A recently released report from the New America Foundation — “Getting in Sync: Revamping Licensure and Preparation for Teachers in Pre-K, Kindergarten and the Early Grades” – makes the case for requiring public school pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and primary grade teachers to be trained in early childhood.
“The quality of the instruction that children receive in pre-kindergarten through the third grade can make a lasting impact on how well they perform throughout their years in school,” the report says. “How can we ensure that children of these ages have teachers who can reach them at their level? One crucial step is to fix how those teachers are prepared in the first place…. First, the quality of teacher preparation programs must be improved so that they adequately prepare teachers to work with children at these ages. Second, classrooms in the early grades must be filled by teachers who come from these high-quality preparation programs, not by teachers who are unprepared to engage young children.”
The researchers base their analysis and recommendations on a sampling of states – Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Overall, they found teacher preparation programs with “little attention on developmental science” and “limited opportunities for high-quality practical experiences.” Bright spots included Arizona State University’s “immersion-style preparation program” and New Jersey’s requirement that prospective teachers have a liberal arts major along with their concentration in early childhood education.
The foundation made recommendations in several areas. Among them:
- Teacher preparation programs should increase admission requirements, provide more field experiences and hire faculty with expertise teaching this age group.
- States should require approved programs to have multiple field experiences and should provide a separate license for the early years.
- School districts should “provide professional development for principals that includes training on early childhood education and highlights both the importance of family engagement and how young children learn content.”
- The federal government should “encourage high-quality alternative certification programs to include early childhood education” and help fund research on the “impact, over time, of teachers who have early childhood preparation and teach in the early grades.“
“Our analysis shows that preparation, licensure and hiring systems are not currently designed to produce and place teachers in these classrooms who are equipped to ensure that children get a strong foundation of knowledge and skills that will help them succeed in school and in life,” the report states. “The time is ripe to make positive changes to teacher preparation programs that will strengthen early childhood training.”