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.
Arkansas offers a birth to K early childhood/special education blended license. Candidates for this license are required to take the Praxis II Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education (5023) and the Education of Young Children (5024) tests. The state also offers an age 3 to 4 endorsement that elementary teachers may add to their license. Candidates for this endorsement must pass the Praxis II Education of Young Children (5024) test.
Emergent Literacy and Oral Language: Arkansas's competencies for the early childhood/special education blended license require candidates to know "how students learn to read and how explicit and systematic instruction in [print concepts, phonological awareness, phonics and word recognition and fluency] produces successful readers."
Emergent Mathematics and Science: Arkansas's competencies for early childhood/special education candidates do not address emergent mathematics or science.
Early Childhood Development: Although Arkansas's competencies for early childhood/special education candidates require "knowledge and understanding of young children's characteristics and needs from birth through kindergarten," this competency does not go far enough to comprehensively address early childhood development from birth to age eight.
Establishing 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. Arkansas's competencies require early childhood/special education candidates to demonstrate the ability to:
Early Childhood/Special Education Integrated Birth-Kindergarten Competencies http://www.arkansased.gov/divisions/human-resources-educator-effectiveness-and-licensure/educator-preparation/educator-competencies Praxis Test Requirements https://www.ets.org/praxis/ar/requirements/
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess sufficient knowledge of emergent literacy and oral language.
Arkansas 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.
Arkansas 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.
Arkansas 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.
Arkansas had no comment on this goal.
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.