Early Childhood Preparation Policy
The state should ensure that its teacher preparation programs provide early childhood teachers with age-appropriate content knowledge and instructional strategies. This goal was new in 2017 and was not graded.
Alabama offers a PreK-3 early childhood license. PreK-3 candidates are required to pass the Praxis II Early Childhood Education (5025) test and the Praxis II Teaching Reading (5204) test.
New legislation in Alabama established a new PreK-K license covering birth through age 4. It is unclear which content tests are required for this license.
Emergent Literacy and Oral Language: Alabama's required test of PreK-3 candidates (Praxis II Teaching Reading  test) addresses emergent literacy and oral language. This test requires candidates to demonstrate understanding of oral language through mastery of the following: the differences between phonemic and phonological awareness; the connection between fluency and comprehension; use of effective instructional strategies to improve oral reading fluency; vocabulary, alphabetic principles/phonics, and word analysis; and developmental stages for readers of all ages. The Praxis II Early Childhood Education (5025) test requires candidates to demonstrate understanding of emergent literacy through mastery of the following: helping students develop an understanding of print awareness; knowledge of phonological awareness in literacy development; the role of fluency in literacy development; and the impact of fluency on reading comprehension. The Early Childhood Education test also includes topics suitable for teachers of students in the elementary grades, including the role of text complexity in reading development and understanding the characteristics of effective writing.
With regard to oral language, the Teaching Reading test requires candidates to understand the "interrelatedness between oral language development and reading skills" as well as the "appropriate techniques to assess students' oral language development." The test addresses concepts of print and requires the candidate to recognize "the interrelatedness between print and speech."
Preparation standards for the PreK-K license do not include concepts related to emergent literacy or oral language.
Emergent Mathematics and Science: Alabama's required test for PreK-3 candidates (Praxis II Early Childhood Education  test) addresses the concepts of emergent mathematics. Candidates are tested on emergent mathematics concepts that "relate to future mathematical concept development," including:
Praxis Test Requirement www.ets.org Alabama Administrative Code (AAC) 290-3-3-.03; -.05 AAC 290-3-3-.04.01 https://docs.google.com/a/nctq.org/document/d/1TrGMkRtITTJHfznIzA3Y4GjhVRS1PBgyNC9u6ViXVwk/edit?usp=sharing State Board of Education Minutes July 11, 2017 https://www.alsde.edu/sites/boe/Pages/sboemeetingminutes-item.aspx?FilterField1=Meeting_x0020_Date&FilterValue1=7/11/2017
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess sufficient knowledge of emergent literacy and oral language.
Alabama should—either through teacher preparation standards or test frameworks—ensure that all preschool teachers understand how to develop children's oral language skills and build children's emergent literacy. This understanding is important because of the critical role that preschool teachers play in language development.
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess sufficient knowledge of emergent mathematics and science.
Alabama should—either through teacher preparation standards or test frameworks—ensure that all preschool teachers understand how to introduce and develop children's mathematical skills and effectively introduce science concepts. This understanding is crucial because early introduction to complex mathematical concepts can affect later achievement in mathematics.
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess sufficient knowledge of the main developmental stages from birth through age eight.
Alabama should ensure—either through testing or preparation standards—that all preschool teachers are knowledgeable of children's developmental stages from birth through age eight. Such knowledge is essential so that all preschool teachers have an in-depth understanding of the children they are teaching.
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess the skills to create a positive and productive classroom environment.
Alabama should ensure that all preschool teachers possess adequate understanding of how to develop children's executive functioning skills, build social emotional skills and manage children's play for learning purposes. This knowledge is critically important to ensuring that all preschool teachers are able to establish an environment that actively supports learning.
Alabama was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts necessary for this analysis. In addition, the state referenced the Alabama Core Teaching Standards with regard to age-appropriate content knowledge and instructional strategies, as well as a productive classroom environment.
A strong preschool experience can set children up for achievement gains in elementary school, and even more critically, for improved long-term outcomes including college attendance and degree completion. However, not all preschool programs have achieved these positive results. To increase the likelihood that children will reap benefits from attending preschool, states should ensure that the preschool teachers have certain essential skills and knowledge.
To lay children's foundation for learning to read—and to open the door to other areas of learning—teachers must understand how to develop children's oral language skills and build children's emergent literacy. Especially for young children who are already behind, preschool teachers can play a critical role in language development. Emergent literacy encompasses a range of skills that are essential to reading, but may not come naturally to all children. These skills include phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, learning the alphabet, and concepts of print. Teacher training in these areas can translate into substantial gains for children in alphabet knowledge, vocabulary, and language skills. The early introduction of language and literacy can make a lasting difference for children. Unsurprisingly, children with low language and literacy skills in preschool demonstrate lower reading skills in kindergarten. However, not all approaches to teaching emergent literacy are equally effective, and the quality of preschool curricula varies, making it that much more important that preschool teachers have ample training in how to develop their preschoolers' emergent literacy skills.
Preschool teachers need similar grounding in teaching emergent math and science concepts. Research finds that introducing children to more complex mathematical concepts from an early age may increase their math ability in later years. In fact, some research suggests that the relationship between children's early math skills and future math achievement is twice as strong as the relationship between emergent literacy and future reading achievement. Little research exists on what teachers need to know about preschool science instruction, but experts agree that this area is important.
Beyond knowing what to teach, preschool teachers need to understand the children they are teaching. As such, knowledge of child development from birth to age eight is important. Similarly, preschool teachers need to know effective classroom management strategies that can build social-emotional skills and prevent or resolve many behavioral problems. Of course, classroom management is about more than discipline: it is about establishing an environment that actively supports learning, including understanding how to develop children's executive functioning skills and manage children's play for learning purposes. Teachers' emotional support for their students is associated with better social competence and lower rates of behavior problems.