Maine Partners Collaborate to Create a Sustainable Professional Pathway for TA Professionals Who Support Maine’s Early Childhood Workforce
by Linda Labas, M.Ed.
CCIDS Early Childhood Coordinator
Did you know that Maine is one of only a handful of states that has established a set of competencies and a credential for technical assistance (TA) professionals who support the state’s early childhood workforce?
A technical assistance professional is an individual who provides targeted and customized supports for early childhood practitioners [those serving prenatal through age 8 in Maine] through specific strategies or approaches, such as mentoring, coaching, consultation and peer-to-peer networks.
Some examples of the types of support provided by TA professionals include the following:
- Consulting on-site to a childcare program to support the inclusion of a child with a disability;
- Coaching staff to implement universally designed practices (PDF) to increase access, participation and support for all children;
- Early childhood mental health consultation;
- Facilitating Communities of Practice (CoP) to increase ongoing peer-to-peer professional learning and information sharing; and
- Mentoring a less experienced Head Start program supervisor as they move into this new role.
TA professionals represent a wide range of disciplines and support a diverse early childhood workforce. They adhere to varying regulations and standards and work within multiple settings.
In late 2015, three lead state partners: Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network (MRTQ PDN); the University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies (CCIDS); and Kennebec Valley Community Action Program – Educare Central Maine (KVCAP – ECM) entered into a formal collaboration to create a new professional pathway to support technical assistance (TA) professionals. We’ve learned from experience that collaboration is an essential ingredient to support the delivery of equitable, inclusive and accessible technical assistance to Maine’s early childhood workforce.
In response to the implementation science research and the development of supports to facilitate deeper learning and to assist others to apply what they learn in their practice, the partners began developing a set of competencies to define the relevant knowledge, skills and dispositions required by any TA professional who supports early childhood practitioners in the state. The three partners adopted a structure of engage and co-create; implement and evaluate; and change and sustain.
In 2016, a working draft of Technical Assistance Competencies for Maine’s Early Childhood Workforce was developed. Adopting a systems approach to building an integrated, cross-sector response to technical assistance, an 8-member expert panel reviewed and provided feedback on the competencies. The original 3 lead state partners (MRTQ PDN, CCIDS, KVCAP-ECM) field-tested the competencies.
The collaboration then expanded to include representatives from the Professional Development Alignment Team (PDAT), stakeholders from agencies and systems that provide professional development in Maine. By consensus, the stakeholders adopted the 2011 NAEYC / NACCRRA TA definitions (PDF) to define the relevant knowledge, skills and dispositions required by any TA professional who supports early childhood practitioners in the state.
In 2017 the Technical Assistance Competencies for Maine’s Early Childhood Workforce (PDF) was finalized. The goal was accomplished: to transform the TA professional role from one without any formal or intentional support and learned by trial and error; to a recognized professional role that requires specific knowledge, skills, dispositions, and experience in evidence-based technical assistance.
In June 2017, the three lead partners hosted an event with nearly 70 technical assistance professionals in Hallowell, ME for the official rollout of the Technical Assistance Competencies for Maine’s Early Childhood Workforce.
In 2020, using the same stakeholder engagement approach, representatives from the same three lead state partners co-created the Maine Technical Assistance Credential. The MRTQ PDN district coordinators and CCIDS partners were the first to field-test the Maine TA Credential application and cohort support process later that year. As I look back now, these critical system partners would have been elated to know that by 2022, Maine would have ten professionals who earned this credential!
Some additional highlights regarding the Maine TA Credential:
- The 10 professionals who have earned the Maine TA Credential are representatives of the original three lead state partners and all three organizations have committed to a sustainability plan for their designated staff and applicable new hires to obtain the credential as part of their professional development plans.
- Five new trainings called the Foundations of Relationship-Based Trainings have been developed and are available to any professionals interested in learning more about technical assistance; regardless of whether they choose to pursue the Maine TA Credential.
- To date, 161 professionals have completed at least one of the Foundations of Relationship-Based Technical Assistance trainings.
- By positioning the Maine TA Credential within the MRTQ PDN along with the other Maine credentials, there is expanded access, availability, and support for a wide range of professionals. Cohort and individualized consultation support for applicants interested in this credential is available at no cost.
MRTQ PDN has also designated a Coordinator of Apprenticeship and Credential Programs to support the continuous quality improvement cycle to grow and change this credential and the credentialing process as the evidence base and implementation science evolves.
If you are interested in learning more about the Foundations of Relationship-Based Trainings or the Maine Technical Assistance Credential, please reach out to us at CCIDS by email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 207.581.1084. TTY users call Maine Relay 711.
Group photo of Jami Pollis, Linda Labas, Jill Downs and Tammie Davis courtesy of Linda Labas.
Photo of Linda Labas courtesy of Maine Roads to Quality.
All other photos courtesy of the University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies
Linda Labas, Early Childhood Coordinator at the University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies, retired in early September 2022 after over 40 years in the early childhood field.
Lead state partners with selected resources:
The University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies (CCIDS) The University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies Growing Ideas Tipsheets for Guiding Early Childhood Practices
Other Selected Resources:
Metz, A., Woo, B. & Loper, A. (Summer 2021). Equitable implementation at work. Stanford Social Innovation Review.
MPHI and the Implementation Group. (Draft of June 2019). Is my implementation practice culturally responsive? (PDF).
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Early Childhood Workforce Systems Initiative. (May 2015). What do we mean when we talk about PD? Using the NAEYC Early Childhood Education Professional Development Glossary. (PDF).
Yazejian, N., Metz, A., Morgan, J., Louison, L. Bartley, L., Fleming, W. O., Haidar, L. & Schroeder, J. (January 2019). Co-creative technical assistance: Essential functions and interim outcomes. (PDF). Evidence & Policy.