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How to Choose the Best CDA Professional Development Specialist

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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When the new CDA 2.0 process launched, the roles of the CDA Advisor and the CDA Council Representative merged into one, new position– the Professional Development Specialist… or PD Specialist, as it is commonly called. The tasks that were formerly completed during several visits by two individuals are now accomplished by one person at one visit. Like many aspects of CDA 2.0, this has been streamlined. However, as it goes with many cases of streamlining, there is the good and the not-so-good.


On the positive side are the qualifications needed to be a PD Specialist. These persons must meet the requirements of a Council Representative in order to apply. In the past the CDA Advisor position had fewer recommended qualifications and these were never really verified. This was the person responsible for conducting the formal observation and completing that lengthy Observation Instrument in the old process. Because of the loophole, many of these observations were conducted by a CDA candidate’s co-worker or an acquaintance, many of whom had little or no experience, early childhood background, or any business even doing this task.

With the new process, once an individual verifies her qualifications, she (or he!) embarks on a training process that consists of several online modules and a series of videos, each of which require passing an assessment.


Upon successful completion of the training, the applicant is deemed a certified PD     Specialist, is given an ID number, and access to the PD Specialist Portal on the Council’s website. She is then permitted to submit her profile and location, to be posted on the “Find-A-PD-Specialist” Online Directory and begin to accept inquiries from CDA candidates.


Right now, there is no cost associated with becoming a PD Specialist, but this will    undoubtedly change. At some point, PD Specialists will be required to take periodic refresher training. Right now, however, the Council is focused on building its basic PD Specialist cadre. They occasionally post news and updates, but actual online refresher training has yet to be instituted.



So, the requirements and certification for PD Specialists and the consolidation of roles is certainly a plus. The fact that the PD Specialist is the one who conducts the formal observation brings more value and validity to the subsequent evaluation and Reflective Dialogue that occurs at the Verification Visit. It enables a more integrated picture of the candidate’s competency in working with young children and some meaningful conversation about areas of strength and areas of future professional development.


That being said, it is always a good idea to consider the other side of the coin!


The Comprehensive Scoring Instrument, despite its name, has also been streamlined. There is less detail in each of the Functional Areas and the PD Specialist takes notes on what she observes, rather than providing specific descriptions, as was expected with the old, handwritten Observation Instrument. The score for each item is electronically submitted and only items scoring lowest require a explanatory comment.


I’m assuming human nature must have kicked in for some PD Specialists and many of the scores submitted reflected little or no effort, with all upper-level scores and no comments. Recently, the Council posted an announcement, indicating the need for comments describing what was observed for ALL items, regardless of the score– probably to the chagrin of the slipshod or, dare I say, “lazy.”

It’s too bad this step even had to be taken. If a good observation is conducted, notes will be taken and entering them along with the scores is easy and only makes sense. When only a few comments were required, it became a question of, “why jot down any notes at all while observing?”

This is the line separating due diligence and ethical practice from careless completion and an overriding interest in collecting $100. Unfortunately, there are those among the PD Specialist population who will fall on the other side of that line.




There are other PD Specialists who seem to enjoy finding fault with everything and make it their mission to see flaws in the classroom environment and a teacher’s performance. They rarely give high scores, making it their mission to hold the CDA  candidate to exaggerated standards that haven’t even been required by the Council.

For example, I was once told by one of these zealot PD Specialists that if the Professional Philosophy Statement was over the two page limit, she discounted it. And, if there were more than three spelling errors in a Competency Statement, it, too, was discounted. Another told me how she always gave low scores for Functional Area “Healthy” if there were not firmly attached covers on all trash receptacles in the room.



This obviously goes against the mission of any responsible PD Specialist, who believes in supporting CDA candidates in improving their practices in Early Childhood education and in being successful in our profession.

As a CDA candidate, the Council has given you the responsibility to locate and choose your own PD Specialist. I empower you to take your time and choose wisely. Treat this as a hiring process. You are looking for someone who will conduct a top-notch Verification Visit and who will have your best interest at heart.

Follow these steps in making a good choice:






1. Read the profile provided for each PD Specialist in your geographical area, using the “Find-A-PD Specialist” Online Directory. These will be short and without much detail, but can still provide a first impression. What a person chooses to put in a relatively short profile can be very telling!

2. Have a good telephone conversation with the potential PD Specialist. Ask some key questions that may provide some insight into this person’s motives (or ulterior motives!), background, dedication to her role as a PD Specialist, and to the Early Childhood profession. Ask…

a. Where do you work and what is your position?

b. Have you ever worked in an Early Childhood classroom?

c. How long have you been a PD Specialist?

d. What is your level of education?

e. How many Verification Visits do you conduct per month? (Too few could mean a lack of experience. Too many may indicate doing these primarily for income).

f. Why did you decide to become a PD Specialist?


As you come to the conclusion of your CDA journey, take the time and effort to ensure you finish strong and are your own best advocate!









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Debra Pierce is professor of Early Childhood Education at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. Ivy Tech is the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college systems, serving nearly 200,000 students annually.

Her professional background has always involved children, over the past 40 years, having been a primary grades teacher in the Chicago Public School system, a teacher of 3 and 4 year-olds in a NAEYC accredited preschool for 15 years, and a certified Parent Educator for the National Parents as Teachers Program.

Debra is a certified Professional Development Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. She has taught CDA courses to high school career/tech dual credit juniors and seniors in preparation for earning their CDA credentials. She also conducts CDA train-the-trainer events across the country and develops and teaches online CDA courses for several states, is a frequent presenter at national and state early childhood conferences, and is a Master Trainer for the states of Minnesota and Arizona. She was also awarded the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award by the University of Texas.

Debra is active in her community, supporting children's literacy and is on the board of directors of First Book in Indianapolis. Debra is a contributing author for Hamilton County Family Magazine and Indy's Child in Indianapolis.
She loves spending time with her two grandsons, Indy, who is 7 and Radley, 3.

Debra has spent the last 16 years dedicated to the success of those pursuing the CDA credential and is the author of The CDA Prep Guide: The Complete Review Manual for the Child Development Associate Credential, now in its third edition (Redleaf Press), the only publication of its kind. She hosts a website providing help and support to CDA candidates and those who train them at http://www.easycda.com
The comments and views expressed are not in collaboration or affiliation with The Council for Professional Recognition or Ivy Tech Community College.
Follow me on Twitter at /easycda

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    Book doctor appointment Tuesday, 08 September 2015

    Amazing post. There is a continuous battle field in the mind between good and evil. I would definitely choose the good one to get successful in life. Thanks for sharing this informative post... keep posting...
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