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.
Arizona offers an early childhood education certificate to teach birth through grade 3.
Emergent Literacy and Oral Language: The Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessment (AEPA) Early Childhood test requires candidates to demonstrate an understanding of the main components of emergent literacy and oral language, including concepts of print, phonemic and phonological awareness, vocabulary development, and language development.
Emergent Mathematics and Science: The Early Childhood test addresses the concepts of emergent mathematics and science. The test requires teachers to be able to: "Understand mathematics concepts and skills and understand how to facilitate learning for young children in the area of mathematics."
These test sections contain the following examples: "recognizing characteristics, processes, and progressions in children's mathematical development, including intuitive and emergent numeracy; demonstrating knowledge of factors that affect young children's mathematical development; demonstrating knowledge of strategies for encouraging the use of mathematical concepts and skills in everyday life."
The test also addresses emergent science by requiring teachers to: "Understand science content and inquiry processes and how to facilitate science learning for young children." Some examples of how to demonstrate this concept on the test are: "Recognizing the roles of exploration, active engagement, inquiry, and questioning in building knowledge, language, and concepts related to science; demonstrating knowledge of strategies for encouraging children to develop positive attitudes toward science; and demonstrating knowledge of strategies for encouraging the use of science concepts and skills in everyday life."
Early Childhood Development: Arizona has neither preparation standards nor test requirements that address early childhood development from birth through 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. Arizona's professional teaching standards do not address the skills needed to establish a positive and productive classroom environment such as helping students build social/emotional skills, developing students' executive function, and developing strategies related to behavior (reinforcing positive behavior, redirecting negative behavior and establishing clear rules and routines). The AEPA Early Childhood test requires candidates to "[recognize] the role of play in children's development"; however, this is presented as an example under the broad heading of "Understand human growth and development and how to use this understanding to promote learning and development in all domains."
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess sufficient knowledge of the main developmental stages from birth through age eight.
Arizona 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.
Arizona 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.
Arizona indicated that portions of the Early Childhood Education AEPA address Child Development and Learning.
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.