Early Childhood Preparation Policy
The state should require its teacher preparation programs to provide early childhood teachers with age-appropriate content knowledge and instructional strategies. Starting in 2020, this goal is now graded.
Alabama offers a PreK-3 early childhood license. PreK-3 candidates are required to pass the Praxis Early Childhood Education (5025) test and the Praxis Teaching Reading (5204) test. The state also offers a PreK-K license covering birth-age 4. Candidates for this license are required to pass the Praxis Pre-Kindergarten Education (5531) test.
Emergent Literacy and Oral Language: Alabama's required test of PreK-3 candidates (Praxis 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 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. The Praxis Pre-Kindergarten Education (5531) test broadly addresses "literacy concepts (e.g., phonemic awareness, vocabulary, writing, shared reading)" a nd "allows children the opportunity to practice developmentally appropriate concepts during everyday classroom experiences (e.g., one-to-one correspondence, phonemic awareness)."
Emergent Mathematics and Science: Alabama's required test for PreK-3 candidates (Praxis 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: "Recognizes patterns, uses one-to-one correspondence, uses grouping and classification by one or more attributes, uses subitzing, uses sequencing and conservation of number, uses simple directions related to positions and proximity, represents numbers in multiple ways and uses counting and cardinality principles." Candidates are also required to know basic numbers and operations, algebraic thinking, geometry, measurement, and data. Such background is necessary to teach emerging math learners.
The Praxis Pre-Kindergarten Education (5531) test contains one standard addressing candidates' knowledge of "mathematical concepts (e.g., number sense, shapes, one-to-one correspondence, sequence)."
With regard to emergent science, the Praxis Early Childhood Education (5025) test requires early childhood candidates to know the scientific process, unifying science concepts (e.g., systems, cycles, constancy, and change) as well as basic science skills such as observing, classifying and collecting, and analyzing data. The test also covers basic concepts of physical, life, and earth and space science, as well as engineering and technology. Such background is necessary to teach emerging science learners.
The Praxis Pre-Kindergarten Education (5531) test contains one standard addressing candidates' knowledge of "scientific concepts (e.g., cause and effect, discovery learning, observation, change)."
Preparation standards for the PreK-K license do not include references to emergent mathematics or science.
Early Childhood Development: Alabama's PreK-3 standards require, candidates to "know and understand young children's characteristics and needs, from birth through age 8." The state's PreK-K standards require candidates to "know and understand young children's characteristics and needs, from birth through age 4." The Praxis Pre-Kindergarten Education (5531) test does not specifically address early childhood development from birth-age 8. The test measures candidates' knowledge of the "typical progression in each developmental domain of children from age two to age five."
Establishing a Positive and Productive Classroom Environment: Alabama's preparation standards for both the PreK-3 and PreK-K licenses as well as the Alabama Quality Teaching Standards, which apply to all teachers, lack specificity regarding the instructional strategies and developmentally appropriate approaches PreK candidates are expected to know.
The Praxis Pre-Kindergarten Education (5531) test measures candidates' understanding of:
Praxis Test Requirement www.ets.org Alabama Administrative Code (AAC) 290-3-3-.03; -.04.01; -.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.
Because well-run classrooms help children develop self-regulation and build academic skills, it is imperative that candidates are adequately prepared to create a positive and productive classroom environment. This includes classroom management skills, developing a child's executive functions, and creating activities where children can learn through play. 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 indicated that before a pre-K preparation program is approved by the state, the rules require the following:
Using Content Knowledge to Build Meaningful Curriculum. Candidates prepared in early childhood programs use their knowledge of academic disciplines to design, implement, and evaluate experiences that promote positive development and learning for each and every young child. Candidates understand the importance of developmental domains and academic (or content) disciplines in early childhood curriculum. They know the essential concepts, inquiry tools, and structure of content areas, including academic subjects, and can identify resources to deepen their understanding.
Candidates use their own knowledge and other resources to design, implement, and evaluate meaningful, challenging curriculum that promotes comprehensive developmental and learning outcomes for every young child. Prior to program completion prospective early childhood teachers:
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.