The state should require early childhood teacher candidates to meet appropriate academic requirements. Starting in 2020, this goal is now graded.
Oklahoma requires its early childhood education teachers who are licensed to teach grades PreK-3 to have a subject area concentration in order to qualify as a generalist. It is unclear whether qualifying as a generalist is mandatory in order to receive the PreK-3 license. The state specifies that, in order to qualify as a generalist, candidates "must document competency in mathematics, science, language arts, and social studies as identified in the NCATE professional learned societies' standards and State Department of Education Full Subject Matter Competencies for early childhood, elementary and special education."
A bachelor's degree is required.
Oklahoma Administrative Code 210:20-9-9 and 712:10-5-3 (f)7
Require preschool teaching candidates to complete a content specialization in early childhood education or otherwise demonstrate competence in this area.
Oklahoma 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.
Oklahoma was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.
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.