Dr. Valora Washington, CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition, leads the largest credentialing program for early educators in the USA. Throughout her career, Valora has co-founded several organizations, including Voices for Michigan’s Children, a statewide advocacy group; the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative; and the CAYL Institute. Frequently tapped for senior-level service, she has been co-chair of the Massachusetts Governor’s School Readiness Commission, board chair of Voices for America’s Children, secretary of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), chair of the Black Caucus of the Society for Research in Child Development, and co-chair of the National Head Start Association Commission on 2010. She has been a member of numerous task forces and boards including for the Boston Children’s Museum and Wheelock College.

Prior to founding the CAYL Institute in 2003, Valora was CEO of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and vice president of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. She has held executive leadership and tenured teaching positions at institutions including Antioch College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since 2001, she has been a Certified Association Executive with the American Society of Association Executives. She is also a Certified Credentialing Specialist. 

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In reflecting upon her years in the field, Valora came to understand how adaptive leadership can help guide the challenges that the field faces. Despite the challenges that the field has faced, Valora speaks about many of the positive shifts in the field, including the connection and complexity of neuroscience and children’s capacity to learn. Valora reminds us of the beauty and pureness of children’s inherent value, a principle we sometimes forget because we’re often so focused on the academic performance of the child. Valora believes there is unfinished work in the field. Policy issues such as permanent compensation, working conditions, and diversity of the children and families we serve are areas that the field needs to address. Valora’s hope for the future is that society respects our field for the work we do for this nation, for families, and for each and every individual child. She is excited about the next generation of early childhood leaders, who she sees as ‘doers’ of our principles and not just writers about them.

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“I think what’s most important is that we always have to remember that all children have inherent value. Sometimes we forget that because we’re working on the parts of the child, particularly their academic performance. But we have to remember that children per se have inherent value and that’s an important principle to always come back to.”

“..We don’t need to have one way of doing things for one group of children based on race or gender, and another way of doing things for people who are a different race, or class or gender. Principles of respect for diversity and principles of developmentally appropriate practice are strong foundations that help all children, especially children of color.”

“…What we are seeing in the literature is that even when early childhood educators earn a degree, they’re not getting the compensation they deserve. They’re still not getting the respect that they deserve. I really believe that professionalization has to be understood as an adaptive leadership challenge -not as a checklist or a technical problem to be solved.”

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