One indicator of high quality programs is the employment of a teaching staff that has the educational qualifications, knowledge, and professional commitment necessary to promote children's learning and development and to support families' diverse needs and interests. Children benefit most when their teachers have high levels of formal education and specialized early childhood professional preparation.
Teachers who have specific preparation, knowledge, and skills in child development and early childhood education are more likely to engage in warm, positive interactions with children, offer richer language experiences, and create more high-quality learning environments. Opportunities for teaching staff to receive supportive supervision and to participate in ongoing professional development ensure that their knowledge and skills reflect the profession's ever-changing knowledge base.
Pennsylvania Keys to Professional Development is a comprehensive, statewide career development system for practitioners serving children and families in early childhood and school age programs including: child care; early Head Start and Head Start; Early Intervention; public school; and private academic school.
This system provides a clearly articulated framework that defines pathways which are tied to certification (leading to qualifications and credentials) and addresses the needs of individuals and adult learners. Elements of the Pennsylvania Keys to Professional Development system include: a core body of knowledge, qualifications and credentials, quality assurances, access, and outreach and funding.
The goal for building a professional development system is to create a quality improvement system in which all early childhood programs and practitioners are supported and encouraged to improve child outcomes. The Pennsylvania professional development system aims to strengthen early childhood and school-age programs through the development of a well-qualified, skilled, and diverse workforce.