Early Childhood Preparation Policy
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.
Texas offers a PreK-3 license and PreK-6 license. The PreK-6 license is the state's de facto elementary license. Candidates are required to pass the Texas Examinations of Educator Standards (TExES) Early Childhood: PreK-3 (292) or Core Subjects EC-6 (291) examination. (See Elementary Teacher Preparation Goals 2-A through 2-C for analyses of elementary requirements.)
Emergent Literacy and Oral Language: Texas's required Early Childhood: PreK-3 (292) test requires candidates demonstrate knowledge of emergent literacy and to "Understand the foundational principles, concepts, and methods in English language arts and social studies to provide developmentally appropriate instruction for students in prekindergarten to grade 3." The draft test framework also requires candidates to be able to "Demonstrate knowledge of strategies and technology for developing and reinforcing young children's language acquisition (e.g., oral language, listening comprehension, expressive and receptive vocabulary, pragmatic language skills)."
Texas's required Core Subjects (EC-6) test covers emergent literacy in depth by requiring candidates to demonstrate an understanding of the main components of emergent literacy including concepts of print, phonemic and phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, vocabulary development, fluency, and reading comprehension. The test covers oral language in depth and requires that candidates understand "relationships between oral language and literacy development."
Emergent Mathematics and Science: Texas's required Early Childhood: PreK-3 (292) requires candidates to demonstrate knowledge of concepts of emergent math and science, such as:
Test Requirement http://www.tx.nesinc.com/ Texas Administrative Code 149.1001; 228.30; 231.611; 233.2; 235.13; 235.21 Texas Education Code Subchapter D Sec. 21.0489 and 21.050.a Approved Educator Standards http://tea.texas.gov/Texas_Educators/Preparation_and_Continuing_Education/Approved_Educator_Standards/ Early Childhood PreK-3 (292) DRAFT test framework http://tea.texas.gov/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=51539630172
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess sufficient knowledge of the main developmental stages from birth through age eight.
States with multiple licenses covering preschool ages such as Texas, should ensure—either through testing or preparation standards—that all preschool teachers are knowledgeable of children's developmental stages from birth through age eight. Such knowledge is essential so that all preschool teachers have an in-depth understanding of the children they are teaching.
Texas was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for 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.