Content Knowledge: Iowa

Early Childhood Preparation Policy

Goal

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.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2020). Content Knowledge: Iowa results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/IA-Content-Knowledge-87

Analysis of Iowa's policies

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:

  • "Use developmental knowledge to create learning environments and classroom procedures that promote positive social interaction, active engagement, high expectations for learning, mutual respect, and self-regulation through individually appropriate expectations and positive guidance techniques for each child to meet the child's optimum potential regardless of proficiency. Implement and evaluate preventative and reductive strategies to address challenging behaviors. Use motivational and instructional interventions to teach individuals with exceptionalities how to adapt to different environments. Know how to intervene safely and appropriately with individuals in crisis.
  • Use both child-initiated and teacher-facilitated instructional methods, including strategies such as small and large group projects, play, systematic instruction, group discussion and cooperative decision making. Organize space, time, materials, peers, and adults to maximize progress in natural and structured environments. Embed learning opportunities in everyday routines, relationships, activities, and places. Understand the impact of social and physical environments on development and learning."

Citation

Recommendations for Iowa

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.

State response to our analysis

Iowa recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Updated: February 2020

How we graded

The factors considered in determining the states' rating for the goal:

  1. The state should ensure that all new teacher candidates possess sufficient knowledge of emergent literacy and oral language.
  2. The state should ensure that all new teacher candidates possess sufficient knowledge of emergent mathematics and science concepts.
  3. The state should ensure that all new teacher candidates possess content knowledge of early childhood development in the birth to age eight range.
  4. The state should ensure that all new teacher candidates possess content knowledge of strategies and concepts that create a positive and productive classroom environment. Such as: classroom management techniques, building social and emotional skills, developing a child's executive functions, and learning through play.

Content Knowledge: The state should require all early childhood teacher candidates to possess sufficient knowledge of: emergent literacy, oral language, emergent mathematics and science; childhood development from birth through age eight. The state should also require all early childhood teacher candidates to possess sufficient knowledge of strategies and concepts that create a positive and productive classroom environment, such as: classroom management techniques, building social and emotional skills, developing a child's executive functions, and learning through play.


Content Knowledge: Emergent Literacy and oral language
One-quarter of the total goal score is earned based on the following:
  • One-quarter Credit:
    The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it requires
    that all new teacher candidates possess sufficient knowledge of emergent literacy and oral language
Content Knowledge: Emergent mathematics and science
One-quarter of the total goal score is earned based on the following:
  • One-quarter Credit:
    The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it requires
    that all new teacher candidates possess sufficient knowledge of emergent mathematics and science concepts.
Content Knowledge: Early Childhood Development (birth through age 8)
One-quarter of the total goal score is earned based on the following:
  • One-quarter Credit:
    The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it requires
    that all new teacher candidates possess content knowledge of early childhood development in the birth to age eight range.
Content Knowledge: Positive and Productive Classroom environment
One-quarter of the total goal score is earned based on the following:
  • One-quarter Credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it requires that all new teacher candidates possess content knowledge of strategies and concepts that create a positive and productive classroom environment. Such as: classroom management techniques, building social and emotional skills, developing a child's executive functions, and learning through play. State can get credit for addressing any one of the concepts listed.

Research rationale

A strong preschool experience can set children up for achievement gains in elementary school,[1] and even more critically, for improved long-term outcomes including college attendance and degree completion.[2] However, not all preschool programs have achieved these positive results.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] Teacher training in these areas can translate into substantial gains for children in alphabet knowledge, vocabulary, and language skills.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] Little research exists on what teachers need to know about preschool science instruction, but experts agree that this area is important.[11]

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.[12] Similarly, preschool teachers need to know effective classroom management strategies that can build social-emotional skills and prevent or resolve many behavioral problems.[13] 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.[14] Teachers' emotional support for their students is associated with better social competence and lower rates of behavior problems.[15]


[1] For example, see: Andrews, R. J., Jargowsky, P., & Kuhne, K. (2012). The effects of Texas's targeted pre-kindergarten program on academic performance (Working paper no. 84). CALDER. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w18598; Campbell, F. A., Pungello, E. P., Miller-Johnson, S., Burchinal, M., & Ramey, C. T. (2001). The development of cognitive and academic abilities: Growth curves from an early childhood educational experiment. Developmental Psychology, 37, 231-242; Ramey, C. T., Campbell, F. A., Burchinal, M., Skinner, M. L., Gardner, D. M., & Ramey, S. L. (2000). Persistent effects of early intervention on high-risk children and their mothers. Applied Developmental Science, 4, 2-14; Ramey, C. T. & Campbell, F. A. (1991). Poverty, early childhood education, and academic competence: The Abecedarian experiment. In A. Huston (Ed.), Children reared in poverty (pp. 190-221). New York: Cambridge University Press; Ramey, C. T., & Campbell, F. A. (1984). Preventive education for high-risk children: Cognitive consequences of the Carolina Abecedarian Project. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 88, 515-523.
[2] Schweinhart, L. J., Montie, J., Xiang, Z., Barnett, W. S., Belfield, C. R., & Nores, M. (2005). Lifetime effects: The HighScope Perry Preschool study through age 40. Ypsilanti, MI: HighScope Press; Campbell, F., Conti, G., Heckman, J.J., Moon, S.H., Pinto, R., Pungello, E., Pan, Y. (2014, March 28) Early childhood investments substantially boost adult health. Science, 343(6178):1478-85. DOI: 10.1126/1248429. PMID: 24675955; Campbell, F. A., Pungello, E. P., Burchinal, M., Kainz, K., Pan, Y., Wasik, B. H., Sparling, J. & Ramey, C. T. (2012). Adult outcomes as a function of an early childhood educational program: An Abecedarian Project follow-up. Developmental Psychology, 48, 1033. Campbell, F. A., Wasik, B. H., Pungello, E. P., Burchinal, M. R., Kainz, K., Barbarin, O., ... & Ramey, C. T. (2008). Young adult outcomes from the Abecedarian and CARE early childhood educational interventions. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23, 452-466. Campbell, F. A., Ramey, C. T., Pungello, E. P., Sparling, J., & Miller-Johnson, S. (2002). Early childhood education: Young adult outcomes from the Abecedarian Project. Applied Developmental Science, 6, 42-57. Dynarski, S., Hyman, J., & Schanzenbach, D. W. (2013). Experimental evidence on the effect of childhood investments on postsecondary attainment and degree completion. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 32, 692-717. Chetty, R., Friedman, J. N., Hilger, N., Saez, E., Schanzenbach, D. W., & Yagan, D. (2010). How does your kindergarten classroom affect your earnings? Evidence from Project STAR. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w16381
[3] Lipsey, M. W., Farran, D. C., & Hofer, K. G., (2015). A randomized control trial of the effects of a statewide voluntary prekindergarten program on children's skills and behaviors through third grade. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University, Peabody Research Institute. Retrieved from http://peabody.vanderbilt.edu/research/pri/VPKthrough3rd_final_withcover.pdf
[4] Diamond, K. E., Justice, L. M., Siegler, R. S., & Snyder, P. A. (2013). Synthesis of IES research on early intervention and early childhood education (NCSER 2013-3001). National Center for Special Education Research; Beck, I. L., & McKeown, M. G. (2007). Increasing young low‐income children's oral vocabulary repertoires through rich and focused instruction. The Elementary School Journal, 107(3), 251-271; Institute of Medicine & National Research Council. (2015). Transforming the workforce for children birth through age 8: A unifying foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; M. Adams, personal communication, January 2016; Dickinson, D. K., & Porche, M. V. (2011). Relation between language experiences in preschool classrooms and children's kindergarten and fourth‐grade language and reading abilities. Child Development, 82(3), 870-88.
[5] U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, What Works Clearinghouse. (2012). Early childhood education interventions for children with disabilities intervention report: Phonological awareness training. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/InterventionReports/wwc_pat_060512.pdf; Diamond, K. E., Justice, L. M., Siegler, R. S., & Snyder, P. A. (2013). Synthesis of IES research on early intervention and early childhood education (NCSER 2013-3001). National Center for Special Education Research.
[6] Landry, S. H., Swank, P. R., Smith, K. E., Assel, M. A., & Gunnewig, S. B. (2006). Enhancing early literacy skills for preschool children bringing a professional development model to scale. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39(4), 306-324.; U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, What Works Clearinghouse. (2012). Early childhood education interventions for children with disabilities intervention report: Phonological awareness training. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/InterventionReports/wwc_pat_060512.pdf
[7] Diamond, K. E., Justice, L. M., Siegler, R. S., & Snyder, P. A. (2013). Synthesis of IES research on early intervention and early childhood education (NCSER 2013-3001). National Center for Special Education Research.
[8] Diamond, K. E., Justice, L. M., Siegler, R. S., & Snyder, P. A. (2013). Synthesis of IES research on early intervention and early childhood education (NCSER 2013-3001). National Center for Special Education Research.
[9] Watts, T. W., Duncan, G. J., Siegler, R. S., & Davis-Kean, P. E. (2014). What's past is prologue: Relations between early mathematics knowledge and high school achievement. Educational Researcher, 43(7), 352-360.
[10] Diamond, K. E., Justice, L. M., Siegler, R. S., & Snyder, P. A. (2013). Synthesis of IES research on early intervention and early childhood education (NCSER 2013-3001). National Center for Special Education Research.; Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., ... & Japel, C. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1428-1446; Other research found that children's math ability in preschool predicted their math ability at age 15, even after controlling for early reading ability and family characteristics. See: Watts, T. W., Duncan, G. J., Siegler, R. S., & Davis-Kean, P. E. (2014). What's past is prologue: Relations between early mathematics knowledge and high school achievement. Educational Researcher, 43(7), 352-360.
[11] Putman, H., Moorer, A., & Walsh, K. (2016). Some assembly required: Piecing together the preparation preschool teachers need. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from: http://www.nctq.org/dmsStage/Preschool
[12] Putman, H., Moorer, A., & Walsh, K. (2016). Some assembly required: Piecing together the preparation preschool teachers need. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from: http://www.nctq.org/dmsStage/Preschool
[13]  Diamond, K. E., Justice, L. M., Siegler, R. S., & Snyder, P. A. (2013). Synthesis of IES research on early intervention and early childhood education (NCSER 2013-3001). National Center for Special Education Research.; Epstein, M., Atkins, M., Cullinan, D., Kutash, K., and Weaver, R. (2008). Reducing behavior problems in the elementary school classroom: A practice guide (NCEE 2008-012). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/PracticeGuide/behavior_pg_092308.pdf; National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2010). 2010 NAEYC standards for initial and advanced early childhood professional preparation programs. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/ecada/file/2010%20NAEYC%20Initial%20&%20Advanced%20Standards.pdf
[14] Raver, C. C., Jones, S. M., Li‐Grining, C., Zhai, F., Bub, K., & Pressler, E. (2011). CSRP's impact on low‐income preschoolers' pre-academic skills: Self‐regulation as a mediating mechanism. Child Development, 82(1), 362-378.; Blair, C., & Raver, C. C. (2014). Closing the achievement gap through modification of neurocognitive and neuroendocrine function: Results from a cluster randomized controlled trial of an innovative approach to the education of children in kindergarten. PloS One, 9(11), e112393.
[15] Mashburn, A. J., Pianta, R. C., Hamre, B. K., Downer, J. T., Barbarin, O. A., Bryant, D., ... & Howes, C. (2008). Measures of classroom quality in prekindergarten and children's development of academic, language, and social skills. Child Development, 79(3), 732-749.