The state should require early childhood teacher candidates to meet appropriate academic requirements. Starting in 2020, this goal is now graded.
New Jersey requires early childhood education candidates who teach children from grades PreK-3 to have an interdisciplinary major or 60 semester hours in liberal arts and sciences.
Require preschool teaching candidates to complete a content specialization in early childhood education or otherwise demonstrate competence in this area.
New Jersey should require that preschool teachers have a specialization in early childhood or demonstrate that they have the knowledge needed to teach preschool-age children. Narrowly targeting a candidate's preparation to the early childhood grades is more likely to provide the specific content knowledge and skills needed by preschool teachers, including emergent literacy, oral language, and developmental stages of children birth through age eight.
New Jersey indicated that effective academic year 2017-2018, provisional teachers holding a CE with a preschool through grade three endorsement must choose to complete either 350 hours of formal instruction pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:9A-5.4(a)1 or 24 semester-hour credits of preschool through grade three pedagogy at a Department-approved New Jersey college or university program. Instruction through either choice must include:
i. Child development and learning, including studies designed to foster understanding of the dynamic continuum of development and learning in children from birth through age eight. Required topics are cognitive and linguistic factors that affect learning and development; the creation of a climate that fosters and nurtures diversity and equity for all children, including those who are limited English proficient and those with special needs, and that addresses multiple intelligences and diverse learning styles; the integration of play; and language and literacy across the curriculum;
ii. Understanding family and community, including studies designed to foster an understanding of the significant roles of families and communities. Required topics are the recognition of children at risk; the establishment of linkages with community resources to support families; the recognition and acceptance of diverse family units, including family participation on the educational team; the impact of children's homes, communities, health and cultural experiences on development and learning; and comprehension of social, historical, political, legal and philosophical constructs that impact upon children, families and communities; and
iii. Curriculum and assessment, including studies designed to foster an understanding of the importance of implementing developmentally appropriate principles and practices. Required topics include the NJSLS and early childhood expectations; responsiveness to cultural and linguistic differences with an equitable and individualized focus; activities designed to foster intellectual stimulation through play; implementation of developmentally appropriate techniques of guidance and group management to create a safe classroom environment; and assessment that is multidimensional, ongoing, and performance based,
New Jersey also noted that provisional teachers holding a CE with a preschool through grade three endorsement who entered a CE educator preparation program prior to academic year 2017-2018 must complete either 200 hours of formal instruction pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:9A-5.4(b) or 13 semester-hour credits of preschool through grade three pedagogy at a Department-approved New Jersey college or university program.
Instruction through either option shall include the topics listed in (a)2i through iii above.
The available research finds mixed results on whether having at least a bachelor's degree makes preschool teachers more effective. However, these conflicting results may be more indicative of the fact that current training programs that certify teachers to teach preschool (and often cover a wide span of elementary grades as well) pay too little attention to the requirements for teaching preschool. Despite the inconclusive research, the National Academies of Sciences, the National Institute for Early Education Research, and a number of other organizations support requiring at least a bachelor's degree for preschool teachers for several reasons. These reasons include that teaching preschool should be considered a career as important and complex as teaching K-12 classes, and so this role is deserving of the same educational requirements; this degree requirement would create greater consistency between the preschool and K-12 workforces; and preschool teachers would benefit from a foundation in liberal arts coursework that gives them a firm grounding in a range of content that they will teach, much like what elementary teachers need.
However, to make a training program meaningful, it needs to be narrowly targeted to the early childhood grades. As the grade span of a teaching certification broadens, training programs are less likely to provide the specific emergent literacy and oral language skills that preschool teachers need.  To support this focus and to make training for teachers more meaningful, the state should require that preschool teachers have a specialization in early childhood (rather than, for example, a bachelor's degree in K-6 teaching), or can demonstrate that they have the knowledge needed to teach early childhood.