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.
Virginia requires that candidates for the early childhood education PreK-3 earn a bachelor's degree and have "completed coursework that covers the early/primary education preK-3 competencies." However, it is unclear whether this constitutes an early childhood education specialization. Candidates for the PreK-6 license are required to have a bachelor's degree, but the coursework requirements mentioned above are not required.
8 VAC 20-23-150, -160
Require preschool teaching candidates to complete a content specialization in early childhood education or otherwise demonstrate competence in this area.
Virginia 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.
Virginia indicated that individuals seeking an Early/Primary Education PreK-3 endorsement are required to meet the competencies for the endorsement in a program. The focus of the preparation is early childhood education through grade 3. For both the Early/Primary Education PreK-3 and the Elementary Education PreK-6 endorsement, the requirements/competencies must be covered for the endorsements. In addition to the content requirements, professional studies in the area of early childhood are required.
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.