Inside Gateways Newsletter—Winter 2011

Greeting from Gateways

Welcome to the New Year—2011—and the latest edition of Inside Gateways, the Gateways to Opportunity quarterly e-newsletter! Commencing a new year is exciting, providing a new beginning and fresh opportunities. Setting aside time for reflection and consideration of the work and accomplishments of the previous year is a valuable tool that may bring new perspectives, and it can create a strong foundation for the new year.

Gateways to Opportunity, the Illinois Professional Development System, made significant advancements during this past year. Highlights include the following accomplishments:

  • Governor Quinn signed Gateways Credentials into legislation on January 21, 2010.
  • The Professional Development Advisor Research Study, conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was completed. Findings document the program’s positive impact on ECE practitioners in meeting professional development goals.
  • The Level 1 School-Age and Youth Development Credential curriculum was finalized with a “train the trainer” completed in preparation for a much-anticipated pilot.
  • The Gateways Registry grew to include over 8,000 members, with a statewide training online calendar launched in July that tens of thousands of practitioners use monthly.
  • Almost half of all higher education institutions with early childhood programs are “entitled” to offer Gateways to Opportunity Credentials, providing excellent statewide accessibility.

These accomplishments in 2010 will be the basis for launching new efforts to increase professional development opportunities for ECE and school-age practitioners in Illinois during the coming year.

As you enter 2011, take time for reflection. What were some of your accomplishments in 2010 that will serve as a strong foundation in the coming year? Did you grow professionally? Have you set measurable professional development goals for the coming year? How will you expand your skill set?

A new year provides an opportunity for each of us to take stock in a variety of ways: Are we on track for the future we want to create? What are we doing to improve the quality of services to children? Are the boards, councils, and committees where we volunteer our time and expertise moving forward—are they accomplishing goals that will create a more positive future for children and families in our state?

Make 2011 your best year ever! Use the knowledge gained in 2010 to plan a strong and resilient future. Think about how you support children and families through your private and professional roles. Choose how to use your time and expertise to maximize a positive impact—plan now to make 2011 count!

This issue of Inside Gateways features two practitioners who earned their Illinois Director Credential. Derbert Plaza and Michele Denton share the personal/professional impact of that achievement. Learn more about the DCFS Advisory Council, the Illinois Early Learning Council, and the new Illinois Youth Development Council and how they each plan to work toward a stronger future for children and families. And, finally, join us as we celebrate a special birthday for the Illinois Director Credential—read about its creation and evolution in the 10 years since the first IDC was awarded!

Celebrate a new year—2011! Make this your best year ever!

We are here to assist you in your Professional Development journey.


Joni Scritchlow and
Your Gateways to Opportunity
Professional Development Team

Voices from the Field

Illinois Director Credential (IDC)

This year, we mark the 10th anniversary of the Illinois Director Credential (IDC), a voluntary credential that validates the education, knowledge, and experience of early care and education administrators. Like other Gateways to Opportunity credentials, the IDC is awarded and recognized by the Illinois Department of Human Services and administered by Gateways to Opportunity.

Inside Gateways (IG) shares three perspectives on the IDC. The first is from Teri Talan (TT), director of research and public policy at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National-Louis University, who talks about the history of the Illinois Director Credential, its benefits, and prospects for the future. The second and third perspectives are from practitioners who received the IDC—Michele Denton in Granite City and Derbert Plaza in Chicago.

Teri Talan


IG: How has the Illinois Director Credential (IDC) evolved over its 10-year history?

TT: The interest in a state-level director credential really began in 1997 when the Center for Career Development at Wheelock College under the direction of Gwen Morgan put together a think tank to talk about how to approach credentials for early childhood administrators. Paula Jorde-Bloom from the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National-Louis University in Illinois was part of that effort. The consensus of that group was that it was not the right time politically to launch a national administrator credential but that states should instead develop statewide credentials for directors. The McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership received funding from the McCormick Tribune Foundation to bring together “thought leaders” in Illinois to discuss developing a director credential in the state. Subsequent grants were received to build the IDC credential framework, define the competency areas and benchmarks, and design a delivery system that involved many meetings with many individuals from all sectors of the early childhood field. The official launch and public announcement of the new IDC took place in May 2000. The first IDC credentials were awarded in 2001. As of today, 405 IDCs have been awarded to 369 practitioners (some practitioners receive multiple IDC credentials at different levels). 

IG: How has the IDC benefited the field of early care and education in Illinois?

TT: Today we have a number of credentials offered through Gateways to Opportunity—the ECE Credential, the Infant Toddler Credential, and the School-Age and Youth Development Credential. But the prototype for all of these credentials was the IDC. 

Illinois took a different approach from other states in developing its own director credential. The IDC was developed to be accessible, affordable, inclusive, and comprehensive in its structure. Illinois chose to develop a credential that was offered at three levels—the AA, BA, and MA degree levels—which is unusual among the 50 states. The IDC encompasses five component areas—general education, specialized education and training in early childhood/school-age education, specialized education and training in management, work experience, and professional contributions. The IDC is offered through a direct route or an entitled route. Individuals can submit portfolios to be evaluated (the direct route), or they can earn the IDC through an institution of higher education (the entitled route) as part of a degree program at the associate, baccalaureate, or graduate levels.

The multiple dimensions of the IDC have served us well in Illinois. They have become the model for all other Gateways credentials. The competency areas in early childhood and program management have also been recognized by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), our national professional organization. In the “reinvented” NAEYC accreditation system, the competencies for the program administrator are congruent with the seven early childhood and ten management competency areas of the IDC.

There is other evidence of the benefits of the IDC to the professional field as well. Attaining the IDC appears to be good preparation for securing funding from multiple sources and for raising the overall quality of early childhood programs. Research included in the recent Who’s Caring for the Kids? report, which looked at the status of the early childhood workforce in Illinois in 2008, found that 25% of the center directors in the study receiving Preschool for All (PFA) funds held an IDC. Additionally, data provided by INCCRRA about the Quality Rating System (QRS) indicate that nearly 25% of the centers with QRS star levels 3 and 4 have staff with an IDC.

IG: What does the future of the IDC look like? Are any changes in the works or anticipated?

TT: We continue to make progress with our goal of making the IDC accessible. To date, there are 25 higher education institutions that offer the IDC through the entitled route. Gateways to Opportunity offers an online delivery model for meeting some of the administrative pieces of the IDC as well.

In the future, I am hopeful that we will see the IDC become a requirement for the director of early childhood programs choosing to apply for 3 or 4 stars in Illinois Quality Counts (QRS) as well as a requirement for the director of a center-based PFA program that receives funding from the Early Childhood Block Grant. I expect we will also see the IDC referenced in state licensing requirements for child care programs.

The Illinois Director Credential is an important piece of our state’s quality improvement effort.

Michele Denton

Michele Denton is a Quality Rating System (QRS) specialist at the Child Care Resource & Referral Agency at Children’s Home + Aid in Granite City, Illinois. Prior to her current position, Michele directed two child care programs in Alton and Bethalto in southwestern Illinois. In 2001, Michele earned her Illinois Director Credential (IDC) Level I, and in June 2008, Michele earned her IDC Level III.

Inside Gateways (IG) asked Michele Denton (MD) about how that experience benefited her when she was employed as a child care director and how it helps in her current position as a QRS specialist.


IG: What encouraged you to get your IDC?

MD: The first year I became a child care program director my predecessor encouraged me to attend Leadership Connections, a conference especially designed for early childhood administrators. That conference introduced me to Taking Charge of Change—a more intensive training for program administrators. I was still very much in the “survival mode” as a new administrator and looking for as much information as I could find to help me be a more effective program director.

I learned about the IDC while enrolled in Taking Charge of Change (TCC). Because many of the courses in TCC are applicable to the core competency requirements of the IDC, I was able to complete the IDC Level I concurrently with TCC.

IG: What was the IDC experience like?

MD: Although I had my associate of arts degree in early childhood education when I became a center director, I had few courses in the administrative aspects of directing a program. The courses that I had to take to earn my IDC provided the skills that I needed to be an effective director—legal and fiscal program management, marketing and public relations, shared decision making, time management, task delegation, and conducting effective staff meetings. Some of the additional requirements that I needed to fulfill to receive my IDC—such as documenting my professional contributions—helped me to recognize the value of contributions that I was already making to the field of early care and education, such as staffing an exhibit for a local community college to describe various career options in early childhood.

IG: How has the IDC benefited you and your program?

MD: In addition to the specific administrative and management skills I already mentioned, the time management skills I gained through the IDC helped me to juggle the many tasks required to be an effective program director and continue with my own professional development. After I left my director positions, I was heartened to learn that the key management policies that I introduced after receiving my IDC were still in place and working well in those programs. I know that those solid business practices helped my former center programs earn QRS star 2 levels.

I no longer work as a center director, but I find the knowledge that I gained through the IDC informs my work with center directors in my current position as a QRS specialist, where I am called upon to help directors implement effective administrative policies and staff management practices. I also help to mentor center directors as they assess their own professional development paths. The IDC offers directors essential skills as they consider other career options in early care and education.

Derbert Plaza

Derbert Plaza is the education coordinator for Catholic Charities in Chicago. In his position, Derbert works with the birth–5 population in five Head Start sites and four child care sites in Cook County. In April 2010, Derbert earned his Illinois Director Credential (IDC) Level I. Inside Gateways (IG) asked Derbert Plaza (DP) what motivated him to earn the IDC and how it has benefited him

derbert_plaza_cropIG: What encouraged you to get your IDC?

DP: I believe it is important that we establish professional credentials in our field, and the IDC was one opportunity to do so. Many colleagues of mine received their IDC and encouraged me to do the same. Although Gateways to Opportunity credentials are currently voluntary, I believe they will soon be a requirement, which I strongly support. When I had the opportunity to get support for achieving my IDC through the “Go for the Gold” program at National-Louis University, I went for it.

IG: What was the experience like for you?

DP: I give credit to Lila Goldstein who coordinates the “Go for the Gold” program at National-Louis University. Lila provided training and on-site technical assistance structured around the various pieces of the IDC. Lila and “Go for the Gold” made the research and legwork required to complete the IDC process very doable. I’m sure it’s possible to complete the IDC process on your own, but “Go for the Gold” was great for me because of the way it organized the IDC process.

IG: How has the IDC benefited you?

DP: Everyone who walks into my office now sees the framed IDC credential on my wall and comments, “You have the IDC!” Several ask me how I earned it. I can’t point to specific changes in my employment status that have occurred since I received my IDC—such as salary increases—but my supervisor has acknowledged that I have earned it, and as I said earlier, I believe the IDC and other credentials will be required for all of us in the near future. Having my IDC in hand will put me ahead of the game and provide new professional opportunities for me down the road. I plan to focus on getting additional administration classes now so I can raise my IDC to a Level III. My early childhood education background is strong, but I need to increase my training in administration and management practices.

IG: Do you have advice for others considering the IDC?

DP: I remind site directors I work with through Catholic Charities to think about getting their IDC because it will open up new possibilities. If you are the kind of person who can complete the legwork and research on your own, that’s great. If you are like me and need the support from a program like “Go for the Gold,” then look into that. It is a matter of making the process a priority. You must have las ganas—the will to do it! Everyone needs to build their professional development, and the IDC is a good way to do so. So go for it!

Lilian Katz: Reflections

The central role of the directors of child care programs is the main focus of this issue of Inside Gateways. One of a director’s most critical responsibilities is to help the staff to continue to improve their teaching. The following article is adapted from a longer presentation available at 

How Directors Can Help Others with Their Teaching

lilian_katz_cropThe general techniques described briefly below are intended to help directors of child care programs support teachers in developing professional knowledge and skills.

1. Cultivate the Habit of Suspending Judgment

Those of us who are responsible for training and helping teachers may have a strong tendency to pass judgment fairly quickly when we see them in action in the classroom. We tend to judge not only the rightness or goodness of what we see but also sometimes to assess whether the teacher is doing things "my way" or not. Such judgments seem to come naturally! However, if our intention is to stimulate and support someone's development, instead of passing judgment, it is likely to be more useful to ask ourselves questions like the following:

  • How can I account for what I am observing?
  • Why is the teacher responding to the situation in this way?
  • What are some possible reasons why this is happening?

In seeking answers to these kinds of questions, rather than quickly judging the events observed, we are much more likely to learn those things that will increase our capacity to be helpful to the teacher. Answering such questions allows directors or teacher educators to discover possible causes of a teacher's observed behavior. We can examine each possible cause for plausibility, and when we have identified a reasonably plausible answer to the question “Why is this happening?” we can then select and try an appropriate strategy for helping the teacher.

This technique is recommended for several reasons. First, it can help us resist the natural temptation to pass judgment, and at the same time, it can encourage us to analyze our observations more closely. This in turn can help to slow down our responses to the situation, thereby reducing any tendency to overreact. Second, asking ourselves how we might account for the observed behavior is likely to lead to learning more about the people we are trying to help and thus to increase insight into how the teacher defines the situation and the range of skills she has acquired thus far.

Obviously, there are many possible reasons why teachers do what they do. Sometimes the teacher's reason for a particular action is that it appears to "work"—at least in the short term. Or perhaps the action taken is the only one this teacher knows how to do in such situations. Often, teachers take certain actions because they think—incorrectly—that that’s what the director wants them to do, even though that may not necessarily be the case. Some teachers do what they do because they think that perhaps parents, colleagues, or visitors want them to do it that way, or because their own teachers did these particular things, or because these things are simply traditional, and so on and so forth.

Efforts to account for a teacher’s observed behavior can help a director to make more informed decisions about what to do next that would most likely be helpful to and supportive of the teacher. The habit of suspending judgment is also related to the more general principle of timing in teaching (Katz, 1977)—namely, that the longer the teacher takes to respond to the learner, the more information the teacher has, and the more likely he or she is to make better decisions about the next steps. Thus, the temptation to pass judgment rapidly on a teacher’s behavior may lead to important errors in assessing teacher competence and needs.

2. Phrase Your Suggestions in Experimental Form

Most teaching involves occasions when the most appropriate response to the learner—in this case, a teacher—is to make a suggestion. When giving suggestions to teachers, it is helpful to phrase them in the following form: "Next time X happens, try Y, and see if it helps you." Depending on the situation, it might be good to add something such as "X helps some teachers in this kind of situation, but if you find it doesn't seem to help you, we can talk about something else to try."

This technique is recommended for several reasons. First, we can expect it to strengthen the teacher's dispositions to be experimental and resourceful. Furthermore, when a suggestion is offered with the implication that it is the one-and-only solution to the problem, and if attempts to use it subsequently fail, the teacher's sense of frustration and defeat may be intensified rather than diminished. Similarly, it is advisable to make suggestions that the individual teacher can be expected to try successfully. If suggestions require much greater sophistication than the teacher seems to have—as yet—then the consequences are very likely to be feelings of failure and a greater sense of helplessness or incompetence. Suggestions should be offered in such a way that in those instances in which the suggested action doesn’t work—which will inevitably occur at times—the teacher can strive to understand the possible reasons why failure resulted.

Another reason for recommending this technique is that when suggestions are made in terms of what to try "next time," the likelihood of humiliating or embarrassing the teacher about the incident just observed is minimized. If the director is too eager to get teachers to analyze their own "mistakes" following an unsuccessful teaching episode, he or she might inadvertently embarrass them, which in turn could undermine the teachers' dispositions to go on learning, trying, inventing, and seeking the best methods for themselves.

3. Avoid the Temptation to Stop Patterns of Behavior

From time to time, we observe teacher behavior that we think should be stopped "cold." While the director's position may indeed be right, a two-step approach toward such situations may be helpful. First, we can ask in such situations whether the behavior observed really endangers any child. If the answer is a clear "yes" or even a “maybe,” all the resources at the director’s disposal to bring the behavior to an end must be used. However, if the answer is "no," then the next step is to help the teacher to try out and practice alternative strategies with which to replace or supplement the old patterns.

If we succeed in stopping a teacher's behavior in advance of sufficient mastery of a new pattern, he or she may be left without alternative methods of coping with the situation. This situation may cause the children's behavior to become more unacceptable and increase the teacher's own feelings of frustration and failure. Occasionally, this sequence of events is followed by a type of "backlash"—that is, a strengthened conviction that the old pattern was really the right one after all.

4. Help Teachers Define Their Job So That It Is Achievable

From time to time, directors work with teachers who have defined their jobs so that they have to achieve every possible objective or to achieve objectives that are almost humanly impossible to reach. For example, many teachers of young children think their job requires them to "love all the children" in their classrooms. It is reasonable to assume that they do not have to love or even like all the children they teach—though they do have to respect them all. The latter is not always easy, but it is far more achievable than universal love!

The point is that when teachers define their jobs so that the probability or potential for achievement (and therefore satisfaction) is very low, they are likely to experience decreases in responsiveness and sensitivity, which, in turn, reduces effectiveness in a negative cycle. Diminished effectiveness can, in turn, lead to feelings of depression, which further diminish effort and hence achievement and satisfaction. Thus, a downward spiral seems inevitable (Seligman, 1975).

In such cases, a director can assist teachers by helping them to clarify their own purposes and to settle on some boundaries for their responsibilities and authority. Successful assistance along these lines should lead to the teacher's increased sense of effectiveness and satisfaction, which in turn is likely to increase responsiveness and sensitivity to the learners. This increased responsiveness and sensitivity is then likely to foster heightened effort, effectiveness, and satisfaction—in a positive cycle.

Keep in mind that if teachers approach children with insufficient confidence, children are much more likely to resist their teachers’ requests and suggestions, which, in turn, reduces the teachers’ confidence even more—in an increasingly negative cycle. When directors offer teachers sufficient support so that they approach children more confidently, the teachers are more likely to enter into a positive cycle with the children. When teachers approach children tentatively or uncertainly, there is a greater likelihood of defiance, which in turn would lead to a negative cycle in the relationship with the child in question.

5. Use Demonstrations of Your Own Skills Cautiously

Modeling good practices is a useful strategy for all inservice educators. Opportunities to demonstrate one's skillfulness and effectiveness in working with children and with parents are often also opportunities to strengthen one's credibility as an educator. But modeling is not without some risks. For example, many inservice educators have had the experience of entering a child care center or preschool class in which (for whatever reason) the situation is out of control. For example, because they are likely to have worked with children for many years, they may know how to bring order to the scene in a flash. In addition, being a relative stranger may increase their power to obtain compliance from young children. But such a demonstration of skill may cause some teachers to look at the scene and say to themselves, "I'll never be that good," or "Why is it so easy for her/him?" and to become even more discouraged and insecure. Or, if the inservice educator has demonstrated skills with older children, the risk occasionally exists that the demonstration will make the teacher look incompetent in the eyes of the pupils. Both of these potentially negative consequences of demonstration must be carefully weighed against the positive value of modeling good practices and enhancing credibility.

6. Share Your Understanding of How a Teacher Sees You

Keep in mind that we do not always know how the teachers we work with perceive us. We know that we are kind and warm, sincere and helpful, generous and giving, and so forth! But we are unlikely to be perceived that way in all situations. Some teachers may be afraid of their directors, or unnerved by their presence, even though the directors do not see themselves as threatening in any way. If in your role as director you sense that such feelings are generated by your presence, it is helpful to let the teacher know that you understand these feelings, that you had also experienced similar feelings, and that you realize teachers might sometimes look at you with apprehension, suspicion, or even fear. Acknowledging the potential for such perceptions may be a technique by which to defuse the excessive stress that teachers sometimes experience when they are observed. Furthermore, the shared insight might clear the way for selecting more useful and constructive content for the relationship between teachers and their directors.


Katz, Lilian G. (1977). Challenges to early childhood educators. In Lilian G. Katz, Talks with teachers. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Seligman, Martin E. P. (1975). Helplessness: On depression, development, and death. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.

The Big Picture in Illinois

In this issue of Inside Gateways, we spotlight the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Advisory Council, the new state Youth Development Council, and the Early Learning Council. Descriptions of additional statewide offices, councils, and boards were included in a past issue of Inside Gateways. Inside Gateways (IG) talked to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (ILDCFS) about the ILDCFS Advisory Council.

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Advisory Council

IG: How did the DCFS Advisory Council come into existence?

ILDCFS: The licensing division of DCFS is responsible for setting standards for child care facilities and licensing day care facilities—centers, day care homes, day care group homes, and child care agencies in the state. During the 1990s when DCFS experienced a reduction in licensing staff, a number of advocacy groups came together to respond to problems in the system that were caused by understaffing. The Licensing Coalition (TLC) was formed to advocate for more resources and a better system. In 2002, those organizations encouraged then-director Jess McDonald to form an advisory committee that would take the place of TLC and operate like the Illinois Department of Human Services Child Care and Development Advisory Council. The new DCFS director, Erwin McEwen, put resources into developing a plan for the Advisory Council that included data collection on the Department's performance (e.g., a time line for processing new applications, renewals, yearly monitoring visits, and initialing and completing complaints in a timely manner).

IG: What does the DCFS Advisory Council do for early care and education in our state?

ILDCFS: The DCFS Advisory Council is made up of four subcommittees that address different segments of the child care licensing system.

The Rules and Procedures Subcommittee is working with the Early Learning Council to develop new rules related to caring for infants and toddlers. The Rules and Procedures Subcommittee recently completed work with the Office of the State Fire Marshal to make enforcement of the Fire Safety Checklist more uniform across the state.

The Education and Training Subcommittee is developing a Day Care Home Online Orientation course through which prospective providers can receive three credit hours and complete their orientation and application process for a license in a timely fashion. The Education and Training Subcommittee also influenced the change in the number of training hours required to receive a Home Day Care license and the specific topics that need to be included in caregivers’ required training.

The Data Subcommittee helps to ensure that good data are collected and reported so that the child care community knows if responses to complaints, license renewals, and annual monitoring visits are taking place in a timely fashion. The Data Collection Subcommittee also provided input to the new Sunshine Project, an initiative of the Governor’s Office that provides information on a range of government activities, including child care facility inspections.

The Weighted Licensing and Key Indicators Subcommittee is developing a scale to rank violations. There is a proposal in the state legislation being proposed to the Child Care Act to charge a fee for the license and a fee for violations. The Weighted Licensing and Key Indicators subcommittee is looking at a method to weight licensing violations or rank violations occurring based upon their impact on children. For example, if a day care facility has no food or little food to serve children, is that violation ranked higher than having no Band-Aid in the first-aid kit?

IG: How does the DCFS Advisory Council relate to other programs, offices, and efforts to address early care and education in Illinois?

ILDCFS: We relate to the other early care and education activities in the state in two ways. First, members of the DCFS Advisory Council come from the early care and education community. Our Council includes center and family child care providers, child care advocates, and members of child welfare agencies. The second way that we relate to other initiatives in the state is by serving on other active committees and councils. Members of the DCFS Advisory Council also serve on the IDHS Advisory Council, the Early Learning Council, and the Professional Development Advisory Council. This cross-representation helps ensure that we are addressing the most pressing issues that impact children and families in Illinois.

Illinois Youth Development Council

wendy_chill_crop2Wendy Chill is the director of advocacy at the Illinois Center for Violence Prevention (ICVP). ICVP coordinates the Illinois After-school Partnership, a statewide effort co-chaired by representatives of the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Human Services to address the needs of school-age children and youth. The Illinois After-school Partnership is part of a broader coalition called ACT Now! (Afterschool for Children and Teens Now), which worked to develop the recent legislation that created the Illinois Youth Development Council. Wendy Chill (WC) talked to Inside Gateways (IG) about the Illinois Youth Development Council.

IG: How did the Illinois Youth Development Council come into existence?

WC: Despite widespread recognition of high-quality after-school programs’ positive impact on the academic, career, and life skills of youth, funding for and coordination of programs for school-age youth in the state have been very tenuous in recent years. As a result, too many kids are being shut out of these programs, and too many parents are confronted by a lack of high-quality, affordable programs in their neighborhoods, or they face long waiting lists. Too many existing programs lack the funding they need to provide consistent programs or serve full communities. Without enough high-quality programs, children are on their own between the hours of 3 and 6 pm, which often results in their engaging in risky behavior. Act Now!—a large coalition of groups concerned with the needs of school-age children and youth—worked together for the past year to craft legislation that would create some sustainability around after-school programs in Illinois by strengthening and coordinating after-school programs and increasing access to programs for children and working families. On July 27, 2010, Governor Quinn signed legislation to create the Afterschool Youth Development Act and the Illinois Youth Development Council. The legislation, which passed with bipartisan support in both houses but without appropriations, will oversee the creation of programs that foster positive development for youth between 6 and 19 years of age.

IG: What specifically will the Youth Development Council do for school-age children and youth in our state?

WC: The Illinois Youth Development Council will help ensure that after-school programs are using effective approaches to boost student success, making sure students are getting the most out of them. The Council will review current programs serving youth 6–19 years of age, collect rigorous data to inform decisions, and develop a comprehensive evaluation process for these programs. The Council will be made up of 28–32 members and will include an independent Youth Advisory Group of young people between 14 and 19 years of age. The details of the Council membership and the scope of their work are outlined in the Afterschool Youth Development Project Act. Once the members of the Youth Development Council are seated (the recent election slowed down the process a bit), the Council’s work will move ahead.

IG: How will the Youth Development Council relate to other programs, offices, and efforts to address school-age and youth development in Illinois?

WC: The structure of the Youth Development Council is modeled after the Early Learning Council (ELC). (Note: the ELC is discussed elsewhere in this issue.) Emphasis will be placed on strengthening and expanding services for school-age children and youth, which requires coordination with the many efforts that support school-age children and youth in Illinois. Professional development is central to the capacity-building supports of the Youth Development Council. The work of Gateways to Opportunity in general and the School-Age and Youth Development Credential in particular are of great interest to the Youth Development Council.

To track the progress of the Illinois Youth Development Council, contact Wendy Chill at the ICVP ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) or Kelley Talbot at Act Now! ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

Illinois Early Learning Council

shannon_christian_cropShannon Christian is the director of the Office of Early Childhood Development (OECD), a new state office that was established by executive order of the governor in spring 2010. The OECD was discussed in the fall 2010 issue of Inside Gateways. In this issue, Inside Gateways (IG) talks to Shannon Christian (SC) about the Illinois Early Learning Council (ELC), which receives administrative support and guidance from the OECD.

IG: How did the Early Learning Council come into existence?

SC: There had been great interest among advocacy groups in Illinois in having an entity to promote a more coordinated system of early childhood, one where government and other sectors that fund programs and services for birth to 5 populations could get together regularly to look at early childhood issues comprehensively. They made this goal part of their legislative agenda in 2002, and through their efforts, Public Act 93-380 was signed into law by then-governor Rod Blagojevich in July 2003.

IG: What does the Early Learning Council do for early care and education in our state?

SC: The ELC is a public-private partnership. The Council is co-chaired by Julie Smith, who represents the public side as deputy chief of staff for Governor Quinn, and Harriet Meyer, who represents the private side as president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund. There are approximately 75 members on the ELC and nearly 200 individuals serving on the various committees who represent a wide range of constituencies—schools; child care programs; Head Start; higher education; state, local, and federal government; business; law enforcement; private foundations; and parents.

The general answer to your question about what the ELC does for early care and education in Illinois is that the ELC provides a forum for dialogue, problem solving, research, and a deepened understanding of complex issues that impact outcomes for young children in Illinois. More specifically, the ELC provides a vehicle to make recommendations to state agencies and the General Assembly for policy changes and resources to improve early care and education in Illinois. The ELC has been instrumental in advancing key legislation and securing state and federal funding to support state initiatives for children and families. A good example of the ELC’s efforts is the passage of Preschool for All Children in 2006, which, when fully funded, will provide education services to all 3- and 4-year-olds whose families choose to participate. The ELC has also reviewed and recommended changes to child care licensing regulations related to caring for infants and toddlers, implemented home visiting strategies at the community level, and helped to expand teacher preparation programs, including those related to serving English Language Learners. You can read a complete review of the ELC’s work in its recent annual report.

IG: How does the Early Learning Council relate to other programs, offices, and efforts to address early care and education in Illinois?

SC: ELC relates to other efforts in the state in two primary ways. One is through overlapping membership that exists between the ELC and other key early care and education programs, offices, and initiatives in Illinois. Second, because the ELC has broad representation and a presence in the public and private arenas, it is the place where new reports, initiatives, and policy proposals are shared, considered, and in some cases carried forward in Springfield.

The newly created Office of Early Childhood Development (OECD), which I direct, was featured in the last issue of Inside Gateways. As I mentioned then, the OECD is tasked with shaping and coordinating the work of the ELC and across agencies. The role of the ELC and the OECD is evolving in response to changing needs, new knowledge, and new opportunities in Illinois. The ELC’s broad representation contributes to its understanding about what’s best for young children and their families. At the same time, the more players we have at the ELC table, the greater the opportunity and need for collaboration, cooperation, and communication.

We are just beginning a process of strategic planning for the ELC to be sure our scope, priorities, projects, and structure—which have evolved since the ELC’s inception in 2003—are set to best advance the ELC’s mission. The strategic planning process will provide an opportunity to position the ELC to address changes in the early care and education landscape.

IG: What are some of the changes in the early care and education landscape that you see?

SC: There are at least three significant changes in our environment today that we on the ELC need to incorporate into our future planning:

  1. Emphasis on Linkages
    Funding directives from the federal government encourage states to be more comprehensive and collaborative across early care and education programs—to make connections to health, mental health, and child welfare, since all areas impact a child’s well-being. This was evident, for example, in recent federal funding that Illinois received to support state Home Visiting Programs and State Advisory Councils on Early Childhood Education and Care.

  2. Information Technology and Data Systems
    Everyone recognizes the need for data systems that support cross-system thinking to serve clients better and to inform policy makers. The Healthcare and Human Services Framework Project is a new effort in Illinois supported by the Chicago Community Trust to think about data information systems in a more holistic way. In addition, there are other cross-system projects in state government, often federally funded, that need to be in sync to be efficient and effective.

  3. Budgeting for Results
    Recent changes in the budget process in Illinois emphasize budgeting for results—aligning state spending with state priorities and desired outcomes that rely on strategies supported by research and data.

These landscape changes provide new possibilities for the ELC to foster a more systemic approach, to form additional collaborations, to build support for new ideas, to make research-based arguments for increased smart investments in early childhood, and to partner across sectors so our dollars can go farther and we can improve outcomes for children and families in Illinois.

Basing the ELC in the Governor’s Office under the leadership of the OECD supports a coordinated statewide approach to helping the ELC achieve its long-term vision that “All Illinois children are safe, healthy, eager to learn, and ready to succeed by the time they enter school.”

New Gateways Resources

The following resource links have been added to the Web site since the last issue of Inside Gateways. For other resources, go to

Advocacy Links

Building and Using Coordinated State Early Care and Education Data Systems: A Framework for State Policymakers

DEC Position Statement on Cultural and Linguistic Diversity

Lifting Pre-K Quality: Caring and Effective Teachers

Research Reports

Children’s Emotional Development Is Built into the Architecture of Their Brains

Coordinating Child Care Consultants: Combining Multiple Disciplines and Improving Quality in Infant/Toddler Care Settings

Cultural and Linguistic Competence Organizational Assessment Instrument for Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Programs

Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel (Executive Summary)

Early Education Programs and Children of Immigrants: Learning Each Other’s Language

Effective Early Childhood Education Programs: A Systematic Review

Effects of Preschool Curriculum Programs on School Readiness: Report from the Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Initiative

Efficacy of Schoolwide Programs to Promote Social and Character Development and Reduce Problem Behavior in Elementary School Children

Family Child Care in the United States

Home-School Differences: What It Means for Kindergarten Readiness

Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2010 Update

Professional Development for the Infant/Toddler Early Care and Education Workforce

Quality in Early Childhood Care and Education Settings: A Compendium of Measures (2nd ed.)

Supporting Student Outcomes through Expanded Learning Opportunities

Toward the Identification of Features of Effective Professional Development for Early Childhood Educators

Understanding Your Child’s Behavior: Reading Your Child’s Cues from Birth to Age 2

Why Business Should Support Early Childhood Education

2010 Kids Count Data Book

Early Childhood and School-Age and Youth Development Initiatives

Childhood Obesity Project

Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation

Say It Out Loud

Teen REACH (Responsibility, Education, Achievement, Caring, and Hope)

State Government

Office of Early Childhood Development

Parent Support

Parenting 24/7

Teaching Your Child to Become Independent with Daily Routines

How to Develop a Statewide System to Link Families with Community Resources: A Manual for Replication of the Help Me Grow System

Professional Organizations

Providers’ Network, Inc.

Training Organizations

Illinois Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development