Early Childhood Preparation Policy
The state should ensure that its teacher preparation programs provide early childhood teachers with age-appropriate content knowledge and instructional strategies. This goal was new in 2017 and was not graded.
Virginia offers a PreK-3 and PreK-6 license. Both licenses allow teachers to teach preschool-age students, but the PreK-3 is the state's early childhood education license. Candidates for either license are required to pass both the Praxis II Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects test (5001) and the Praxis II Reading for Virginia Educators Assessment (5306).
Emergent Literacy and Oral Language: The Praxis II Reading for Virginia Educators Assessment (5306) test requires candidates to demonstrate an understanding of the main components of emergent literacy including concepts of print, phonemic and phonological awareness, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension. The test also contains a section covering oral language and oral communication, including a component requiring candidates to be able to "demonstrate knowledge of ways to promote growth in students' use of oral language, to develop their listening and speaking skills, and to expand their listening and speaking vocabularies."
Emergent Mathematics and Science: The Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects test contains extensive background on mathematics and science concepts. Teachers that pass those sections would be knowledgeable in elementary math and science concepts. What is not clear from this test is how teachers would translate this knowledge in an early childhood setting and introduce these concepts to emerging learners.
Early Childhood Development: Neither the Multiple Subjects test nor the Reading for Virginia Educators test addresses early childhood development from birth through age eight.
Establishing 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. This includes classroom management skills, developing a child's executive functions and creating activities where children can learn through play. Neither the Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects test nor the Reading for Virginia Educators test addresses these skills.
Praxis Tests www.ets.org/praxis Virginia Administrative Code 8 VAC 20-22-150, 8 VAC 20-542-100 Assessment Requirements for Virginia Licensure http://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching/licensure/prof_teacher_assessment.pdf
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess sufficient knowledge of emergent mathematics and science.
Virginia should—either through teacher preparation standards or test frameworks—ensure that all preschool teachers understand how to introduce and develop children's mathematical skills and effectively introduce science concepts. This understanding is crucial because early introduction to complex mathematical concepts can affect later achievement in mathematics.
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess sufficient knowledge of the main developmental stages from birth through age eight.
Virginia 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.
Ensure that all preschool teachers possess the skills to create a positive and productive classroom environment.
Virginia should ensure that all preschool teachers possess adequate understanding of how to develop children's executive functioning skills, build social emotional skills and manage children's play for learning purposes. This knowledge is critically important to ensuring that all preschool teachers are able to establish an environment that actively supports learning.
Virginia 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.