Recruit & Retain Early Childhood Educators With a CDA Training Program

Read Time: 6 minutes
Michelle Salcedo
Content Developer, Teaching Strategies
March 16, 2023

I didn’t really consider working in child care a career choice. I was just a young mother looking for a job that would allow me to be close to my own children. I had worked in early education programs before and it seemed like a logical choice—you know, for the time being. Soon after starting as a Pre-K teacher, my director suggested that I pursue a Child Development Associate® (CDA) credential. Little did I know that as I worked through that CDA training program–attending classes, preparing my portfolio, and reflecting on and refining my classroom practices—my life would be set on a dramatically different trajectory.

A Crisis in Early Childhood Education

It is probably no surprise to you that the field of early care and education is in crisis. The field is navigating two dueling realities. On one hand is the increased understanding of the importance of the field to our nation. A robust and accessible system of high-quality early education is essential both for young children’s learning and development and so that their family members can work. On the other hand, the workforce our country leans on to do this incredibly important work is underpaid, undervalued, and quickly disappearing.

Turnover and staff vacancies are nothing new in the world of early education. Even before the pandemic, studies showed annual turnover rates between 26% and 40%.1 Since the pandemic, the problem has only gotten worse.

  • A survey conducted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) found that more than half of respondents are experiencing greater difficulties with recruiting and retaining staff than before March 2020.2 
  • In center-based settings, 80% of programs report a staffing shortage.2
  • Public schools are still short nearly 300,000 workers, while day-care centers are down 88,000 employees from pre-pandemic levels.3
  • In a survey conducted by Child Care Aware, 79% of states reported a loss of family child care centers.4

When early education programs aren’t able to find qualified teachers, the impact is felt by children, families, and the organizations that employ those adult family members.

  • A report from 2022 shows that 16,000 childcare providers shut their doors during the pandemic and never reopened.5 
  • Of those programs that are open, many said they are closing classrooms, serving less children, and/or putting children on waitlists as a result of staffing shortages. 2  
  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, 166,000 childcare workers have lost their jobs, and the industry was 83% smaller in October 2020 than it was pre-pandemic. Currently, over half of Americans live in child care deserts.6

One last startling statistic—of those early educators that have remained committed to this work of early education, the median wage is around $13 an hour. Despite the skills and knowledge it takes to provide high-quality care and education, those working in this field remain some of the lowest paid educators in the country.4

The current situation in early education thus results in two crises: the present crisis, as children and families are left without quality care, and a future crisis that will emerge when children do not get the early learning experiences that set them on the path for success in education and in life.

A New National Early Care and Education Workforce Center

In February of 2022, the federal government announced the launch of the new National Early Care and Education Workforce Center to address this situation. The center will support research and provide technical assistance to states, communities, territories, and Tribal Nations with the goal of building a diverse, qualified pipeline of future educators and increasing compensation (wages and benefits) for these educators. Part of this support includes an investment of $30 million over the next five years.7 

As states look to create a qualified workforce to care for and educate our youngest learners, providing a realistic pathway for building skills and knowledge is essential. My entry into this field likely mirrors that of many others. Many early childhood professionals are women, many have children of their own, and a significant number live in poverty7. All of these provide barriers to traditional educational pursuits.

Pathways to A Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential

For more than 45 years, the Council for Professional Recognition has provided an alternative credentialing pathway through the CDA credential program. A CDA training program focuses on building the practical skills and knowledge educators need to build nurturing relationships and provide quality environments and educational experiences for young children and their families. Most states recognize the CDA credential as a benchmark of value, and this recognition is reflected in state quality rating and improvement systems.8

Through our partnership with the Council for Professional Recognition and the new Professional Development Teacher Membership, Teaching Strategies has made it even easier for each early childhood educator in your program to obtain the CDA credential. 24/7 access to high-quality, engaging training makes it possible for teachers to deepen their knowledge and build their skills without additional financial burden and on their own schedule. By providing the Professional Development Teacher Membership for the teachers in your program, you can ensure they always have access to high-quality professional development, including all training hours needed to apply for and/or renew the CDA.

Many programs already recognize the role that a path to the CDA can play in recruiting and retaining teachers.

“Providing a path to the CDA credential helps us recruit and retain teachers. Completing CDA training through the Teacher Membership from Teaching Strategies removes obstacles for our teachers and better meets their needs and fits their lifestyles.”
Aleisha Sheridan, President & CEO, Building Blocks

Those many years ago, I walked into that early care and education program thinking I would bide my time until I found “my career.” By the time that credential landed in my mailbox (less than a year after I began the process), a transformation had occurred: my job was now a career, I had a sense of purpose in the work I did, and I felt ready to make great things happen for children. In short, I saw myself and knew my value as an early care and education professional. Can you imagine the positive impact we could have on children, their families, and society as a whole if every single early educator could say the same?

Cultivate High-Quality, Developmentally Appropriate Practice Year-Round

The Professional Development Teacher Membership combines the power of a professional learning community with the flexibility of anywhere, anytime learning.

Learn More

  1. Sullivan, E.T. (2021, February 9). The pandemic has compounded the turnover problem in early childhood education. EdSurge.
  2. Sullivan, E.T. (2021, August 5). The child care staffing crisis is getting worse. EdSurge.
  3. Bhattarai, A. (2022, November 15). RSV, covid and flu are keeping kids out of school—and parents out of work. The Washington Post.
  4. Child Care Aware of America. (n.d.). Demanding change: Repairing our child care system.
  5. Leonhardt, M. (2022, February 9). 16,000 childcare providers shut down in the pandemic. It’s a really big deal. Fortune.
  6. U.S. Department of the Treasury. (2021). The economics of child care supply in the United States. U.S. Department of the Treasury.
  7. Administration for Children and Families. (2023, February 2). HHS launches the first National Early Care and Education Workforce Center. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  8. Council for Professional Recognition. (2020, August 25). State recruitment fact sheet. Council for Professional Recognition.