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.
Kansas offers two applicable licenses: (1) early childhood unified, birth to kindergarten, which requires a passing score on the Praxis Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education (5023) test; and (2) early childhood unified, birth to grade 3, which requires a passing score on the Praxis Education of Young Children (5024) test.
Emergent Literacy and Oral Language: The Praxis Education of Young Children (5024) test addresses emergent literacy and oral language. The test requires candidates to know "the progression of oral language development, including but not limited to expectations for listening comprehension and verbal communication, and how to facilitate and expand children's oral language and vocabulary development." Candidates are also required to "know strategies to address language delays." The test addresses emergent literacy by requiring candidates to be able to develop children's phonological awareness, concepts of print, fluency to support reading comprehension, phonics skills, and how to expand children's use of vocabulary.
The Praxis Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education (5023) test does not address concepts related to emergent literacy or oral language.
Emergent Mathematics and Science: The Praxis Education of Young Children (5024) test addresses emergent mathematics by requiring candidates to know how to develop children's "knowledge of number names and the count sequence, understanding of the relationship between number name and quantities, ability to use counting to determine how many objects are arranged in various configurations, and understanding of the concepts of operations on rational numbers." Such background is necessary to teach emerging math learners. The test does not address concepts related to emergent science.
The Praxis Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education (5023) test does not address concepts related to emergent mathematics or science.
Kansas's early childhood unified educator program standards, which apply to both licenses, require candidates to "be well versed in the essential content knowledge in all pre-academic/academic disciplines, including mathematical concepts (e.g., number sense, shapes, one-to-one correspondence, sequence, problem solving); scientific concepts (e.g., cause and effect, discovery learning, observation, change, systems, cycles)."
Early Childhood Development: Kansas's early childhood unified educator birth to kindergarten program standards require candidates to "know and understand typical progression in each developmental domain of children from birth to age 6." Birth-grade 3 program standards require candidates to "know and understand typical progression in each developmental domain of children from birth to age 8."
The Praxis Education of Young Children (5024) addresses early childhood development from birth-age 8.
The Praxis Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education (5023) test does not address early childhood development from birth-age 8 specifically. The test does contain a section devoted to "Growth and Development of Young Children Across the Spectrum of Development." The test introduction states that the test is geared for teachers of students aged birth-5.
Establishing a Positive and Productive Classroom Environment: The Praxis Education of Young Children (5024) test does not address the factors that contribute to a productive classroom environment.
The Praxis Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education (5023) test contains a section devoted to "Play and Learning Environment for Young Children," which tests candidates on their knowledge of:
Regulations and Standards for Kansas Educators 2018-19 https://www.ksde.org/Portals/0/TLA/Licensure/Licensure%20Documents/CertHandbook18-19fulltext%2009042018.pdf?ver=2018-09-04-144958-147 Program Standards http://www.ksde.org/Agency/Division-of-Learning-Services/Teacher-Licensure-and-Accreditation/Postsecondary/Higher-Ed-Faculty-Resources/Higher-Education-Resources-TLA/Higher-Education-Standards
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess sufficient knowledge of emergent literacy and oral language.
States with multiple licenses covering preschool ages such as Kansas, 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.
Kansas 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.