Early Childhood Preparation Policy
The state should require early childhood teacher candidates to meet appropriate academic requirements. Starting in 2020, this goal is now graded.
Academic Requirements: South Dakota requires early childhood education candidates to earn an academic major and that early childhood education programs "require coursework sufficient to constitute an academic major and demonstrated competencies...." One of the demonstrated competencies listed is: "Knowledge of the developmental characteristics of the birth through age eight learner and of the student with disabilities." But it is not clear if this is sufficient to qualify as an early childhood specialization.
South Dakota Administrative Rules 24:53:07.02; .03; 24:28:19
Require preschool teaching candidates to complete a content specialization in early childhood education or otherwise demonstrate competence in this area.
South Dakota 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.
South Dakota did not respond to NCTQ's request to review this analysis for accuracy.
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.