Recommendations for Early Childhood Structure and Standards in Minnesota

Submitted to MDE

by Ann Ruhl Carlson, Layna Cole, Carmen Cook, and Hope Doerner

December 20, 2021


In July 2021, a group of EC IHE faculty were asked to review the 2019 draft early childhood licensure standards.  Since 2019, several contextual changes have occurred in our world including demands for equity in our public systems and a global pandemic and the release of several influential documents including new national standards from NAEYC, new Minnesota Early Childhood Knowledge and Competency Framework content, new PELSB Unit Approval Rules, and draft PELSB Standards of Effective Practice.  This document summarizes revised recommendations reflecting the seismic societal shifts that have occurred in the last two years.  In addition to the recommendations, we have included supporting documentation comprised of crosswalks aligning relevant documents. Our hope is that this work can serve as a road map to move our field toward unification while creating accessible pathways for the early childhood workforce.  Our recommendations reflect increased calls for equity, and pathways that could address the staffing crisis in Early Childhood highlighted by the pandemic.   We hope this work helps prepare Minnesota to be ready to respond to potential federal legislation that could create historic changes in resources provided to the EC field, related to the training and compensation of EC professionals.  

Recommendations for EC Licensure and Standards

  1.  Adopt the NAEYC’s Unifying Framework for Early Childhood Education Professionals that identifies levels of responsibility and preparation for EC I, EC II, EC III.
    1. EC I (up to 120 hours of preparation) credit or non-credit
    1. EC II (2-year degree)
    1. EC III (4-year degree)
  • Adopt NAEYC Professional Standards and Competencies as content standards that replace 8710.3000 with the following additions:
    • Language to add “within the scope of your license,” that would allow specialization
    • Language referring to Minnesota’s KCFs: “Candidate uses and understands the Minnesota Knowledge and Competency Frameworks and uses components to develop learning experience of young children and families.”
    • Adopt International Literacy Association Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals to replace current “reading standards” in 8710.3000.
  • Create licensing structure built upon core understanding of child development with specializations.  Cognates would include Infants & Toddlers, Pre-K, K, 1-3, Parent Ed, ECSE, Leadership and Advocacy (to be developed).
  • Include language exempting cooperating teacher qualifications identified in Unit Rule Standard 10.  Develop language identifying desired qualifications for cooperating teachers which reflect flexibility regarding early childhood licensure status. This is necessary because of lack of currently licensed Early Childhood teachers in field settings.
  • Create a credentialing system in the state for professional recognition of all EC levels. 

Tasks Necessary to Move Recommendation Forward

        There is much work to do to move these recommendations through the approval process.  Following is a list of tasks that need immediate attention.

  1. Draft appropriate language to create PELSB “rules”.
  • Review all early childhood and childcare workforce related statutes that may need revision.
  • Clarify credentialing system.  Here are some possibilities:
  • Identify governing agency to monitor and issue credential for EC I (First 120 hours).  (DHS may be an appropriate agency due to the existing DEVELOP system.)
  • Identify governing agency to monitor and issue credential for EC II (2-year degree). (Child Development, Infant, Toddler, Pre-K focus). 
    • One possibility is to create an EC II Voluntary Credential through PELSB.   IHE 2-years would either be NAEYC accredited (creates transfer issues for licensure) or have restricted unit approval and program approval from PELSB. 
    • Another possibility is to have EC II credentialing housed in a new agency that oversees Early Childhood Education (re: Minnesota Department of Early Childhood Education.)
  • Identify governing agency to monitor and issue credential for EC III—(4-year degree in Early Childhood, non-licensure.)
    • One possibility is to create an EC III Voluntary Credential through PELSB.   IHE would either be NAEYC accredited (creates transfer issues for licensure) or have restricted unit approval and program approval from PELSB.
    • Another possibility is to have EC III credentialling housed in a new agency that oversees Early Childhood Education (eg: Minnesota Department of Early Childhood Education.)
  • PELSB adopt EC III Licensure: Replace current content standards with NAEYC Professional Standards and Competencies (2020).  Create process for additional licensure scopes based on cognates that will allow EC professionals to specialize. 
  • Draft legislation authorizing an EC credentialling system.
  • Develop K-3 KCF.  This is necessary to reflect the needs of primary-aged children.
  • Develop Leadership and Advocacy cognate standards.
  • Utilize a robust equity review to ensure proposed standards accomplish equity goals.  Although we used an equity lens in our work, we acknowledge our privilege as white women in higher education prevents us from fully recognizing barriers to equity.

Additional Recommendation

In addition to the immediate tasks necessary to move the EC Licensure and Standards recommendations forward, we have identified recommendations beyond the scope of our contracted work that would be very helpful in bringing our field together.  Our overall recommendation is to have our entire field, including all governing agencies, adopt the NAEYC’s Unifying Framework for Early Childhood Education Professionals.  This would eliminate many of the current barriers faced by our workforce.

  1. Have all EC governing organizations adopt NAEYC’s Unifying Framework for Early Childhood Education Professionals. 

While adopting the unifying framework, it would be important to examine the roles and responsibilities of MDE, DHS, and PELSB in early childhood in order to:

  1. Clarify roles among agencies and reduce duplication;
  2. Identify and remove barriers for the workforce due to separate agency policy and rules;
  3. Ensure focus on equity goals by identifying rules and processes that create barriers for professional pathways. (May need to conduct a broad equity review.)
  4. Improve collaboration among agencies to ensure resources (grants) are best utilized to accomplish shared goals for the early childhood and childcare workforce.  Avoid the approach of a patchwork of unaligned initiatives 
  • Remove current staff qualifications from Rule 2 & 3 and replace using NAEYC leveling.
  1. For Rule 2 investigate and align with NAFCC – 
    1. Replace Rule 3 staff qualifications with recommended NAEYC levels (EC I, EC II, EC III)  
    1. Create an alignment within the state using Head Start Performance Standards – 
  •  Align the MN Career Lattice to reflect NAEYC levels (EC I, EC II, EC III) to create one unified credentialing system that all EC professionals understand and use. 
  • Pursue the creation of one governing agency with oversight of the Early Childhood profession in the state.  (eg:  Minnesota Department of Early Childhood Education).
  • Encourage PELSB to ensure revised Early Childhood credentialing reduces barriers for transfer between 2- and 4-year programs by:
  • Preparing review teams to understand “restricted approval” and 2-year early childhood programs.
  • Review licensing process using an equity lens to remove barriers for that may have a greater impact on women and BIPOC. 
  • Create a review model with a focus on supportive interventions with the goal of increasing number of approved early childhood programs.
  • Improve collaboration between PELBS and IHE governing bodies.
  •  All state agencies (MDE, DHS, PELSB, OHE, MinnState, U of M, etc…) work collaboratively to address the needs of early childhood professionals in the state and unify the field of early childhood.

Supporting Documentation Available:

Early Childhood Professional Recognition Framework for Minnesota, PPT presented to IHEs on November 19, 2021.

NAEYC Professional Standards and Competencies (2020)

NAEYC Unifying Framework for the Early Childhood Education Profession (2020)

International Literacy Association Standards (2017)

Crosswalk of draft SEPs to EC content standards(2021)

Crosswalk of KCFs to EC content standards (2021)

Minnesota Knowledge and Competency Framework (2020)

Have you got CLASS?

Contributed by Jolene Pearson, PhD

Director of Early Childhood Services Bethel University

The Classroom Assessment Scoring System training   (CLASS) was offered for higher education faculty on June 28 and 29., 2017. A big thanks to June Reineke at the MN Department of Education for making this opportunity available! While I had read about CLASS and understood the general framework, this was my first time attending a CLASS training. Every minute of the training was purposeful and engaging. Once you complete the initial training there is an additional step to becoming a reliable CLASS observer. That process involved viewing five video segments of classroom interactions on-line rating them using the CLASS tool and submitting them with an aim to be reliable with the TEACHSTONE scoring.    In addition, once I was enrolled in the training TEACHSTONE made many resources available that will be very useful in working with my pre-service students at Bethel. I would highly recommend the CLASS training to other higher education faculty.

Too Important to Ignore: A Post-Intentional Phenomenological Investigation of Teaching Pre-Service Early Childhood Teachers About Infants and Toddlers

Jolene A. Pearson – Bethel University PhD

This is a summary of my research which I completed in the spring of 2016 as part of my doctoral program. I was drawn to conduct this research because of the growing appreciation for critical development that takes place in the first three years of life in juxtaposition with the early childhood teacher education literature pointing to a less than robust inclusion of infant and toddler content in early childhood teacher education programs. My research questions were as follows:

Primary Phenomenological Research Question

How might infant and toddler content take shape in BA/BS early childhood teacher preparation programs?

Secondary Research Question

What might be important to know about teaching BA/BS pre-service teachers about infants and toddlers?

My qualitative study used a post-intentional phenomenological approach (Vagle, 2014) examined the phenomena of how infant and toddler content took take shape in bachelor’s degree (BA/BS) programs that offer Early Childhood teacher (birth to grade three) licensure in Minnesota. The phenomenon was studied though investigating the experiences of six faculty members who teach courses about infants and toddlers and seven staff members of university-sponsored child development centers who host students in their classrooms in an infant or toddler practicum. Findings from this study are depicted through six tentative manifestations of the phenomenon: Swimming against the Current, Complexity, Un-like, Mentoring Students, Perspectives on Parents and Beyond Standards.


Swimming Against The Current The content was shaped by actively working to overcome the stigma that teaching infants and toddlers is merely ‘babysitting’, not something considered a professional role or requiring education and training.

Complexity: The context was shaped by the complexity due to the multiple topics and bodies of knowledge that were accessed in the courses and the range of assignments need to complement the range of topics.

Un-like: The content was shaped by a focus on differentiating the infant and toddler curriculum, particularly the pedagogical strategies, as very different from curriculum and pedagogy that would be effective for preschoolers or older children. Included in this differentiation was a focus on what it ‘takes’ to be an infant and toddler teacher.

Mentoring Students: The content was shaped by intentional actions taken by the infant and toddler teachers to ensure the college students felt a sense of belonging and comfort in the practicum so they would be open to learning and perhaps pursue it as a career.

Perspectives On Parents: The content was shaped by helping students develop various perspectives and skills in relating to parents.

Beyond Standards: The content was shaped by an awareness of societal issues that impact infants, toddlers, and their families and openness to bringing discussion of these issues into the courses.

The findings of the study were produced as a synthesis of the experience of faculty and staff: attending to the Minnesota Board of Teaching’s Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Standards (87100:3000); in dialogue with participants’ personal preparation, experiences, beliefs, and convictions; in consideration of the demographics of the pre-service students; and in response to current information and issues within early childhood education. This study also yielded significant practical implications for pedagogy in teaching pre-service teachers.


MnAECTE Letter to the Deans

January 29, 2016

Dear Deans of Education,

The Minnesota Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators (MnAECTE) needs your help advocating for the state’s youngest learners and the programs that prepare their teachers and caregivers. As a Dean overseeing these programs, we want to share some activities influencing our work right now.

First, the governor’s office and the legislature are working towards a plan that would provide universal preschool experiences for the 4-year olds in our state. Our programs need to be prepared for the resulting increase in demand for licensed Early Childhood teachers. The recent publication of Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation (Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, 2015) is guiding national and state policy on Early Childhood workforce issues. It recommends “a minimum bachelor’s degree qualification requirement, with specialized knowledge and competencies,” (in early childhood education) “for all lead educators working with children birth through age 8.” Right now in Minnesota, only “a quarter (23 percent) of Minnesota’s early childhood educators (licensed family child care providers, and center and preschool staff) are estimated to have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a child-related field.” (Valarose & Chase, 2012). We have much work to do to meet this recommendation.

Second, it is critical that we figure out articulation with 2-year Early Childhood Education programs in the state. For the last couple of years, MnAECTE has worked with ACCESS (the state organization of 2- year Early Childhood faculty) to create a general approach to articulation between 2- and 4-year Early Childhood programs in the state. Our progress has come to a standstill due to uncertainties about what role A.A.S. and A.S. programs should play in teacher licensure programs. Because the Board of Teaching has authority in determining what is acceptable in addressing licensure standards, we have reached out to the executive director to help us with this and other issues. Early Childhood is the only discipline in the state that allows teachers to be prepared at less than the baccalaureate level. This has created unique challenges as we work to create clear career pathways in our field.

Third, our articulation work has also raised questions about the intersections between 2- and 4-year early childhood programs. Fortunately, the Minnesota Department of Education recently released a set of tools to help address these questions. The “Minnesota Knowledge and Competency Framework for Early Childhood Professionals” is a series of documents identifying different levels of competencies for the specialized knowledge and skills unique to early childhood. The documents were developed in partnership with various state stakeholders including institutions of higher education. Through grant funding, MDE is currently supporting efforts to clarify different competency levels in 2- and 4-year early childhood coursework. Please use the “Minnesota Knowledge and Competency Framework for Early Childhood Professionals” as a resource for discussion and decision-making in your Early Childhood Education Programs.

Finally, we have been working hard to build positive relationships with various governing bodies, agencies and organizations involved in Early Childhood Education throughout the state. Many stakeholders have goals geared toward ensuring all young children have access to high-quality early childhood experiences. In order to accomplish these goals, it is imperative we all work together to transform our current system into one that is intentionally organized, accessible and clearly aligned. We are committed to supporting one another in this work and ask your help as we strive to do right by our youngest learners and those who teach and care for them!

Thank you for your support and leadership!



MnAECTE Executive Board

Layna Cole, PhD; President, Minnesota State University Moorhead

June Reineke, ABD; Secretary, Winona State University

Jolene Pearson, ABD; Member at Large, Bethel University

Steven Reuter, PhD; Past-President, Mankato State University

Carmen Cook, MAEd (Doctoral Student); Treasurer, Metropolitan State University

Joan Sax-Bendix, EdD; Communications & Outreach, Winona State University


MnAECTE Members:

Karin Ihnen, MEd; St. Cloud State University

Ming Chi Own, PhD; St. Cloud State University

Heidi Frankard, PhD; Metropolitan State University

Karen Peterson-Kremer, MAED; Metropolitan State University

Erin Gillette, PhD; Minnesota State University-Moorehead

Marilyn Labrensz, MS; Minnesota State University-Moorehead

Sandi Baty, MEd; University of Northwestern, St. Paul

Carrie Brouse, PhD; Winona State University

Penny Warner, PhD; Winona State University

Sue Starks, EdD; Concordia University

What Early Childhood Educators Need to Know and Be Able to Do

Minnesota’s Knowledge and Competency Framework for Early Childhood Professionals is now available. The framework is based on the Board of Teaching standards and combines what an early childhood educator needs to know about research and theory, with the skills and abilities needed to work effectively in the field.

The framework puts into action the idea of “tiered representation of shared and specialized standards” found in the report Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth through Age 8: A Unifying Approach. It has versions for those working with preschool-age children in center and school programs, those working with infants and toddlers, and family child care providers. Each version includes the core skills needed to work with young children, with more specific skills in added for areas of specialization.

The competencies are arranged in eight broad content areas, including: child development and learning; developmentally appropriate learning experiences; and assessment, evaluation and individualization. There are three levels of competency: Explores—Implements—Designs and Leads. Each level includes and builds on the competencies of the level before it.

Find Minnesota’s Knowledge and Competency Framework for Early Childhood Professionals on MDE’s website. (

Then, share it with others!

Debbie Hewitt
Inaugural Guest Blogger, Debbie Hewitt, MDE