program Administrator Credential, visit http://www.earlychildhoodny.org/pdfs/event/CDACPAC_2016-REVISION0331161.pdf.


The Aspire Registry May Newsletter

The Aspire Registry team has released their May newsletter. The newsletter includes the latest Aspire Registry news and events, and also highlights the work of professionals in the field of early childhood. This month’s newsletter spotlight features Louisa Higgins, New York Works for Children’s Project Coordinator. 

The Aspire Registry team also provides information about their outreach efforts on social media. Currently, 700 people like the New York Works for Children Facebook page and over 4,000 people have seen their posts in April. Lastly, the newsletter includes an announcement requesting Aspire Registry users to participate in a virtual focus group in order to learn more about their experiences using the Aspire Registry.

Click here to read the newsletter: The Aspire Registry May Newsletter (2016)

The Informal Family Child Care Project May Newsletter

The Informal Family Child Care (IFCC) Project team has released their May newsletter. The newsletter includes the latest IFCC Project news and events. This month’s newsletter contains an article that provides families and caregivers with information to make a decision about children’s exposure to screen technologies. The newsletter also provides self-care tips and advice for caregivers.

Click here to read the newsletter:IFCC May 2016-Connections in Early Learning Newsletter