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.
New Mexico offers early childhood education licenses: birth to grade 3 and age 3 to age 8. Teacher candidates with the birth to grade 3 license must pass the Praxis Education of Young Children (5024) test. Early childhood education teacher candidates with the age 3 to age 8 license must pass the Praxis Pre-Kindergarten Education (5531) test. There is also a birth-PreK license, which does not require a 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 Pre-Kindergarten Education (5531) 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)."
New Mexico's competencies for PreK-3 early childhood teachers requires candidates to "Demonstrate a variety of developmentally appropriate instructional strategies that facilitate the development of emergent literacy skills." They further specify a candidate's ability to:
Praxis: www.ets.org New Mexico Administrative Code 6.61.8; .11 and .12
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess sufficient knowledge of emergent literacy and oral language.
New Mexico 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.
New Mexico 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 the skills to create a positive and productive classroom environment.
Because well-run classrooms help children develop self-regulation and build academic skills, it is imperative that candidates are adequately prepared to create a positive and productive classroom environment. This includes classroom management skills, developing a child's executive functions, and creating activities where children can learn through play. New Mexico 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.
New Mexico recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis; however, this analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review.
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.