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.
Iowa offers grades PreK-K, birth-grade 3, and PreK-3 early childhood education licenses. The PreK-K and PreK-3 licenses require passage of the Praxis Early Childhood Education (5025) test. There does not appear to be a test requirement for the birth-grade 3 endorsement.
Candidates for the PreK-K endorsement are required to also have the elementary license or the early childhood special education license. Elementary candidates are required to pass the Elementary Content Knowledge (5018) test, and holders of the early childhood special education license would also have to pass the Early Childhood Education (5025) test.
Emergent Literacy and Oral Language: The Praxis Early Childhood Education (5025) test requires candidates to demonstrate an 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." With regard to oral language, the test framework states that candidates must be able to "Recogn[ize] various stages of language acquisition (e.g., oral language, written language—including spelling)." Because the coverage of the topic is presented as an example, the extent to which this information is required is unclear. 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.
The Praxis Elementary Education: Content Knowledge (5018) test measures candidates' knowledge of the main concepts of emergent literacy, including the role of phonological awareness, fluency, phonics and word analysis in literacy development. The test does not address oral language.
Emergent Mathematics and Science: The Praxis Early Childhood Education (5025) assessment tests candidates on 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.
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 Elementary Education: Content Knowledge (5018) test measures candidates' content knowledge on key mathematical concepts such as numbers and operations, algebraic thinking, geometry and measurement, and data, statistics and probability. Such background is necessary to teach emerging math learners. The Praxis Elementary Education: Content Knowledge (5018) test measures candidates' content knowledge in key areas of science such as Earth and space science, life science and physical science and the basic elements of scientific inquiry. Such background is necessary to teach emerging science learners.
Early Childhood Development: Coursework standards for birth-grade 3 and PreK-3 preparation programs require that candidates are able to: "Understand the nature of child growth and development for infants and toddlers (birth-age 2), preprimary (age 3-age 5) and primary school children (age 6-age 8)."
Establishing a Positive and Productive Classroom Environment: Iowa standards for birth to grade 3 preparation programs require that candidates are able to:
Iowa Administrative Code 282-13.26(1) through (3) Praxis Test Requirement https://www.ets.org/praxis/ia/requirements/
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess sufficient knowledge of emergent literacy and oral language.
States with multiple licenses covering preschool ages such as Iowa, 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.
Iowa 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.
States with multiple licenses covering preschool ages such as Iowa, 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.
States with multiple licenses covering preschool ages such as Iowa, 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.
Iowa recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
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.