Johnna Darragh Ernst


Dr. Johnna Darragh Ernst is a Distinguished Professor of Early Childhood Education at Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois. For the past several years, her work has focused on collaboratively developing competency-based pathways supporting early childhood practitioners in Illinois and serving as a lead consultant in developing the Illinois ECE Competency-Based Assessment System. Together with Dr. Nancy Latham, Dr. Darragh Ernst coordinated the movement of seven Illinois credentials to a competency-based system. In addition to publishing numerous articles, she has authored two early childhood textbooks focusing on inclusion and family engagement. She co-authored and edited Voices from the Field: Collaborative Innovations in Early Childhood Educator Preparation (Bernoteit, Darragh Ernst, & Latham, 2016), which focuses on the Illinois effort to develop a competency-based model of early childhood educator preparation.

Her current external leadership relating to competency-based education includes serving as a tri-chair on the Illinois Professional Development Advisory Council and as a member of the Illinois State Competency Leadership Team. She is on the Steering Committee for the Illinois State Board of Education’s project, which serves to move state teaching standards to competencies. She has also worked to support the development and implementation of Walden University’s innovative Tempo Learning competency-based education program. Within Heartland, Dr. Darragh Ernst has created several competency-based learning pathways designed to maximize student access, decrease student cost, and minimize time to credential and degree.

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