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.
Louisiana offers birth-K and PreK-3 early childhood education licenses. Candidates for the birth-K license are required to pass any of the following Praxis assessments: Early Childhood Education (5025), Education of Young Children (5024), or PreK Education (5531). Candidates for the PreK-3 license are required to pass the Praxis Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects (5001) test.
Emergent Literacy and Oral Language: Louisiana's birth-K candidates testing requirements are uneven in emergent literacy and oral language, depending on the content test candidates opt to take.
Praxis Early Childhood Education (5025)
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.
Praxis Education of Young Children (5024)
This 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.
Praxis Pre-Kindergarten Education (5531)
This test broadly addresses candidates' knowledge of "literacy concepts (e.g., phonemic awareness, vocabulary, writing, shared reading)" and "allows children the opportunity to practice developmentally appropriate concepts during everyday classroom experiences (e.g., one-to-one correspondence, phonemic awareness)."
Louisiana's PreK-3 candidates are required to pass the Praxis Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects test, which does not address emergent literacy or oral language.
Emergent Mathematics and Science: Louisiana's birth-K testing requirements are uneven in emergent mathematics and science, depending on the content test candidates opt to take.
Praxis Early Childhood Education (5025)
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.
Praxis Education of Young Children (5024)
This test addresses emergent mathematics by requiring candidates to know how to develop children's:
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess sufficient knowledge of emergent literacy and oral language.
States with multiple licenses covering preschool ages such as Louisiana, 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.
States with multiple licenses covering preschool ages such as Louisiana, 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 Louisiana, 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 Louisiana, 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.
Louisiana 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.