Illinois Prohibits Early Childhood Expulsion with Landmark Legislation (Guest Blogger: Allison Lowe-Fotos)

On August 14, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law HB2663, legislation aimed at ending the practice of expelling infants, toddlers, and preschoolers from their early childhood programs. The new law, Public Act 100-105, represents the culmination of a multi-year effort to address a serious problem facing children, their families, and early care and education providers across the state.

The Goal of HB2663

Research suggests that the expulsion of toddlers and preschoolers from early childhood settings is occurring at alarmingly high rates. While it may seem counterintuitive, a nationwide study in 2005 indicated that Illinois preschoolers were kicked out of their programs at a rate nearly three times that of their grade school and high school peers[1]. More recent national data from the Office for Civil Rights show that African American and Latino preschool boys are subjected to higher rates of disciplinary action, and increasingly African-American girls are experiencing similar problems[2], with other studies suggesting that implicit bias plays a role[3].

The problem extends down into the early years as well, with a study conducted in 2002 in Chicago, showing a high rate of expulsion in childcare programs, particularly with infants and toddlers. Over 40% of child care programs asked a child to leave because of social-emotional and behavioral problems, with the most challenging behaviors being biting, hitting, and aggressive behavior[4].

And parents are often left out of the picture. In a recent study within child care programs in Chicago, programs often undertook changes without first engaging the parents around the issue. In 48% of the most recently requested removals of a child from a classroom, directors/programs did not communicate with parents[5].

Expulsion in the earliest years leads to higher expulsion and suspension rates in later grades, and there is ample evidence showing that school expulsion practices are associated with negative educational, health, and developmental outcomes for all children[6].

Over two years ago, a group of early childhood advocates in Illinois began brainstorming possible solutions to the problem. The group recognized that there is no single reason why early childhood expulsion rates are high and there is no one culprit to blame. It is often a combination of a child’s behavior, the programs’ interpretation of and response to that behavior, a family’s situation, and the state’s provision of guidance and resources to programs and families.

So it is two years later and we’ve passed landmark legislation, which begs the question “What is Public Act 100-105?” and “How did we get here?”

Public Act 100-105

The law aims to ensure that young children remain in the most beneficial early childhood setting for their development by:

  1. Providing protections for children in Illinois State Board of Education-funded early childhood programs and licensed child care settings against preventable expulsion, similar to those of K-12 students;
  2. Identifying the trainings and topics needed to address the problem and asks state agencies to make this information available to programs; and
  3. Strengthening data collection and dissemination by agencies funding early childhood services to help inform agencies, lawmakers, and advocates and guide policymaking and practice-planning.

From the beginning, both advocates and lawmakers recognized that of course not every early childhood setting is right for every young child. However, the law protects children from improper removal while improving transition processes for those who may benefit from placement in a different setting. The bill sets forth a process by which the chances of removal of a child from a program due to behavior and/or implicit bias is significantly minimized and ensures that removal is not the first or only option explored. It clarifies that available resources, services, and interventions must be utilized, such as developmental and social emotional screenings, infant/early childhood mental health consultation, referrals to Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education, and consultation with a child’s health care provider.

Parents must also be engaged at all points of the process and nothing in the bill precludes a parent’s or legal guardian’s right to voluntarily withdraw his or her child from an early childhood program.

In addition, in the case of the determination of a serious safety threat to a child or others, the temporary removal of a child from attendance in group settings may be used, with the clarification that the child must be returned to the group setting as quickly as safety will allow and that the same resources, services, and interventions must be called upon.

The legislation is groundbreaking in that it encompasses licensed child care programs and state-funded early learning programs, as well as specifically requests that implicit bias and reflection be addressed within professional development of staff.

How the Law Came to Be

When our group of early childhood advocates decided to tackle the early childhood expulsion problem, it became abundantly clear that a statewide policy was important to establish, partly because we wanted to ensure similar protections for children in a range of early learning programs. So the group wrote draft legislative language based on best practices in the field. Once the language was written and a bill was filed, we now had a tangible idea to share with others.

Over the next 18 months, the coalition’s leaders met and workshopped the language with parents, early childhood providers, legislative staff, the state agencies impacted by the legislation, K-12 experts, and leaders of various justice groups, among others. When concerns were raised, changes were made. The bill improved dramatically before it was ever called in committee, and we accumulated a long list of organizational supporters.

And because of the groundwork laid over many months, the lawmakers we approached to champion the bill agreed to join the effort without reservation. In other words, diffusing organizational opposition and collaborating to obtain input, particularly among the state agencies, helped secure strong legislative support from both parties from the beginning. By the end of spring, HB2663 accrued 65 cosponsors, 95 votes in the House, near-unanimous support in the Senate, and a signature from the governor.

What’s Next?

Those of us involved in the passage of HB2663 know the state law is only the first phase of a long-term effort to eliminate expulsions in early childhood settings. This is the point where macro policy work often stops and/or fails, but we in Illinois know that this is where the real and hard work begins.

We hope to learn through implementation what works and what doesn’t work. We also hope to drive more resources to programs, staff, and children and families. And before all of that happens, we need to make sure that good rules are promulgated. Currently, the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and the Illinois Department of Human Services are working collaboratively with the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development to develop rules, guidance, and best practices. These rules will be available for public comment once drafted.

Continuous quality improvement doesn’t just happen in the classroom, but on the policy level as well. While our legislation is based in best practice and has been deliberately thought-out, we understand that any policy will have unintended consequences, impact different groups differently, and present unknown challenges. We are committed to remaining reflective, innovative, and collaborative in the roll-out of this legislation, as well as continuing to advocate for everything that must next be put into place.

For more information and to see a webinar recording about the legislation, visit:

Allison Lowe-Fotos, Policy Manager, Ounce of Prevention FundAllison Lowe-Fotos, MSW, LCSW is a Policy Manager with the Ounce of Prevention Fund. She works on mental health, special education, early childhood expulsion, child welfare and juvenile justice, and workforce development initiatives and issues at the Ounce. She has previously worked in direct practice in early childhood education programs providing case management, family support work, therapy with children and families, infant/early childhood mental health consultation, and supervising a teen parent home visiting program. She also has international experience working in programs and projects in China, Mexico, and Turkey. Allison has a B.S. in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.S.W. from Loyola University Chicago.

Jonathan Doster, Policy Specialist, Ounce of Prevention Fund


[1] Gilliam, W. S. (2005). Prekindergarteners left behind: Expulsion rates in state prekindergarten programs. Foundation for Child Development. Retrieved from:

[2] U. S. Department of Education, 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection.

[3] Gilliam, W.S. (2016). Do Early Educators’ Implicit Biases Regarding Sex and Race Relate to Behavior Expectations and Recommendations of Preschool Expulsions and Suspensions? Retrieved from:

[4] Cutler, A., & Gilkerson, L. (2002). Unmet needs project: A research, coalition building, and policy initiative on the unmet needs of infants, toddlers, and families. Retrieved from:

[5] Zinsser, K. M., Nair Das, V., Zulauf, C. (April 2017) Preschool Expulsion Rates and Social-Emotional Learning Support across Neighborhood Contexts. Paper presented at the American Education Research Association annual meeting in San Antonio TX, April 2017.

[6] J.H. Lamont and others, Out-of-school suspension and expulsion, Pediatrics 131 (3) (2013): 1000-1007; L. Raffaele Mendez, “Predictors of suspension and negative school outcomes: A longitudinal investigation” New Directions for Youth Development 99 (2003): 17-33.

Using Virtual Reality to Prepare Teachers (Guest blogger: Dr. Anni Reinking)

In many teacher training programs, teacher candidates are placed with students in their first semester with minimal prior training. During these first experiences in classrooms, teacher candidates learn in the moment, which at times can be detrimental to students’ learning environment. As Portner (2005) suggests, teachers need added support during their induction year, and classroom management is cited as the primary area in which teacher candidates need support. One way to provide more training before entering a real classroom is through the use of a Virtual Learning Environment in teacher training.

What is a Virtual Learning Environment?

Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) provide experiential opportunities that are often available in other professional training fields, but have only recently entered the field of education. The research on VLEs to approximate teaching situations is emerging as an effective instructional technology that can provide current teachers more practical experiences incorporating evidence-based practices (Andreasen & Haciomeroglu, 2009).

Simulation in VLEs have existed in other disciplines for many years. For example, flight simulators make it possible for trainee pilots to learn how a plane will respond to their actions. However, learning in virtual learning environments is new to the field of education. This work is especially crucial to the early childhood workforce that has minimal availability to immediate feedback through a coaching lens and, in some areas, a lack of access to diverse classroom environments.

Why use a VLE to prepare teachers?

The use of the VLE provides a safe and low-stress environment for learning and refining best practices. It can also address early childhood teachers’ needs, as reported by Dieker, Hynes, Hughes, and Smith (2008), which found that teachers need experiences with students in classroom settings to practice strategies. Furthermore, the use of VLEs in the field of education is a new and innovative way for creating a feedback cycle that promotes adult learning and in the moment feedback, while not interrupting a real school day or classroom environment. Therefore, the literature associated to this research project spreads into three categories:

  1. Increasing the human capital of the early childhood workforce. Human capital refers to the skills, knowledge, and experiences early childhood teachers have, which ultimately influence the overall early childhood workforce. It has been found that teachers, including early childhood teachers, are the most important resource schools can provide students and families (Workman & Ullrich, 2017). However, in the state of Illinois it has been stated that many early childhood educators are not adequately prepared to be effective in adding the development of young children (White, Colaninno, Doll, & Lewandowski, 2017). Therefore, through coaching and VLEs early childhood teachers can be prepared and provided opportunities to expand their knowledge set while also practicing effective classroom strategies.
  2. Adult learning and feedback cycles. The knowledge of how adults learn and feedback cycles are important to the implementation of new skills (Knowles, 1950). Adults learn predominately through experiences that have immediate and applicable results. Additionally, feedback cycles allow adults, specifically early childhood teachers, to reflect on their performance in VLEs applying the After Action Review (ARR) (Parry, Pires, & Sparkes-Guber, 2007). ARR is a structured review for analyzing what happened, why it happened, and how it can be improved, with the goal of improving future performance.
  3. Using Virtual Learning Environments to provide training. There is minimal research focused on VLEs in the field of education and even less focusing on the early childhood workforce. While the research is minimal, there is research data within the last ten years focused on the overall use of VLEs with teachers and teacher candidates, specifically in elementary and higher grades.

Brief Summary of Pilot Research

In spring 2017, early childhood teacher candidates at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville participated in a Virtual Learning Environment. After co-planning and submitting a lesson plan from the teacher candidates, they participated in a VLE. During the lesson in the VLE other teacher candidates observed the simulation in order to provide feedback and to learn from the feedback provided from the professor.

After the entire experience, the teacher candidates were asked to reflect on their experiences in the VLE. On the survey a majority of the teacher candidates stated that the coaching and feedback were the most beneficial portions of the experience. The ability to stop, receive feedback, and implement the strategies immediately prepared the teacher candidates. Additionally, the teacher candidates reflected that the ability for the avatars to respond with correct and incorrect answers, as well as unexpected comments created a real-life situation that the teacher candidates could work through with peers and a faculty member readily available to provide feedback and coaching.

In summary, there have been great advancements in relevant technologies, virtual reality is currently under-utilized in educational training programs in spite of its potential impact (Dodd & Antonenko, 2012).


Andreasen, J. B. & Haciomeroglu, E. S. (2009). Teacher training in virtual environments. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, Atlanta, GA.

Dieker, L., Hynes, M., Hughes, C.E., & Smith, E. (2008). Implications of mixed reality and simulation technologies on special education and teacher preparation. Focus on Exceptional Children, 40(6), 1-20.

Dodd, B., & Antonenko, P. (2012). Signaling in desktop virtual reality and online learning management systems: A review of recent literature. Computers and Education, 59, 1099-1108.

Knowles, M. S. (1950) Informal Adult Education, New York: Association Press. Guide for educators based on the writer’s experience as a programme organizer in the YMCA.

Parry C., Pires M., & Sparkes-Guber H. (2007, pp. 484-489). Action review cycle (ARC) and the after action review (AAR) meeting. In Holman P., Devane T., Cady S. The change handbook. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Portner, H. (2005). Success for New Teachers: Five reasons your school board should support induction and mentoring programs-plus three decisive actions you can take. American School Board Journal, 192(10), 30.

Richards, D. & Szilas, N. (2012). Challenging reality using techniques from interaction drama to support social simulations in virtual worlds. Proceedings of the 8th Australasian Conference on Interactive Entertainment: Playing the System.

White, B. R., Colaninno, C. E., Doll, M., & Lewandowski, H. (2017). Illinois early childhood innovation zones: A new model for state policy? (IERC 2017-1). Edwardsville, IL: Illinois Education Research Council at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Workman, S., & Ullrich, R. (2017, February 13). Quality 101: Identifying the core components of a high-quality early childhood program. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.


Dr. Anni Reinking is an assistant professor in the early childhood program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Her research focuses on teacher preparation, virtual training, and multicultural education.


Professionalism, Race, and Early Childhood Education (Guest blogger: Leslie Layman)

Recently while teaching a professional development workshop on addressing challenging behaviors in young children, an African American student, tentatively raised her hand and said, “I know this isn’t the “correct” way to say this, but I feel like when I am talking to young children, I have to use my “white lady teacher voice” or I get in trouble.” Nods from other women of color across the room.

A similar sentiment came up in a class I was teaching about a week later, this time the student directly referenced professionalism and voiced that she felt she was being asked to talk and act white and that the children did not respond to her when she acted “professional.” She felt the children saw her behavior as false and did not take her requests seriously.

As a white woman who teaches many students of color and as I am currently teaching my college’s preparation for practicum course, these student experiences are weighing heavily on my heart and on my mind right now.

I feel strongly that I need to prepare my students with not only the knowledge but also the social skills they will need to be successful in the workforce; however, no one should go to work each day feeling that they have to act out an identity that is not their own in order to be accepted or successful. How do we strike a balance between making sure that students understand what is expected of them and respecting the culture that they bring into the classroom and the workplace?

In my practicum preparation course, I’ve been thinking a lot about the hidden curriculum and how to bring it out into the open. We’ve been creating shared definitions of obscure and academic terms from their readings, including a shared definition of what it means to be an excellent teacher, and a critical evaluation of the skills that the textbook says an excellent teacher needs.

I’ve also been trying harder to listen. Not just make eye contact and nod while I think about what we’ll do next or what to write on the whiteboard, but really and truly listen to students describe a shared experience that I cannot share with them. When I’ve finished listening, I work to validate that experience and then untangle what it means to the student. What am I missing? What are they thinking or feeling that might not be obvious to me?

I also have to think hard about myself. What am I bringing to the classroom that might reinforce this idea that professionalism is synonymous with whiteness and how can I change my behavior to better serve all of my students?

It’s not easy work, and it is probably work that all of us teachers of early childhood education students are doing. I think it helps to think about it, talk about it, wallow in the murkiness a bit so that we can try to come out on the other side. I recently reminded my students that my expectations for them are high; high because I believe in them, because they’ve already come this far without me, and high because serving children and families is serious work. I also reminded them that they are right where they should be, finding their voice and themselves in the work that they do.

Leslie Layman is Coordinator and Adjunct Faculty in the Child Development Program at Harry S Truman College. She is interested in all things access, equity, and play related.

Source: picture found at


Nature: It does a body – and brain – good (Guest blogger: Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood)

I teach a course titled Inquiry, Investigation, and Play in the Primary Years. A few weeks ago, we went outside to explore our campus and generate ideas for possible long term, outdoor investigations. I wanted our teacher candidates to consider possibilities for outdoor experiences with children in their placements and in their own classrooms when they graduate. They came up with ideas for mapping the area, creating field guides specific to this location, tracking weather or moisture levels in the soil, and studying everything from the Canada geese to the nearby prairie habitat. They thought of many interesting pathways for inquiry, but what intrigued me most was the conversation we had when we returned to the classroom.

I began talking about evidence researchers have been accumulating for several decades about the benefits of time spent outside on health and well-being. I shared the fact that several studies indicate that time in nature can reduce the symptoms of ADHD (as much as medication in some children) and increase focus and attention. A hand went up. A student shared that she was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and she and her parents discovered that she could reduce her medication when she played outside every day. She commented, “I still take medication, but I can tell when I need to get outside more. When I do, the symptoms settle down.”

I then shared other studies that indicate that time in nature improves the well-being of people experiencing anxiety and depression. Two more hands went up. A student talked about her struggles with depression and anxiety disorder, then said, “My doctor prescribed medication, but he also told me to spend time outside regularly. I can tell when I do and when I don’t. I feel better when I do.” The second student, who is on medication for anxiety disorder, discovered by chance that being outside helped. She moved to a new location that allows her to walk to campus and has been able to reduce her medication dose. She commented, “It works way better than a treadmill.” Other students began to share similar stories. It became apparent that roughly a fourth of the students in this class were on medications of some sort for mental health reasons. The number is likely higher as my estimate is based on those who shared their experiences in class. Obviously, not all students are comfortable with revealing such personal information.

I talked with them about my own experiences with a head injury. Several years ago, I developed post-concussion syndrome after being rear ended by a texting driver. For over a year, I was extremely sensitive to sensory overload. Visual clutter, sounds, bright lights, smells, and too many people were just the beginning of a long list of things that overwhelmed me. I felt, at times, like the cartoon thermometer about to blow. I discovered by chance that going outside made the thermometer immediately start to go down. For me, it didn’t even have to be a “nice outside.” Just standing in a parking lot helped. It’s a strategy I still use to manage residual symptoms.

There’s more!

  • Finnish researchers have discovered that spending just 5 hours a month in nature is enough to sustain benefits such as reduced anxiety and depression.
  • Extensive research in Japan and South Korea show that time in nature reduces high blood pressure and improves sleep.
  • Other research has shown that viewing pictures of nature, being around house plants, or having a “green” view out a window improve mood and focus.
  • Watching a nature video lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels in people who’ve been exposed to distressing photos within 4 – 7 minutes. Watching a video of people walking in a mall or of cars driving by had little effect.

Here is a link to a short article that summarizes some additional research findings:


Now what?

So what to do with this information? One student suggested that instead of just listening to an upset friend, they could listen and take a walk outside. We are fortunate to be on a campus with extensive woodland trails and gardens. They talked about reminding each other to go outside and walk a trail or sit by the pond when the stress of work and school gets to be too much. They came up with a variety of ideas for motivating themselves to get outside more, including Frisbie golf, washer toss, and giant Jenga (who knew?).

We then turned to their role as future teachers.

  • Armed with research to support the importance of time in nature, they can become advocates for green space around schools. In fact, one of the assignments for this class includes mapping their placement school grounds and determining a way to bring in more natural elements. They then write a mock letter to an organization that funds school projects for grant money for the improvement.
  • They can become advocates for adequate recess for children because they are aware of studies that show improved learning outcomes and better health for children who have time to play outside.
  • They can do outdoor projects and investigations throughout the year because they can explain the benefits to both families and administrators.

These teacher candidates now have some additional strategies for taking care of themselves and their friends. They are also more prepared to support the health and well-being of the children they will eventually teach.

And how about you?

Early childhood faculty in Illinois have experienced quite a bit of stress in recent years. You can use connections with nature to your advantage. You don’t have to travel far to experience benefits. Find a tree or a little patch of green and spend some time there. A visit to a park or wooded trail is even better. Remember – it can take just 5 hours a month to reap sustained benefits. Use some nature photos for your screen background. Keep a plant in your office. You will bring a bit of beauty and perhaps some well-deserved serenity into your life.

For current, detailed information on worldwide research about the impact of time in nature, check out The Nature Fix by Florence Williams at

Elizabeth Sherwood, Ed. D. is an associate professor in Early Childhood Education, Department of Teaching and Learning, at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Her interests include early childhood history, prekindergarten, nature and the young child, and science education in the early years. She is the co-author of numerous books in science education for early childhood teachers and was a consultant with ISBE for the development of Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards in science.

Website redesign announcement from the Illinois Early Learning Project (Guest blogger: Dr. Rebecca Swartz)

On behalf of the staff of the Illinois Early Learning Project , I am pleased to announce that our website has been redesigned. The Illinois Early Learning Project was started in 2001 and is funded by the Illinois State Board of Education. The web site is a source of evidence-based, reliable information on early care and education for families, caregivers, and teachers of young children in Illinois. We have resources in a variety of formats including our well known, easy to read tip sheets, videos, and information about the Project Approach. Our website includes many resources to help individuals and communities understand the Illinois Early Learning Guidelines, the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards and most recently, the Illinois Kindergarten Learning Standards.

We hope you will find the new layout to be a user-friendly and useful resource for your teaching and for your students. We also encourage you to let the families of young children in your community know about our resources through community agencies and resource fairs. Our materials are free and can be shared via print, email, and social media. A link for ordering printed materials is here located on our homepage.

We have some new materials on the website that we want to highlight so you can integrate them into your teaching and outreach work. Our selection of graphic tip sheets has grown. These colorful, one-page tip sheets are great for posting on bulletin boards, sharing on social media, and easy to read. Teacher educators may wish to use them as prompts for assignments. Student can be encouraged to to reflect in small groups, discussion forums, or essays on how they might use the tip sheets as a tool in sharing child development and early learning information with families. Our new Early Learning Moments series is a resource for teacher educators presenting infant-toddler content. Use them for classroom instruction or assign them as self-study lessons.

During the process of our website redesign, we carefully reviewed all of the materials on our website to ensure that we are providing current, evidence-based information in up to date and useful formats. You may find that certain links have changed. We encourage you to use the “search” field located in the upper right corner of the website. You can type in keywords to search all of our project resources. If you encounter further difficulty, our project staff would be happy to assist you via email.

Another way to search our resources is to use a database search. Click to search resources by topic and you can search our data base by keyword, language, audience, and type of media. We encourage you to show your students the different ways to search the website so they can find materials that will help them in their coursework and teaching of young children. We will continue to develop new resources and welcome you to send us ideas for resources that would meet your needs as teacher educators. You can send your ideas via our user survey. We will also be at the Sharing a Vision conference in October! Our shared session with the Early Intervention Clearinghouse will provide help in searching for resources online and our new workshop, Junkyard Math will be a hands-on workshop that will introduce the redesigned website while we explore IEL’s mathematics resources. You can also visit our table to pick up printed materials, say hello, and tell us about your work and needs as teacher educators.


Dr. Rebecca Swartz, an early learning specialist for IEL, completed her doctorate in human development and family studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Rebecca’s research and outreach work focuses on infant-toddler care, home-based child care, and the social-emotional development of young children. Her goal is to help parents and early educators by providing evidence-based resources on child development and early learning.

Do early childhood educators need degrees?

Recent news such as this article, regarding new local regulations that include requirements for teachers and directors in the Early Childhood Education Community in the District of Columbia to have degrees by 2020 (Clairmont, 2017), have reignited the conversation of the value of degrees in the early childhood field.

There has been much debate about the “good” teachers without a degree versus those with a degree. Some people question if all degree programs are high quality and provide students with the knowledge, skills and disposition to be more confident and competent in their work with young children, their families and colleagues. Other people say that the question should be not the degree but the skills and knowledge that make teachers successful at supporting the growth and development of young children. Additionally, some people say that the question should be how to provide an appropriate salary that reflects the professional credentials. Other people say that the real question should be what is the cost to have teachers with degrees in Early Childhood Programs, especially in Community-based Organizations in under resourced neighborhood, who will pay the cost and How.

Here is another article, examining the idea of apprenticeships as a vehicle for addressing some of the PD, equity and pay needs for the early childhood education field (McCarthy, 2017).

What are your thoughts on this subject?


Clairmont, N. (July 11, 2017). D.C.’s misguided attempt to regulate daycar: Requiring child-care workers to have college degrees will likely widen the capital’s economic disparities. Retrieved from

McCarthy, M.A. (June, 2017). Rethinking credential requirements in early education: Equity-based strategies for professionalizing a vulnerable workforce. Retrieved from


Dr. Boh Young Lee is an assistant professor of Early Childhood Education program in the department of Curriculum and Instruction at Western Illinois University.

Message from ILAECTE President

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

As we are all working feverishly to get the fall semester up and running smoothly, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful and rewarding year! What a privilege to be able to serve you in this new role as president of ILAECTE for the next couple of years (and as past-president for many more!). I will always remember moving to Illinois five years ago with very few connections, and finding this dedicated and passionate group of early childhood teacher educators working tirelessly on behalf of their students as well as the young children and families of Illinois. I observed an authentic tenacity among the leadership team with Pat Steinhaus and Cathy Main at the helm that resonated deeply with me, and inspired me to stay connected with ILAECTE even when the demands of academic life were pulling me in many other directions. Those that have come before me as leaders of this great organization have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to supporting the work of all Illinois early childhood teacher educators, even in the midst of their own demanding lives. As a result, as we enter the 2016-2017 academic year, ILAECTE is a recognized leader and respected voice in the ongoing conversation about how to best serve the needs of young children and families in our state.


For those of us that have been in the field of early childhood education and care for more than a couple of decades, viewing the field in light of the national landscape can cause us to feel that we are moving in circles without enough forward progress, as we continue to have similar conversations year after year. However, for Illinois early childhood teacher educators, there is much to celebrate as we reflect on the past several years:

  • The IBHE Early Childhood Educator Preparation Program Innovation grant program resulted in newly established and enhanced partnerships among four-year and two-year early childhood programs. These partnerships are creating a pipeline for attracting and retaining diverse teacher candidates. This great work represents a huge stride forward in early childhood workforce development, and is documented in a monograph authored by several of our members:
  • Many of our members completed a full revision of their early childhood teacher education programs, to include greater emphasis on preparing teachers for diverse and inclusive classroom settings. The effects of these efforts will be far-reaching as our candidates become even better equipped to meet the needs of all of the children and families they serve.
  • We are now transitioning from a benchmark based model of early childhood teacher preparation to a competency based model. This work is currently underway, and has been moving forward at a remarkably rapid pace thanks to the contributions of countless ECE leaders under the leadership of ILAECTE Past President Nancy Latham and others. In her words, this transition will “…sustain and enhance…high quality preparation as well as connect ECE professional evaluation and professional development to the same competency expectations.” For more, check out Nancy’s guest blog post
  • The Illinois National Academy of Medicine (NAM) team led by ILAECTE past-president Cathy Main conducted a state-wide Early Childhood (EC) Workforce Supply and Demand Survey Summary to examine the relationship between Illinois supply of qualified EC teachers and assistants and the demand across targeted age ranges, program types, and funding sources. The survey included perspectives and experiences from the field related to recruiting, hiring, and retaining qualified staff. Preliminary survey results will be reported at the Governor’s cabinet on Children and Youth quarterly meeting on September 7, 2017.


Each new year is an opportunity to build on previous accomplishments to continue the progress we have seen. As we survey the current EC landscape in Illinois, the ILAECTE leadership team sees the following items as priorities for the coming year:

  • Continued cultivation of a community of practice, in which members inspire and encourage one another by sharing from their own experiences in program development, curriculum, school partnerships, community partnerships, research, student mentoring, consulting, etc.
  • The development of creative ideas to promote ECED/ECSE programs among our own institutions (including leadership), student populations, local communities, etc.
  • Continued engagement in the conversation regarding requirements for entry into EC teacher licensure programs, as well as other initiatives impacting EC teacher preparation (ex: SB 1829).
  • Continued engagement in the conversation about the early childhood workforce through the leadership of Cathy Main.
  • Continued work toward nurturing and strengthening the relationship between four-year and two-year programs / ACCESS.
  • Collaboration on the development of recommendations regarding the creation of a Kindergarten endorsement.

Many of these issues are agenda items for state workgroups and committees. Huge thanks to our colleagues that serve as members of these groups in addition to their active participation in ILAECTE, maximizing our collaborative advocacy efforts.

As Cathy has shared previously (, national attention on the work that we do as early childhood teacher educators is increasing, and there is much to be hopeful about as we look to the future of ECTE. I hope that you will engage with ILAECTE even more deeply this year as we work together to advocate for the most valuable and vulnerable members of our communities. I look forward to our work together!

All the best,

Rebecca Pruitt

Rebecca Pruitt, Ph.D., is Associate Professor and director of Early Childhood Education programs at Lewis University. Before joining Lewis in the fall of 2012, she served children, families and educators for 20 years as an early childhood teacher and program director, parent educator with Healthy Families and Parents as Teachers, kindergarten literacy interventionist, university researcher, and department head of Early Care and Education at Oklahoma State University Oklahoma City. She holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies, an MS in Family Relations and Child Development, and a BA in Early Childhood.

“I have been doing my job over 25 years, and I believe I know what I am doing”

Here is Jin, now an 8-year-old girl. She was born in America, but her parents were from China, and until the age of three, her mother took care of her at home. When she was 4, she began attending a Montessori school, and it was her very first time to attend any type of day care center. Until then, she had barely been exposed to English. She often told her mother that she didn’t want to go to school, but her mother thought that time would fix everything. Also, her teacher assured her mother, saying, “Jin is doing fine, so please do not worry.” Three months later, Jin was very sick and had to stay at home for 1 week. On her first day back at school, Jin’s mother brought Jin to class and watched Jin through the window without letting Jin know she was there. Once Jin stepped into the class, she stood still in the middle of the classroom. There were four children and two teachers. One teacher was doing an art activity with two children, the other teacher was cleaning up, and the other two children were playing in the block area. The teacher working with two children said, “Good morning, Jin, choose what you want to play” and then continued to work with the other children. Jin, speechless, just kept standing still. According to her mother, Jin stayed like that for almost 10 minutes, but no teacher came to her. Her mother told me, “You know, Jin had been absent for one week. Couldn’t they at least ask her if she was feeling better? Watching my child standing still alone for 10 minutes was just heartbreaking. I just couldn’t stand it, but I had to leave her there and go to work. Instead, when I picked her up, I told one of the teachers what I saw in the morning and how I felt. Of course, not in a straightforward way. You know what? She told me, “My teaching philosophy is to pursue child-centered, child-initiated activities and to help young children develop their independence. I do not tell my children what to do. Children will find what they want to do by themselves. I have been doing my job over 25 years, and I believe I know what I am doing. Please trust me. It’s her first time at day care, so she will need some time to adjust. That’s all. Besides, Jin knows I love her.” I had no choice but to trust her, but I still can’t forget that day.”

As an early childhood education teacher, yes, it is very important to have professional concurrent knowledge of early childhood pedagogy and state and national level of standards, policies, guidelines, and mandates. In addition, teachers’ educational backgrounds and experiences should be valued in any degree. However, teachers need to remember they cannot put anything over the value of a child. Every child is different and unique. Yes, early childhood teachers/educators know the importance of implementing child-centered, child-initiated activities. Early childhood teachers/educators believe those activities are developmentally appropriate for young children. However, if their “great” teaching skills have worked for other children, but not for one child in their classroom, then, they need to find a better way to help the child, not just simply trying to make the child fit in their way.


Dr. Boh Young Lee is an assistant professor of Early Childhood Education program in the department of Curriculum and Instruction at Western Illinois University.

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