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Minimum Educational Requirements for CDA Applicants: Yes? No? Maybe So?

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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Very prominently, in the Council’s CDA Competency Standards books, listed as the very first requirement for earning a CDA:

High School Education: “You must have a valid high school diploma to apply for the CDA. A GED or enrollment as a junior or senior in a high school career/technical program in early childhood education is also acceptable.”

However, this requirement is very often ignored. Many training agencies, especially those providing online CDA training, do not request proof of this when enrolling students.

A training program coordinator of a state affiliate of a large national child care agency told me today that this is “not a piece of information that is required to sign up for any class in the system.”

Then, when students complete the training and make application to the Council, he or she merely needs to check “yes” when asked whether or not a diploma or GED was earned.

There are also bi-lingual trainers across the country who are providing the 120 clock hours of CDA training to large populations of refugees wanting to earn a CDA to work in child care programs or obtain family child care licenses. Many of these candidates do not have a high school diploma or even the equivalent of an elementary school education from their country of origin. And yet, they are being awarded a CDA.

This, to me, is a substantial loophole in the process that many are using to get their credentials.

I asked the Council if they ever check whether or not a candidate actually has a diploma or a GED when “yes” is checked on the application. I was told they just take the word of the candidate.

I had a representative from the PD Specialist Team tell me that a PD Specialist can ask to see the diploma or GED at the Verification Visit, although this is not specified anywhere in any Council publications or in the PD Specialist guidelines. The representative then said it was actually optional and if no diploma or GED was in the Portfolio, the PD Specialist could ask where it was. If the candidate provided an answer, that was good enough. It didn’t actually have to be seen. I asked, “So, if the candidate says her diploma is at her mother’s house, does she have to produce it before she qualifies?” The representative said, “No, as long as she tells you where it is.”

She also told me the PD Specialist could note on the Scoring Instrument that no diploma or GED was in the Portfolio. I then asked, “If it was missing, could the candidate’s CDA be denied?” She said it would be up to the Credentialing Team, but probably not, because the candidate was not required to have it in the Portfolio.


 As you can imagine, I was a bit frustrated with going in circles about this issue.

What do I think? I think if the high school diploma and/or GED is not going to be verified, maybe it should not be listed as something that is required. The Council should just simply require 120 clock hours of training, regardless of educational background. This could mean college educated, a high school graduate, a GED recipient, or a person with a 4th grade education.

But is this even acceptable? True, we don’t want to throw down roadblocks in front of those who are trying to earn this credential, but doesn’t there need to be some minimal requirements for applying?

True, the CDA is an entry-level credential and just the first step towards further education, but should we be satisfied with providers with minimal education caring for young children?

As a parent, would you feel comfortable having a person who might only have a 4th grade education (grade at which one could probably read and write) caring for your child?

Somehow this doesn’t seem to align with NAEYC’s new initiative rolled out last year of “advancing the profession.” If we want to raise the standards, this should mean for everyone and the standards should be consistent and upheld. Otherwise, they are meaningless. This causes me to question the ethics of the trainers and training agencies that probably know who doesn't meet the educational requirements, and yet accept those students for CDA training and then have them apply.

Doesn't this, in turn, diminish the value of the CDA Credential for everyone who earns one? How many of the 300,000+ CDA Credentials that have been awarded to date were to people who didn’t meet the educational requirements set by the Council?

This should not be the case, in my opinion. What is yours?


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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

  • Guest
    ellie Tuesday, 19 September 2017

    if I have no GED certificate can I attent the CDA classes and attend the examinatin.

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Guest Sunday, 19 May 2019