A core competency is fundamental knowledge, ability, or expertise in a specific subject area or skill set. In the field of early care and education, core competencies are those things that all practitioners are expected to know and be able to do in their work with and on behalf of young children. In other words, the core competencies describe the practices and behaviors that are expected of early childhood professionals on the job. The word "core" indicates that the individual has a strong basis from which to gain the additional competence to do a specific job.
The Core Competency Content Areas
ND Core Competencies identify skills at the beginning, intermediate and advanced levels of professionalism across eight content areas:
- Content Area I: Child Growth and Development
- Content Area II: Learning Environments and Curriculum
- Content Area III: Assessment and Planning for Individual Children
- Content Area IV: Interactions with Children
- Content Area V: Families and Communities
- Content Area VI: Health, Safety, and Nutrition
- Content Area VII: Program Planning and Evaluation
- Content Area VIII: Professional Development and Leadership
Connection to the Career Pathways
The Core Competency content areas define the framework of the Growing Futures Career Pathways and provide the foundation for the professional development system. The Growing Futures system is based on the concepts of early childhood practitioner preparation advocated by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC):
"NAEYC believes that all early childhood professional should have a broad knowledge of development and learning across the birth-through-age 8 range; should be familiar with appropriate curriculum and assessment approached across that age span; and should have in-depth knowledge and skills in at least two of the three periods: infants toddlers, preschool/prekindergarten, and early primary grades."
- NAEYC Standards for Early Childhood Professional Preparation Programs, Position Statement 2009
Core Competencies define the early childhood knowledge base while the Career Pathways organize the knowledge in categories to help practitioners be more intentional and focused in their training and education. For example, Pathways categories A-D are based on the completion of training or education across all eight Core Competency content areas which taken together give practitioners a solid foundation and at the same time fulfill the education requirements of the national CDA Credential. The Core Competencies provide a roadmap for individual professional growth that becomes increasingly more specialized as higher levels of formal education are achieved.
Connection to North Dakota's Training Approval System
The Core Competencies are an important part of the state's training approval system. Only training that supports the Core Competencies is approved. All approved training is designated by core competency area so that practitioners can select training that best grows their knowledge and skills. Trainers can use the eight content areas to focus their training topics and instructional practices to truly support ongoing professional development.
North Dakota's Core Competencies for Early Education and Care Practitioners were developed in response to research findings indicating that the quality of care and education provided to children is directly related to the preparation of the caregivers and teachers. They are the result of years of extensive work by many dedicated people across the field of early education and care in Minnesota and other states. With permission from these states, North Dakota adopted these competencies as part of the Growing Futures professional development system in 2008.
North Dakota values the hard work that went into defining this set of core competencies and has adapted them to be sued as part of its professional development plan. The Minnesota Core Competencies for Early Childhood Education and Care Practitioners was a project of the Minnesota Association for the Education of Young Children (MnAEYC) in collaboration with the Minnesota Professional Development Council. The document was originally made possible by grants from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the McKnight Foundation, and the Midwest Association for the Education of Young Children.