Mentoring the new professional in interdisciplinary early childhood education: the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program

Mentoring the new professional in interdisciplinary early childhood education: the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program

Katherine M. McCormick

According to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (1996) what teachers know and do profoundly influences what students learn. Data from several large-scale studies support this conclusion; teacher expertise is a significant factor in the prediction of achievement gains for children (Ferguson, 1991; Ferguson & Ladd, 1996; Greenwald, Hedges, & Laine, 1996). Therefore, measures aimed at recruiting, preparing, and retaining good teachers will contribute to the improvement of schools and the provision of quality educational services to young children (Darling-Hammond, 1998; Miller & Stayton, 2000). It also seems reasonable and wise to focus professional development and support efforts on the most critical time in a teaching career–the beginning years.

In 1984 the Commonwealth of Kentucky made an effort through legislative action to create a professional culture in public education to foster teachers’ continuous growth. This legislation established the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program (KTIP), a support and assistance program designed to help every new teacher in the state develop a strong foundation for lifelong practice. The program mandates the appointment of a team of resource teachers, principals, and teacher educators to support, assist, and assess new teachers during a year-long supervised internship. This article presents KTIP as a case example in interdisciplinary early childhood education. KTIP has the potential to serve as a prototype for structuring meaningful, focused professional development and support during the formative first year of an interdisciplinary early childhood educator’s career. This article’s presentation of KTIP is organized into four main sections:

1. a rationale for the program and review of related literature;

2. a description of the program structure, including the part of the program specific to the Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Educator (IECE);

3. discussion of the challenges related both to the broader KTIP program and to its specific implementation for professionals serving infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in settings other than public schools; and

4. conclusions and suggestions for the adoption of similar programs in other states and settings.


Several factors highlight the importance of providing support to beginning teachers of young children, including a high teacher turnover rate (Darling-Hammond, 1998), teacher shortages (Whitaker, 2000), a high rate of attrition during the first 3 years of teaching (Boo, Bobbit, & Cook, 1997), and unique problems faced by beginning teachers (Bredekamp & Wilier, 1992). KTIP eases transition, reduces attrition, and strengthens effectiveness through a supervised internship that focuses on both mentoring and standards-based assessment. Toward those goals, the program provides an experienced teacher mentor who has experiences and a background similar to the new teacher’s to act as the primary guide in the process. It also provides an assessment system based on professional certification standards that are set by the state. These standards are also used in the curricula, coursework, and evaluation that prepares preservice teachers. The strong links between the preservice program and the internship program allow novice teachers to develop necessary skills, behaviors, and knowledge over a sustained period of time through observation, portfolio development, and review. For example, the professional portfolio may begin during the preservice years, be revised and edited as the young professional transitions to the internship year, be changed again as the professional growth plan is implemented, and be reviewed as part of the annual process of professional development and evaluation.

Supervised Internship

The first year of teaching often presents overwhelming challenges and a steep learning curve for novice teachers (Darling-Hammond, 1998). The beginning early childhood special education teacher or early interventionist must move from being a learner whose sole responsibility is his or her own learning to being a professional with responsibility for facilitating the learning of a diverse group of young children (Whitaker, 2000). For some special educators (approximately 15%) these challenges are so significant that they leave the profession during their first year of teaching; 10% to 15% of their peers exit during the second year (Huling-Austin, 1990; Schlechty & Vance, 1983). Supervised mentorship and continuous support during the transition from preservice teacher preparation to the responsibilities of first-year teaching may significantly ease the stress of this transition and reduce the attrition rate for beginning teachers (Billingsley, 1993; Bogenschild, Lauritzen, & Metzke, 1988; Harris & Associates, 1991). Furthermore, supported beginning teachers are often able to move beyond the typical concerns of classroom management to focus on the more important issue of student learning (Darling-Hammond, Gendler, & Wise, 1990; Huling-Austin, 1989). Educators have suggested that structuring the first year of teaching like a medical internship or residency–with the opportunity for continuous mentoring from an experienced colleague–can have a significant impact on the professionalization of education (National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 1996).


Mentor programs are often used to maximize the effectiveness of the first year, facilitate continued professional growth, improve professional practice, and increase the retention of new practitioners. Schools implement mentoring programs as a strategy for improving teaching and learning in U. S. schools (Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession, 1986; Holmes Group, 1986; National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 1996). In efforts to meet education reform initiatives, 18 states mandated mentor support for beginning teachers in 1995, and another 16 had already begun pilot programs (Furtwengler, 1995). The use of mentors has been reported in the early childhood special education literature to describe professional development programs for early intervention personnel (Gallacher, 1997; McCollum, Yates, & Lueke, 1995), early childhood teachers (Beal, 1999; Bellm, Whitebook, & Hnatiuk, 1997; Love & Rowland, 1999; Whitebook & Bellm, 1996; Whitebook, Hnatiuk, & Bellm, 1994), special education teachers (Boo et al., 1997; Lane & Canosa, 1995; Whitaker, 2000), early care and education providers (Mattern & Scott, 1999; Whitebook, Howes, & Phillips, 1998), and home-based family educators (Gnatuk & DeCosta, 1999).

Mentoring was defined by Henry, Stockdate, Hall, and Deniston (1994) as “a caring and supportive interpersonal relationship between an experienced, more knowledgeable practitioner (mentor) and a less experienced, less knowledgeable individual (protege or mentee) in which the protege receives career-related and personal benefits” (as cited in Gallacher, 1997, p. 196). Black and Puckett (1996) defined mentoring as “a long-term individualized process in which an experienced professional provides support and guidance to a beginning teacher” (as cited in Love & Rowland, 1999, p. 8). The purpose of mentoring is the transmission of knowledge, skills, attitudes, beliefs, and values (Gallacher, 1997). In 1998, the Council for Exceptional Children published five specific purposes of a mentorship program for special educators:

1. to facilitate the application of knowledge and skills,

2. to convey advanced knowledge and skills,

3. to assist timely acculturation to the school climate,

4. to reduce stress and enhance job satisfaction, and

5. to support professional induction.

Within the early intervention and early childhood disciplines, mentorships have been reported in speech, language, and audiology training programs; occupational therapy; and early childhood programs (Gallacher, 1997).

Characteristics of good mentors are consistent across disciplines; good mentors are encouraging, supportive, committed, sensitive, flexible, respectful, enthusiastic, diplomatic, patient, and willing to share information, credit, and recognition (Love & Rowland, 1999). Mentoring relationships offer advantages for both the mentor and protege. The protege gains an advocate who can provide support and guidance. Professional and educational outcomes may be improved; professional performance and productivity may be increased; new skills required by the setting or situation may be developed and used; and a greater understanding of the culture and organizational structure of the school may be gained through the mentor-protege relationship. Furthermore, mentoring improves the protege’s discipline-specific skills and competencies, increases knowledge of content and application, provides a safe arena for risk-taking, strengthens communication skills, and promotes leadership skills (Gallacher, 1997).

Rewards are also reported for mentors; they receive personal and public recognition of the value of their own experiences and expertise and the opportunity to create of a close and collaborative relationship with another professional with shared interests and professional identity (Gallacher, 1997). Some researchers have suggested that mentors experience a renewed interest in their own professional development resulting from the opportunity to reflect on professional practice within their discipline and classroom and to examine new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning (Graham, 1994; Rowley, 1999). Mentors also report strong feelings of satisfaction from supporting the professional development of a new colleague through shared collaboration and decision making (Brennan, Thames, & Roberts, 1999).

Gallacher (1997) identified developmental stages for mentorships: (a) the initiation stage when the mentor is recognized as a competent individual capable of providing advice and support; (b) the cultivation stage during which the members become better acquainted and most of the assistance is provided; (c) the separation stage when the protege becomes more independent; and (d) the redefinition stage, during which the relationship evolves into a more equitable and collegial one.

Use and Development of a Professional Portfolio

In addition to recommending a supervised internship, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (1996) proposed a system in which teacher education candidates complete a two-step credential and licensure process: Candidates would complete their examination of subject matter and basic teaching knowledge then enter the second stage–practice–during which teaching skills would be examined through observation and portfolio-based assessment. The KTIP addresses these recommendations through its strong performance-based assessment component. In addition, Kentucky has adopted a continuous assessment system to support and ease the transition from student to professional and to align the assessment procedures from the candidate’s entry into a preservice teacher education program through student teaching and employment.


KTIP was established in 1984 to guide and assess all first year teachers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky (Brennan, Roberts, Thames, & Miller, 2000). In 1990, a landmark legislative reform initiative, the Kentucky Education Reform Act, required further examination of teacher certification and measurement of teacher effectiveness. As a result of this legislative initiative, the Education Professional Standards Board was established to govern teacher certification and to oversee the administration of the internship program. During the years following the reform act, the KTIP assessment systems were significantly revised to reflect eight new teacher standards defined by Kentucky’s Education Professional Standards Board and to support standards for the teaching profession.

These eight (later amended to nine) standards, or broad categories describing teachers’ work, serve as the framework for the assessment system (see Table 1). Performance criteria or indicators were also identified to explain and support each standard (see the Appendix). The standards and indicators are performance-driven and were designed to complement principles and goals for learning. These standards are similar to those compiled by national standards-setting groups such as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the Interstate New Teachers Assessment and Support Consortium, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children. Continuous revisions and improvements help to develop a seamless transition from a preservice program grounded in the new teacher standards to an internship year in which these same standards are in place serving as a foundation for professional growth. The KTIP process relies on portfolio reviews and on qualitative data collected during observations to determine eligibility for certification. The process is based on the idea that there are essential characteristics that support all effective teaching. Separate standards were developed for interns serving young children to reflect the unique instruction and service delivery to young children and their families (including families of children with disabilities) and the unique characteristics of the development of young children with and without disabilities during this period of growth.

The IECE Internship Program

The professional certificate for interdisciplinary early childhood education (IECE), birth to primary, was established by Kentucky administrative regulation in 1995 and included the eight teacher performance standards described in Table 1. In this process, university faculty and practitioners of early childhood education and early childhood special education helped the Kentucky Department of Education and Legislative Committees produce a set of standards that reflected the common core of knowledge needed by all teachers of young children and the specialized skills and knowledge needed to work with young children who have disabilities and their families. The standards include three overarching strands–family involvement, interdisciplinary collaboration, and diversity–that inform practice across the standards and are similar to the Recommended Practices in Personnel Preparation developed by the Division for Early Childhood (see Miller & Stayton, 2000). A ninth standard (technology) was added by amendment in 1999. These nine standards comprise a set of teaching and instructional tasks that an interdisciplinary early childhood educator is expected to demonstrate within early care and education settings. Seven of the nine are similar to the new teacher performance standards for K through 12; however, each has applications unique to early childhood in practice. The unique applications include the following: (a) focus on the importance of the role and contributions of families in planning for children; (b) planning for a single child and a group of children; (c) planning for children in a variety of settings (center-based and home-based); (d) working with children with and without disabilities in inclusive settings; (e) focusing on child-directed and teacher-directed curriculum; and (f) focusing on collaboration and interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary efforts with other professionals, paraprofessionals, and family members (Kentucky Department of Education, 2000, p.2; see Table 1).

The literature supports the need for expanded standards for the preschool and early childhood population with and without disabilities (Miller & Stayton, 2000; Winton & McCollum, 1997). The Kentucky IECE standards are closely aligned with those described in the Personnel Standards for Early Education and Early Intervention: Guidelines for Licensure in Early Childhood Special Education (DEC, NAEYC, & ATE, 1995) and meet the standards of competency for both early childhood (developed by the National Association for the Ed ucation of Young Children) and early childhood special education (developed by the Division for Early Childhood). To appropriately meet the unique needs of the young child and to help the IECE teacher develop the unique skills and behaviors necessary for the job, a separate training experience for the KTIP team is provided. However, all other components of the process are identical to that of the K-12 internship program.

The Committee

The KTIP committee is appointed by the Education Professional Standards Board’s Office of Teacher Education and Certification from recommendations made by school districts and universities. It consists of a principal (or center director for IECE interns working in childcare centers), resource teacher, and teacher educator. The committee’s role is to guide and assess the intern’s progress throughout the year. Identification of team members occurs at the district, school, or individual level, and they are compensated as follows: Principals serve on the committee as part of their administrative and supervisory duties; teacher educators are paid $220.00 per intern; and resource teachers are currently paid $1200.00 per intern.

The Principal or Center Director. The principal serves as chair of the intern committee, coordinates all meetings, and is responsible for all paperwork. He or she conducts a lesson plan review prior to each of three formal observations and conducts a postobservational conference with the intern following each visit. In addition, the principal maintains records of the time spent by the resource teacher (mentor) with the intern (20 in-class hours and 50 out-of-class hours are required).

The Resource Teacher. The resource teacher serves as a mentor and assessor of progress and is matched with the intern as closely as possible (i.e., for similar IECE certification, placement, and school location). The resource teacher must hold a master’s degree or its equivalent and have 4 years’ teaching experience. Her or his responsibilities include spending a minimum of 20 hours in the intern’s classroom, spending 50 hours outside of class time working with the intern (either before school days or after), and assisting the intern in the development of the intern’s Professional Growth Plan (PGP). The resource teacher conducts a preobservation conference and a postobservation conference in conjunction with each formal observation.

The Teacher Educator. The teacher educator is a college or university representative who provides a link to resources and research on effective teaching. This individual serves through the cooperation of the teacher education institution in the region where the intern’s school is located. The teacher educator makes three official visits and conducts a postobservation conference after each observation. He or she serves as a resource regarding information about instructional theory, techniques, literature, and material. Furthermore, the teacher clarifies the connection between the intern’s classroom performance and the content of the teacher education program, both to the intern and to the other members of the committee. The teacher educator can also share with teacher training faculty real-world observations of exiting students and of former students who are now mentors. Often the intern is a graduate of the teacher education program where the teacher educator serves as faculty; in this case, the teacher educator can offer continued supervision (sometimes with added insight from having supervised the student teaching experience) and help the intern see connections to previous coursework and practica experiences. Teacher educators also use observations of intern performance and portfolio review to continually assess the preservice program.

The Intern. The intern must hold a provisional certificate (called a Statement of Eligibility) and acquire at least a half-time teaching position in a Kentucky school to be eligible for an internship (further discussion of this requirement is included in the “Challenges” section). The Statement of Eligibility is issued at the satisfactory completion of a teacher education program. At the conclusion of the internship, the intern is eligible to apply for a regular certificate. The intern’s responsibilities are to prepare for the observations made by the resource teacher, the principal, and the university teacher educator; to participate in the conferences; and to design a portfolio and a PGP.

Administrative Structure

Legislative and administrative support are central to the success of the internship program. The structure of the program is decided and the funds to support it are allocated on an annual basis through the Kentucky General Assembly and are standardized and institutionalized across the Commonwealth under the leadership of the Education Professional Standards Board. This board was established by the Kentucky General Assembly in 1990 as a component of the Kentucky Education Reform Act. Its membership includes teachers, administrators, deans of colleges of education, academic officers from state and private universities and colleges, a local board of education member, the Commissioner of Education, and the president of the state Council on Postsecondary Education. The Division of Educator Preparation and Internship is one of six divisions of the Education Professional Standards Board and is responsible for the administration of the internship program. Staff in the division provide support to each member of the team, prospective interns, students, faculty, and the general public through newsletters, electronic messages and mail, and an on-line Web site. Staff communication with program participants is quite remarkable. For example, staff reported more than 3,000 telephone calls related to KTIP between July and December of 2000 (M. K. Troupe, personal communication, March 21, 2001). Division staff are also responsible for the coordination of training efforts, which are conducted annually for all team members in the state’s eight service regions. Each of the eight public universities in the state houses and staffs a regional KTIP office that coordinates training for committee members from school districts within the region it serves. In turn, each school district has an administrative office designated to fulfill the district’s liaison requirements for the KTIP program. Written documents, videotapes, and other support materials (e.g. guides and manuals) that are appropriate to the role of each team member are reviewed annually. The process is continuously assessed to improve and strengthen the program.

The Process

The committee meets with the intern four times during the internship year. Committee work officially begins with an orientation conducted at the first committee meeting, held as soon as possible after the internship year begins. The second, third, and fourth meetings are held at the end of each observation cycle by individual committee members. The intern’s portfolio documents progress related to the nine new teacher standards, and the portfolio is the major source of evidence that the intern has met the standards. Presentation of the portfolio is a primary part of the intern’s summative effort at the fourth committee meeting. In addition to the development of the portfolio, the committee works to help the intern develop a PGP.

This plan identifies the intern’s strengths and areas for professional growth and describes expectations for improvement. It is initiated by the intern during the first observation cycle, reviewed and approved by the intern committee members at their second meeting, and updated during the second and third observation cycles. The first and second observation cycles and committee feedback focus on the formative assessment of the intern’s professional growth. The third observation cycle and committee feedback are summative in nature, determining if the intern has satisfactorily completed the internship. In addition, the third observation is completed by the committee viewing (either separately or at the same time) a videotape of a lesson in a lesson sequence prepared by the intern. When the program requirements are completed, the committee makes a recommendation to the Education Professional Standards Board regarding the provisional teaching certificate. The recommendation indicates that an intern’s performance is either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. This decision is determined by majority vote for each of the nine new teacher standards and is based on multiple assessments gathered over the course of the year. Assessments include reports of formal and informal observations, the intern’s portfolio, and the PGP. The process is depicted in Figure 1.


Marking the Standards. Each committee member records his or her assessment decisions during the three observation cycles by marking standards on the IECE Observation Instrument and Portfolio Review Form (see the Appendix). These decisions are arrived at through a formative and summative process. The process is formative and diagnostic during the observation cycles. Summative assessment occurs at the fourth committee meeting when the committee makes its summary judgment regarding certification. Decisions are recorded on the Observation Instrument and Portfolio Review Form after each visit and portfolio review by each committee member. Consensus markings are made during each committee meeting at the end of each cycle, following discussion of data gathered during the portfolio review. At the fourth meeting, the committee makes a summative judgment by majority vote indicating whether each standard is met. If any standard is not met, the committee must report the intern’s performance during the internship year as not satisfactory.

Using the Instruments. The observation instrument is used to record data and make decisions about progress regarding observable standards. Each standard has accompanying indicators that provide examples of events and interactions that may be observed. The indicators serve as descriptors to guide the data collection process and decisions about marking standards. They are designed to be used as a bridge that connects data to the standard (see the Appendix).

Constructing the Portfolio. The portfolio provides a mechanism for the intern to document progress related to Kentucky’s new teacher standards, particularly those not observed directly in the classroom. The portfolio provides opportunities for interns to explain on paper (a) their actions (e.g., lesson objectives, interventions, instructional procedures, and assessment); (b) the impact of their actions on learning; and (c) their plans for refinement. The portfolio also provides a way for interns to discuss (with team members and families) collaborative and professional development activities. The portfolio is built across the year, with specific requirements for each observation cycle. For example, during the first cycle the portfolio includes an introduction to the intern’s school, classroom, and teaching philosophy as well as completed plans and instruments for all three observed lessons. It also includes evidence of collaborative and professional development activities and the PGP. During the second cycle, the portfolio includes a revised introduction, plans and instruments for observed lessons, further evidence of collaborative and professional development activities, and the revised PGP. The summative portfolio includes the polished introduction, evidence of collaborative and professional development activities during the year, and the PGP.

The Professional Growth Plan

The PGP provides a structured opportunity for the intern to reflect on strengths and areas for potential growth throughout the internship year. With the support of the committee members (especially the resource teacher), the intern identifies areas for professional growth actions (what he or she will do to improve and what assistance he or she will need), and impact (evidence of progress). The PGP is updated at each cycle so that new strengths and areas for professional growth are included. Before the third committee meeting, the committee reviews the portfolio’s documentation of the intern’s progress in addressing the areas for professional growth that were identified during the previous round of observations. In addition, members of the committee review the intern’s PGP to determine if they agree with the identified strengths, the identified areas for professional growth, and the PGP itself. When the committee meets with the intern, progress in addressing areas for growth are discussed and any necessary additions or changes to the PGP are made after they have been discussed with the intern. At this time, the committee and intern should determine what assistance is needed to implement the actions identified and determine how the assistance will be provided.


Challenges to the successful implementation of the internship program in IECE are similar to those reported in the general education literature but in some ways unique to the field of interdisciplinary early childhood education or early childhood special education. Four challenges are discussed.


The most common challenge for team members is finding sufficient time. The program provides deadlines by which each of the observations within a cycle must occur to ensure that interns receive consistent support across the year as opposed to receiving all of the support during, for example, the last month of school (the first cycle ends in November, the second in February, and so forth). Team members must be consistent in their efforts to provide timely observation, feedback, and reflection. Toward that end, resource teachers provide a significant number of hours in mentoring activities before, during, and after the school day. This consistency is particularly essential for those interns who require significant growth and change in order to be successful.

Results from previous research have suggested that frequency of contact appears to be an important factor in the perceived effectiveness of the mentor program (Whitaker, 2000). Although the time commitment for principals and teacher educators is significantly less than the time invested by mentors, these members must also schedule time for observation, conferences with the intern, and committee meetings.

Reluctance in Seeking or Providing Information

New professionals may demonstrate reluctance to seek advice and consultation from their team members, fearful that they may be viewed as incompetent or unprepared. Likewise, mentors may feel inadequate or unsure of their own skills and knowledge base and may be reluctant to offer or initiate help-giving. Team members may also sense conflict among their various roles as advisors, mentors, and evaluators. If they cannot recommend the intern for full certification, mentors or other team members may feel torn between their role to guide and mentor the intern and their role to assess and evaluate his or her progress. This dilemma of conflicting roles (assistance and evaluation) has been frequently discussed in the literature (Gallacher, 1997; Gratch, 1998) and is an unfortunate but natural consequence of a mentoring model. (It is important to note that in the very few cases where interns do actually fail the internship [less than 1% annually], they may file an appeal with the Education Professional Standards Board to have the decision reversed).

Mentoring Match

A variable often cited in the mentoring literature is the quality of the personal and professional match between mentor and protege (Gratch, 1998; Littleton, Tally-Foos, & Wolaver, 1992). This appears to be an especially critical factor for beginning teachers in IECE. Like many of their special education colleagues, the IECE teacher may be the only early childhood educator or early childhood special educator on the school campus. Previous studies have found that beginning special education teachers are often assigned mentors who are not special education teachers (Whitaker, 2000; White, 1995)–even though the preference of beginning teachers for mentors who teach the same grade level and same content has been well documented (Eckert & Bey, 1990; Ganser, 1991; Littleton et al., 1992). However, in rural areas or small schools a preferred match may be impossible. Furthermore, because early childhood special education and interdisciplinary early childhood education are relatively new fields and serve a relatively small number of children (compared to those served by elementary or middle school programs), the statewide pool of experienced teachers who hold such a degree and are willing to be mentors is currently insufficient. Special education teachers have been reported (Pugach, 1992; Whitaker, 2000) to indicate a strong preference for special education mentors who may not be in their school over mentors who are in the same school but have a different specialty. This appears to be true for IECE teachers also, so that IECE mentors from another school may be preferable to a general educator or special educator based at the same school as the intern but unfamiliar with the unique needs of young children with or without disabilities.

IECE interns may also face problems when the principal of the KTIP team is not an early childhood educator or is not knowledgeable in the use of developmentally appropriate practices and curriculum. IECE interns have reported by anecdote (although no state data validate these claims) that the KTIP principals do not understand the unique needs of young children and could not or would not accommodate the constructivist classroom (the “learning by doing” philosophy) of the early childhood educator.

Early Intervention and Early Care and Education Settings

Although the internship program for early childhood was designed to be used across all early childhood education and intervention settings, significant barriers exist for its use by prospective interns employed outside the public school system (e.g., those interns employed by Head Start, private early care and education centers, and the early intervention system). For example, Kentucky uses a vendor system of public and private early intervention providers to serve eligible infants and toddlers and their families. Providers may also contract with the system to act independently and function completely autonomously. Many graduates of IECE personnel preparation programs choose to provide early intervention services through independent contracts with the early intervention system. Their expertise and enthusiasm are welcomed by the early intervention system; however, their employment within this system poses a significant barrier to their completion of an internship and, consequently, to their ability to apply for a regular teaching certificate.

At the completion of their preservice program, IECE graduates receive a provisional certificate. A year’s supervised internship must be completed within 5 years to obtain regular certification. The Education Professional Standards Board has specified that internship sites must meet the following criteria: (a) be accredited by a national or regional organization (e.g., National Association for the Education of Young Children, Southern Association for Colleges and Schools), (b) have a professional who can serve as the administrator, and (c) have a professional who can serve as a mentor (master’s degree with 4 years of experience). For IECE graduates who obtain employment with accredited center-based early intervention or preschool programs, the internship poses no difficulty; provisions exist within the KTIP regulations for a center director to act as the principal and an experienced teacher to assume the resource teacher’s role. However, for the independent, home-based providers or graduates who obtain employment with a nonaccredited program, these supports are not currently in place. Furthermore, a comprehensive system of support and assessment for interns delivering home-based services to young children may be so costly and difficult to implement in the rural, isolated areas of Appalachian Kentucky that it is beyond the budget of the current system. The IECE new teacher standards were developed so that they are appropriate for the evaluation of the intern in home-based or early care and education settings, but an administrative structure is not currently in place to support interns in home-based or nonaccredited early care and education settings. Current internship regulations require center-based classroom observations and experiences for people who may be employed postinternship as interventionists serving children in their homes.

Between 150 and 175 students have completed IECE certification programs (undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate) each year since 1998 (A. R. French, personal communication, January 2001). Although no state data exist to document the number of graduates who obtain employment each year in the early intervention system, approximately 155 providers of early intervention services currently need internship placements. The state early intervention director is currently in conversation with the Education Professional Standards Board to address this challenge and discuss appropriate solutions through legislative action and amendment. Two broad strategies are being discussed (T. Nowak, personal communication, April 9, 2001): The first is to expand the definition of the committee to include directors of accredited agencies and to ensure that resource teachers have knowledge of service delivery in both center-based and home-based settings, and the second seeks to address the lack of accredited sites in rural areas of the state by developing sites that meet accreditation requirements through the Kentucky Department of Education (as well as national and regional accreditation requirements), working with existing accredited sites to expand services to include home-based services, and providing technical assistance to encourage agencies to obtain accreditation. Stakeholders believe that public policymakers may be receptive to these strategies in view of recent gubernatorial and legislative initiatives to improve the quality of early care and education environments and service for young children in the Commonwealth.

The Kentucky model promotes several promising practices to support teacher competence and satisfaction: mentoring, performance assessments based on professional standards, portfolio development to document progress and attainment of individualized competencies and competencies not easily observed, and professional development plans. Each of these practices supports the young professional’s transition from a tightly supervised, dependent preservice environment to a more collegial, autonomous inservice experience.

Research Difficulties

Although KTIP’s structure addresses much of the research about teacher development, no research is currently available to support its effectiveness for IECE teachers, and little research is available to support the impact on K-12 teachers. The only program-specific data come from two surveys about how the program has been viewed by a broader group of new K-12 teachers. Even these results must be viewed with caution due to limitations regarding specificity of sample characteristics and survey design. Nevertheless, as part of the first survey conducted by Wilkerson & Associates in 1997, teachers with 3 years or less experience rated the program’s helpfulness using a Likert scale (5 = extremely helpful, 0 = no help at all); the majority of the 1,066 who completed the survey (19% of teachers in this category) rated the program as very helpful (M = 3.85). Similarly, most respondents rated the mentor (resource teacher) as particularly helpful (M = 4.26). Results of the second survey conducted in 1998 by the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board, which included first-year teachers only, correlates with these findings. Ninety-seven percent of the 375 respondents (representing 15% of the interns) reported that committee members provided positive suggestions to improve practice, and 91% reported that the process promoted professional growth (Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board, 1998).

One explanation for the paucity of research is that until very recently, state policy makers have focused primarily on developmental issues in an effort to align the program with changes in the field. Last year, however, the Education Professional Standards Board took steps to establish a systematic accountability and data collection system. The result is an analytic and holistic scoring system that will be added next year for K-12 teachers. The new system, based on the addition of benchmarks to support the standards, was developed by a board-appointed committee representing a broad constituency of educators. A committee of early childhood educators is adapting the new system for IECE teachers at this writing.

When the new system is implemented, committee members will be required to transmit scores electronically to the Board for analysis. As part of the submission procedure, they will be asked to evaluate the effectiveness of the program changes on a Web-based survey. Results of the data analysis and evaluation survey will be presented to the Board and used to inform decisions about future program development. Through these efforts, a systematic and systemic evaluation will be embedded in the KTIP process. These data may then be used to improve the program and to ascertain if the program is meeting the goals of increased teacher effectiveness and improved retention (Brennan et al., 2000).

Policymakers also see many potential benefits to the new scoring system. It will allow the state to track scores, validate the benchmarks, examine the system’s reliability across contexts, and provide teacher preparation institutions with information about their graduates. Most important, data about performance on the benchmarks will give interns and the committee members who guide their work more specific information about progress and will thus help to improve mentoring efforts.

Professional development for all committee members may be enhanced through this process. Resource teachers, principals, and teacher educators will have access to feedback from interns regarding areas for possible improvement. They will also have opportunities to reflect on areas of improvement identified by trends across interns so that they may adjust their strategies for assistance and/or increase their level of knowledge regarding the implementation of specific standards (e.g., assessment, working with families). Data may enable the state to identify resource teachers who appear to have been particularly strong in supporting the intern in specific standards and who may be able to provide technical assistance and support to other resource teachers specifically and to the field in general.

In the past 5 years, approximately 17,000 new teachers have completed the internship program; of these, approximately 100 complete the process in IECE annually. The program provides all participants–resource teachers, principals, teacher educators, and interns–the opportunity to collaborate with their colleagues to improve the quality of teaching in each classroom and to positively influence the lives of young children in the Commonwealth.


In 1996, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future found that in addition to providing little support for beginning teachers, most school districts made relatively little investment in the ongoing professional development of their experienced teachers. A prominent researcher in the field stated, “if the process of induction can be made less traumatic and destructive, perhaps we can reduce the extremely high attrition rates for teachers during their first five years. One of the most tragic aspects of high attrition is the loss of our most promising new teachers” (Debolt, 1992, p. ix). The Kentucky internship program seeks to prevent the loss of the new professional and to promote the further development of the mature professional. The primary goal of the internship program is to nurture and promote the retention of competent teachers through meaningful mentoring that helps them develop the necessary skills to become more effective teachers. At the heart of the program is the premise that reflection about child learning represents a critical link to teacher effectiveness. The program uses a reflective teaching model that emphasizes the continuous analysis of child learning. This continuous assessment process begins as teachers focus on the actions they take to facilitate the development of learning for young children. Next, they reflect on the impact of those actions on learning; and finally they consider refinement (i.e., what they will do next as a result of child learning or lack thereof). Then the cycle begins again. Opportunity for reflection is taken a step further in the Kentucky model by creating a forum for reflection through conversations with committee members and documentation in a portfolio.

This structured support and assessment process allows committee members to observe and confer individually and collectively with the intern during conferences and committee meetings throughout the year as the intern’s thinking and teaching evolve. The intern receives guidance and support during conferences, committee meetings, and 70 hours (in and out of the classroom) of mentoring from the resource teacher. Committee members use observation and portfolio review to measure the intern’s progress using as a yardstick the nine teacher standards that relate specifically to working with young children. Assessment remains formative throughout most of the internship year, with a summative evaluation at the end of the year when the determination about certification eligibility is made. The program may also provide an opportunity to establish a strong connection between assessment and practice as committee members observe teacher behaviors and review and analyze intern portfolios (Darling-Hammond, Wise, & Klein, 1999).

Professional development activities such as the KTIP are critical to the successful education of young children. Services for all young children are increasingly being provided in inclusive settings (Division for Early Childhood, 2000; Diamond & Stacey, 2000; McWilliams, 1996; Walsh, Rous, & Lutzer, 2000). The delivery of these services in natural and inclusive settings is considered critical to the development of young children with disabilities (DEC, 2000; Odom & McLean, 1996). Inclusive service delivery requires that the preparation of teachers and other service providers be interdisciplinary (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997; Burton, Hains, Hanline, McLean, & McCormick, 1992; Miller & Stayton, 1998; Miller & Stayton, 2000). Interdisciplinary or blended programs (such as Kentucky’s IECE program) attempt to meet the preservice and professional development needs of professionals who provide services to young children with disabilities and their families (Blanton, Griffin, Winn, & Pugach, 1997; Miller & Stayton, 1998, 1999). The KTIP program for IECE interns closely parallels that of the Field Experience Category of the Division for Early Childhood Recommended Practices in Personnel Preparation (Miller & Stayton, 2000).

Many aspects of the program are amenable to replication in other states and settings. Some of these include use of mentoring, reliance on principles of effective teaching and the development of standards to support these principles, and performance-based assessments. However, one significant and contributing factor to the success of the KTIP is its alignment with changes in the field through dynamic, responsive change. Changes are deliberate and thoughtful and occur with input from and in collaboration with stakeholders (legislators, universities, districts, and practitioners). This ability to change is dependent on the collaboration of these partners and their active commitment to the success of the program; this level of collaboration is essential to the success of the program. In addition, the Education Professional Standards Board is autonomous in its responsibility for the supervision, management, and improvement of the program. To this end, fiscal resources are appropriated to fund the program, specific staff are assigned to the program, and supportive materials (print, multimedia, and on-line) are available at no cost to team members and the general community. Some of these materials are referenced in the boxed sidebar. Because of these supports, the board has been able to coordinate several revisions in the standards and in the assessment instruments. Therefore, it must be acknowledged that the success of the program has been directly influenced by a responsive and active General Assembly, State Board of Education, institutions of higher education, and education community. This level of collaboration was a direct outgrowth of the Kentucky Education Reform Act and may not be evidenced in other states and communities. This commitment is evidenced by this comment, “Professional development is not just another dimension of education reform. It is the linchpin of reforms. Without it, the vision of new learning for all students cannot be realized” (McDiarmid, David, Kannapel, Corcoran, & Coe, 1990, p. 1).

The Kentucky Education Reform Act has been described as “one of the most comprehensive restructuring efforts ever undertaken by a Legislature” (“Lawmakers in Kentucky Approve Landmark School Reform Bill,” 1990) in Education Week and “the most sweeping education package ever conceived by a state Legislature” (Fiske, 1990, p. 6) in The New York Times. KTIP may have an equally significant and long-term impact on the lives of Kentucky’s children because it improves the efficacy and satisfaction of their teachers through a carefully structured, supportive professional development system. Those who work with the program truly believe increased retention of the new professional will result. The retention of U.S. teachers is a paramount concern for educators, policymakers, and the public as Kentucky and other states face impending shortages of teachers and tighter accountability for child progress and student achievement. The collaborative experience KTIP provides may also sustain and restore the professional growth and practice of the other team members. The Kentucky Teacher Internship Program holds the promise of invigorating and renewing the profession as each mentor becomes more skilled and knowledgeable and as interns become the next generation of mentors.




Teacher Intern —

SS# — Date of Observation

School — # — District — #

Type of Setting/Activity —

Ages of Children — Total Number of Children —

Number of Children With Special Needs —

Number of Assistants — Number of Volunteers —

Time Beginning — Time Ending — Length of Observation —

Standard I: Designs/Organizes SP IN NS

In the space below, provide evidence that illustrates the extent to which the intern …

A. designs developmentally appropriate activity-based learning experiences

B. makes provisions for special needs

C. plans for safe, healthy environments

D. bases curriculum and instruction on developmental needs and Kentucky’s learning goals

E. facilitates positive guidance/self-regulation of the child

F. links learning with cultural, social and family diversity

G. incorporates multiple disciplines and service plans

H. incorporates family resources, priorities and concerns

I. relates current learning to transition plans

J. uses technology to enhance learning and participation

K. selects developmentally and individually appropriate strategies and resources

L. provides a stimulus-rich indoor/outdoor environment

M. identifies resources to accomplish management task

N. demonstrates knowledge of child development theory/research

Data from the Pre-observation Conference/Lesson Plan Review

Standard II: Creates Climate/Environments SP IN NS

In the space below, provide evidence that illustrates the extent to which the intern …

A. facilitates active involvement in a variety of structured and unstructured learning activities

B. facilitates acquisition/integration of skills/concepts

C. provides guidance/learning cues/positive feedback on progress

D. provides a stimulus-rich indoor/outdoor environment

E. uses technology/materials/media to enhance learning/control of the environment

F. manages antecedent/consequent conditions to foster self-management

G. uses cooperative learning to encourage interpersonal skills

H. adapts environment to address special needs

I. facilitates positive interaction between children and adults

J. uses physical/social/temporal environment to engage children and maximize learning

K. recognizes diversity as a strength in children and families

L. operates within legal and ethical guidelines

M. demonstrates knowledge of recommended practices and research in physical/social learning environments

Data from the Observation

Standard III:Manages/Implements Instruction SP IN NS

In the space below, provide evidence that illustrates the extent to which the intern …

A. facilitates active involvement in a variety of structured and unstructured learning activities

B. incorporates multiple disciplines and service plans

C. facilitates acquisition/integration of skills/concepts

D. implements child oriented strategies to meet individual needs

E. incorporates family-centered activities

F. links learning to the child’s experiences/knowledge in a culturally sensitive manner

G. provides guidance/learning cues/positive feedback on progress

H. uses pedagogically sound/legally defensible instructional practices

I. uses adaptations/positioning/handling strategies to involve children in multi-ability groups

J. uses technology/materials/media to enhance learning and control of the environment

K. manages antecedent and consequent condition to foster self-management behaviors

L. facilitates positive interactions between children and adults

M. uses physical, social, and temporal environment to engage children and maximize learning

N. identifies options/resources for transition to next class/program

O. identifies the goal of the management task

P. uses problem-solving and participatory group processes to address management problems

Q. establishes appropriate timelines for completing management tasks

R. demonstrates knowledge of recommended practices and research in instructional strategies and management

Data from the Observation

Standard IV: Assesses Learning

In the space below, provide evidence that illustrates the extent to which the intern …

A. uses multiple assessment modes and methods with adaptions for children with special needs

B. uses assessment tools/procedures according to standards

C. actively involves families in the assessment process

D. collects data systematically and records progress

E. organizes assessment data and communicates results to families and other team members in every day language

F. identifies options and resources for transition to next class/program

G. evaluates development/learning in a culturally sensitive manner

H. applies state/national guidelines/mandates in child evaluation

I. demonstrates knowledge of recommended practices and research in the assessment process

Data from Observation and Portfolio Review

Standard V: Reflects On/Evaluates Program

In the space below, provide evidence that illustrates the extent to which the intern …

A. articulates and assesses the learning situation with respect to key elements

B. applies professional guidelines/mandates in program evaluation

C. evaluates impact of the program on child learning/development

D. identifies professional development needs of assistants, staff and volunteers

E. critically reviews and applies research and recommended practices in the program

F. involves families, other team members, community patron and advisory boards in evaluation of programs

G. proposes changes to improve learning and development

H. demonstrates knowledge of recommended practices and research in program evaluation

Data from the Post-observation Conference, and Portfolio Review

Conference and Portfolio Notes

The signatures below verify that the marking of each standard and the supporting data have been discussed with the intern.

Observer’s Name (print) —

Observer’s Signature —

Intern’s Signature —

Standard VI: Collaborates With Others

In the space below, provide evidence that illustrates the extent to which the intern …

A. uses effective team membership and interpersonal skills to support collaboration

B. involves parents as partners on the team

C. involves appropriate persons and agencies to address the situation, problem, or task

D. follows through on input from other members of the team

E. encourages contributions from a variety of sources and backgrounds

F. collaborates with families/personnel to support child transition

G. makes appropriate referrals and provides functional and appropriate assessments as an interdisciplinary team member

H. writes IEPs/IFSPs/transition plans with the team

I. articulates children’s goals to assistants, staff and volunteers

J. uses adult learning principles in training and supervision of assistants, staff and volunteers

K. assesses the professional growth needs of assistants, staff and volunteers in a culturally sensitive manner

L. identifies professional development needs of assistants, staff and volunteer

M. evaluates and provides feedback on performance

N. demonstrates knowledge of recommended practice and research in interdisciplinary collaboration and consultation

Data from Portfolio Review

Standard VII: Engages in Professional Development

In the space below, provide evidence that illustrates the extent to which the intern …

A. assesses own performance and identifies areas for growth

B. articulates a professional development plan

C. shows documented evidence of growth and performance

F. demonstrates professional growth through participation in professional organizations

G. critically reviews and applies research and recommended practices in the program

H. expands personal knowledge of child development, interdisciplinary practice and family-centered service

Data from Portfolio Review

Standard VIII: Supports Families

In the space below, provide evidence that illustrates the extent to which the intern …

A. assists family in articulating priorities, concerns and resources

B. demonstrates sensitivity to family differences

C. implements family-centered services which support child development

D. informs families of legal rights and program procedures

E. implements a continuum of family-oriented services

F. applies adult learning principles to parent education activities

G. uses varied two-way communication strategies

H. demonstrates knowledge of recommended practice and research in family systems theory and family-centered services

Data from Portfolio Review


In the space below, provide evidence that illustrates the extent to which the intern …

A. operates a multimedia computer and peripherals to install and use a variety of software.

B. uses terminology related to computers and technology appropriately in written and verbal communication.

C. demonstrates knowledge of the use of technology in business, industry, and society.

D. demonstrates basic knowledge of computer/ peripheral parts and attends to simple connections and installations.

E. creates multimedia presentations using scanners, digital cameras, and video cameras.

F. uses the computer to do word processing, create databases and spreadsheets, access electronic mail and the Internet, make presentations, and use other emerging technologies to enhance professional productivity and support instruction.

G. uses computers and other technologies such as interactive instruction, audio/video conferencing, and other distance learning applications to enhance professional productivity and support instruction.

H. requests and uses appropriate assistive and adaptive devices for students with special needs.

I. designs lessons that use technology to address diverse student needs and learning styles.

J. practices equitable and legal use of computers and technology in professional activities.

K. facilitates the lifelong learning of self and others through the use of technology.

L. explores, uses, and evaluates technology resources: software, applications, and related documentation.

M. applies research-based instructional practices that use computers and other technology.

N. uses computers and other technology for individual, small group, and large group learning activities.

O. uses technology to support multiple assessments of student learning.

P. instructs and supervises students in ethical and legal use of technology.

Data from Observation and Portfolio Review

Note. From IECE Observation Instrument and Portfolio Review Form, by K. McCormick and Sharon Brennan, 1995, Education Professional Standards Board. Copyright 1995 by Education Professional Standards Board. Reprinted with permission.

TABLE 1. New Teacher Standards for Preparation and Certification:

Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education Birth to Primary

Standard Description

I. Designs/ The early childhood educator shall design and

Organizes organize learning environments, experiences, and

Instruction instruction that address the developmental needs of

infants and toddlers, preschool children and

kindergarten children and goals established by KRS

158:6451. The early childhood educator shall develop

plans for: a) implementation in a classroom setting;

b) implementation in a home or other settings;

c) implementation by teaching assistants and other

staff in a variety of settings; and d) training

teaching assistants, other staff and parents. These

plans include Individual Family Service Plans

(IFSPs), Individual Education Programs, (IEPs), and

transition plans for children across disabilities

developed in partnership with family members. 704

KAR 20:084 Section 9(1)

II. Creates/ The early childhood educator shall create appropriate

Maintains learning environments for infants, toddlers,

Learning preschool children, and kindergarten children that

Climates are supportive of the developmental needs of the age

group and goals established by KRS 158-6451. The

early childhood educator shall provide developmental

and learning activities in classroom settings and

home settings, and in other settings, such as other

preschools, child care programs and hospitals.

Within these settings, the learning context may

include individual child activities, parent-child

activities, small groups, and large groups. The early

childhood educator creates appropriate learning

environments for children with diverse abilities

including children with and without disabilities.

704 KAR 20:094 Section 9(2).

III. Implements/ The early childhood educator shall introduce,

Manages implement, facilitate and manage development and

Instruction learning for infants, toddlers, preschool children,

and kindergarten children to promote growth toward

developmental needs of the age group and goals

established by KRS 158-6451. The early childhood

educator shall implement instruction in classroom

and home settings, through itinerant services, and

in other settings such as day care, other preschools

and hospitals. The early childhood educator shall

implement instruction for young children with diverse

abilities including with and without disabilities.

704 KAR 20:084 Section 9(3).

IV. Assesses & The early childhood educator shall assess children’s

Communicates cognitive, emotional, social, communicative, adaptive

Learning and physical development; organize assessment

Results information; and communicate the results appropriate

to the purpose of the assessment. Assessment purposes

shall include a) determining learning results;

b) developmental screening; c) program planning;

d) eligibility for disability services; e) program

evaluation; f) program on IFSPs and IEPs; and

g) needs for transition to the next education setting

or program. 704 KAR 20:084 Section 9(4).

V. Reflects/ The early childhood educator shall reflect on and

Evaluates evaluate teaching and learning situations, learning

Teaching/ environments, and learning programs for infants,

Learning toddlers, preschool children, kindergarten children,

and their families. This shall include learning

situations and programs that are provided in relation

to an IFSP or an IEP and by the early childhood

educator, a teaching assistant or other staff member,

the family, or other caregiver. 704 KAR 20:084

Section 9(5).

VI. Collaborates The early childhood educator shall collaborate and

with consult with the following to design, implement, and

Colleagues/ support learning programs for children: staff in a

Parents/Others team effort; volunteers; families and primary

caregivers; other educational, child care, health

and social services providers in an interagency and

interdisciplinary team; and local, state and federal

agencies. 704 KAR 20:084 9(6).

VII. Engages in The early childhood educator shall engage in

Professional self-evaluation of teaching and management skills

Development and participate in professional development to

improve performance. This shall include the

following performance areas; a) designing and

planning developmental and learning activities;

b) creating learning environments; c) implementing

and managing activities d) assessing children’s

learning development e) evaluating learning

situations and environmental programs; and

f) collaborating with colleagues, parents, and

others. 704 KAR 20:084 9(7).

VIII. Supports The early childhood educator shall support and

Families promote the self-sufficiency of families as they

care for and provide safe, healthy, stimulating,

and nurturing environments for young children.

704 KAR 20:084 Section 9(8).

IX. Demonstrates The teacher uses technology to support instruction;

Implementation access and manipulate data; enhance professional

of Technology growth and productivity; communicate and collaborate

with colleagues, parents, and the community; and

conduct research. (not in regulations yet)

Source: Kentucky Administrative Regulation 704 20:084:

Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education, Birth to Primary.


The following resources are available for the interested reader:

KTIP Handbook: Guiding and Assessing Teacher Effectiveness

Tips for Mentoring Kentucky’s Intern Teachers

The Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board, Division of Educator Preparation and Internship


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Billingsley, B. S. (1993). Teacher retention and attrition in special and general education: A critical review of the literature. The Journal of Special Education, 27, 137-174.

Black, J. K., & Puckett, M. B. (1996). The young child: Development from prebirth through age eight (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Blanton, L. P., Griffin, C. C., Winn, J. A., & Pugach, M. C. (1997). Collaborative programs to prepare general and special educators. Denver: Love.

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Bredekamp, S., & Willer, B. (1992). Of ladders and lattices, cores and cones: Conceptualizing an early childhood professional development system. Young Children, 47(3), 47-51.

Brennan, S., Roberts, D., Thames, W., & Miller, K. (2000). Guiding and assessing teacher effectiveness: A handbook for training intern committee members. Frankfort: Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board.

Brennan, S., Thames, W., & Roberts, D. (1999). Mentoring with a mission. Educational Leadership, 56(8), 49-52.

Burton, C. B., Hains, A. H., Hanline, M. E, McLean, M., & McCormick, K. (1992). Early childhood intervention and education: The urgency of professional unification. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 2(4), 53-69.

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Whitebook, M., Hnatiuk, P., & Bellm, D. (1994). Mentoring: An important state in our profession’s development. In The National Center for the Early Childhood Workforce (Ed.), Mentoring in early care and education: Refining an emerging career path (pp. 14-17). Washington, DC: Center for the Child Care Workforce.

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Winton, P. J., & McCollum, J. A. (1997). Ecological perspectives on personnel preparation: Rationale, framework, and guidelines for change. In P. J. Winton, J. A. McCollum, & C. Catlett (Eds.), Reforming personnel preparation in early intervention (pp. 81101). Baltimore: Brookes.

Address: Katherine M. McCormick, 229 Taylor, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0001.

Katherine M. McCormick and Sharon Brennan

University of Kentucky


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