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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET MOVING EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION FORWARD  |   3 During the past half-century of exponential growth, the field has largely reacted to its changing circumstances. Instead of stepping forward in response to new realities and differently envisioning ECE as a field of practice in order to elevate collective competence, the field has looked to others to do the heavy lifting. Most especially, it has relied on advocates, policy makers, and individuals with business and financial clout to expand public recognition of ECE’s importance and enlarge public financing. Spurred by the field’s inaction, these supporters have begun defining ECE as a field of practice. While partnering with families, business, and government is essential to achieving the learning and development results wanted for children, the consequences of ECE’s external orientation are defining decrees from those outside the field. Unfortunately, these decrees too often are contrary to our beliefs and knowledge about how best to support children’s learning and development. The time has come for the ECE field to step forward and change from inside out—to retreat from over-reliance on policy makers and others as change agents on ECE’s behalf. Altering the discouraging facts listed earlier depends on our field accepting responsibility for its practitioners’ competency and their contributions to chil- dren’s learning and development. ECE needs to become accountable as a field of practice and be the change agent in defining what this means. ECE has long claimed the mantle of professionalism, and by almost all indicators the nature of its work aligns with that of a profession. Yet as a field of practice, ECE lacks the attributes associated with recognized professions: • clarity of shared purpose; • organizing structures and supportive institutions that bound practitioners by common knowledge and skills; • clear scopes of practice; • responsibility for evolving and applying a specialized knowledge base; and • acceptance of the ethical responsibility to perform consistently at a level of competence capable of promoting children’s learning and development. 7 By structuring ECE as a profession, the field can create a cohesive occupational con- figuration aligned with its values and beliefs and with the systemic capacity to offer COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL