The Robert R. McCormick Foundation grants ITAV $200,000 for the PEL Test Preparation Program Pilot

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6 minutes, 17 seconds

It Takes A Village Family of Schools (ITAV) has received a $200,000 grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation to pilot the ITAV Professional Educator License Test Preparation Program. Starting February 15, 2023, this new initiative will support educators as they pursue higher credentials in the field of early childhood education. The program will provide four cohorts of ten participants from the south and west sides of Chicago with test taking strategies, practice tests, and individualized support over the next two years. The outcome of this pilot program is to produce forty fully licensed Early Childhood Educators, while documenting the need for such a program as a solution to those marginalized aspiring educators who are disproportionately impacted by the PEL exam requirement. The ITAV PEL Test Prep Project is part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to address the nationwide early childhood educator teacher shortage that has greatly impacted the early childhood education industry.


It Takes A Village Family of Schools has been developing highly qualified early childhood educators and delivering high quality early childhood experiences to low-income children of color for the past nineteen years. ITAV is dedicated to utilizing its experience and resources to introduce young adults to the field of early childhood education and provide a pathway towards successful, long-term career development and employment. This is done through Comprehensive Case Management Services, Employment Readiness Activities, Essential Employability Skills Development, Career & Education Planning and Pursuit, Paid Pre-Apprenticeship, and Support Services, including mental health. The culminating outcome of the entry level program is the achievement of a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, which is a nationally recognized credential in the field. Each participant’s completion of the CDA not only puts them on a pathway to gainful employment, but it also provides them with course credits through ITAV’s unique and innovative partnership with Chicago City Colleges. This will in turn provide participants with the opportunity to gain college credits at Illinois colleges and universities towards an Associates or Bachelors degree in early childhood education.


Expanding on the success of our CDA program, ITAV’s leadership recognized the need to support teachers as they progressed towards higher professional credentials. The Professional Educator Licensure exam serves as the final step in the journey towards becoming a fully licensed teacher, but unfortunately many struggle to successfully pass the exam on the first attempt. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality (2021) fifty-four percent of those who take the exam will fail on their first try. The report also found that due to historical disadvantage and unequal access to knowledge, test scores for Black and Latino students are even lower than the national average. As a result, licensing exams have a disproportionate impact on teacher-candidates from these groups: 62% Black and 43% of Latinos candidates fail the exam even after multiple attempts. Current statistics on PEL pass rate in Illinois for Blacks and Latinos 48% and 57%, respectively. A failure rate of this magnitude only further exacerbates the current teacher shortage in America, and disproportionately impacts low-income Black and Latino communities. ITAV’s workforce development program is extremely critical at this time because of the nationwide teacher shortage and its disproportionate impact on low-income communities, especially here in Chicago. The ITAV PEL Test Preparation Program goal is to help to bring more fully credentialed teachers into the field of early education to serve communities most in need. The pilot program’s goal is to have a pass rate of 85% for both groups, equating to a 37% increase for Black teachers and 18% increase for Latino teachers.


“Our goal is to play an instrumental part in closing the teacher shortage gap, especially in Chicago’s most underserved communities, by providing PEL test prep support. We are so thankful for the Robert R. McCormick Foundation grant, which we believe, will increase the number of licensed teachers in Chicago’s classrooms.” Nakisha Hobbs, CEO It Takes A Village Family of Schools.


One of the focus areas of the McCormick Foundation is to support and empower families, educators and leaders to equip children birth through kindergarten for success in school and in life This can only be achieved with fully licensed and credentialed educators. The PEL Test Preparation Program not only addresses a quality teacher issue; but also an education equity concern as the majority of the anticipated participants will be Black or Latino. “The McCormick Foundation is excited to partner with It Takes A Village Family of Schools to make an impact on the teacher shortage and to help diversify the pool of licensed early childhood teachers in Chicago. Every child in every community deserves access to high-quality early education as a foundation for their success in school and life. We are proud to support ITAV’s innovative approach to strengthen the teacher pipeline and help realize this vision.” shares Tim Knight, President and CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.


For more information about ITAV, please visit or call Anita Andrews-Hutchinson 312-868-0588.


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