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.
Tennessee offers a grades PreK-3 early childhood education license. Candidates are required to pass three tests: the Praxis Education of Young Children (5024) test, the Praxis Early Childhood Education (5025) test, and the Praxis Teaching Reading: Elementary Education (5203) test. (Through August 31, 2020, the Praxis Elementary Education: Content Knowledge (5018) test is accepted in lieu of the Praxis Early Childhood Education (5025) test.)
Tennessee allows teachers to delay passage of content and pedagogy tests if they possess a bachelor's degree in a core content area.
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 Elementary Education: Content Knowledge (5018) test and the Praxis Teaching Reading (5203) test measure candidates' knowledge of the main concepts of emergent literacy, including the role of phonological awareness, fluency, phonics and word analysis in literacy development. The Teaching Reading test also addresses oral language.
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.
Tennessee's literacy standards for early childhood education teachers require knowledge of:
Praxis Test Requirement https://www.ets.org/praxis/tn/requirements/ Tennessee State Board Policy 5.502 and 5.504
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. Skills such as: classroom management, developing a child's executive functions, and creating activities where children can learn through play are critically important to ensuring that all preschool teachers are able to establish an environment that actively supports learning. Tennessee should ensure that all preschool teachers possess adequate understanding of these skills.
Tennessee 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.