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CDA Information




CDA Classes at Early Childhood Connections –

This program consists of an orientation and eight 4-week courses.

  • All age settings - these classes are for all CDA settings (Infant/Toddler, Preschool, Family Child Care, Home Visitor)

  • Timeframe for classes is August through April

    • There will be one orientation (in person to collect supplies & review the CDA handbook)

    • Then, we meet every Tuesday 6:30 pm-9:00 pm via Zoom for classes

    • This program also uses Canvas, an online learning platform for submitting homework, taking quizzes, sending/receiving class communications, and accessing resources.

    • 120 total hours - 80 clock hours of classtime + 40 hours of credit for completing the workbook

      • Transcripts are released upon completion of classes & coursework

  • The cost is $800


    • No payment due at enrollment
    • All supplies are provided - including a portfolio binder, labels, dividers, and page protectors

    • Discussions with other professionals

    • The Essentials Workbook & Textbook help prepare you for completing components of the portfolio.

    • Support with workbook homework

    • Guidance & templates for compiling the CDA Professional Portfolio

    • FULL SCHOLARSHIP is available if you work in a state licensed/registered program –you must also be at least a Level I on the South Dakota Pathways to Professional Development Career Lattice

SELF-STUDY ONLINE CDA classes with Smart Horizons***

  • 120 hours of classtime - Self-study program, at your own pace on a computer

  • Age-specific program

    • Options - Infant/Toddler or Preschool/Family option

  • Cost for classes only is $269 - payment due at enrollment

    • This does not include help with portfolio, however, there may be a scholarship for portfolio support available – paid to your local ECE office - you must apply for the scholarship

    • No scholarship for classes available

  • Cost of $749 with portfolio assistance - payment due at enrollment

  • Transcript upon completion of the program through Smart Horizons


***If taking classes through Smart Horizons (or other sources besides ECC), please note that you must also purchase a Competency Standards book $28.00 + shipping/tax.

You can order your CS book here “CDA Competency Books”  - select the correct book for your setting- 

VERY IMPORTANT: This book is required. It has the Comprehensive Scoring Instrument that will be used during your verification visit. It will also guide you in how to put together your portfolio and is required during the Verification Visit as it has the assessment tool included.

Portfolio Support

Download this page!

Get access to videos that can help support you in putting together your CDA Portfolio

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When your 120 hours and portfolio are complete, you may apply to the CDA council.

Guidelines from the CDA council (must have these before applying:

  • 480 hours working in center-based care with children in the age group of CDA setting in the last 3 years (can include volunteer work)

  • High School Diploma or equivalent

  • 120 clock hours of formal training (ex.- CDA classes at ECC, Smart Horizon, etc.)


More information from the CDA Council


HELP PROVIDED: The CDA Council now has tutorial videos

that help guide you through the application process:



The CDA Application Fee is $425 (paid to the CDA council)

A second scholarship is available for the $425 fee if you work in a state licensed/registered program

To qualify for this scholarship, you must:

  • Work in an SD licensed/registered program AND

  • Have taken the SD CDA program with Early Childhood Connections or online with Smart Horizons AND

  • Completed the SD Pathways to Professional Development Career Lattice AND

  • You must contact Early Childhood Connections 605-342-6464 to set up a meeting to review your portfolio and complete an assessment scholarship paperwork. Prior to the portfolio review, you will need to create an account on YourCouncil and have your "Customer ID" available for the scholarship paperwork.


There is a 65-question exam you will take at a certified testing site, and a Verification Visit (observation) will also need to be scheduled with and completed by a PD Specialist after the council approves your application. The application fee covers the exam and Verification Visit.


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