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.
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 Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects test (5001) and the Praxis Reading for Virginia Educators Assessment (5306).
Emergent Literacy and Oral Language: The Praxis 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. Such background is necessary to teach emerging math and science learners.
Early Childhood Development: Neither the Multiple Subjects test nor the Reading for Virginia Educators test addresses early childhood development from birth-age 8.
Establishing a Positive and Productive Classroom Environment: Virginia's professional studies requirements for early/primary education and elementary education include three semester hours in classroom and behavior management: "Skills in this area shall contribute to an understanding and application of research-based classroom and behavior management techniques, classroom community building, positive behavior supports, and individual interventions, including techniques that promote emotional well-being and teach and maintain behavioral conduct and skills consistent with norms, standards, and rules of the educational environment." Also: "Approaches should support professionally appropriate practices that promote positive redirection of behavior, development of social skills, and of self-discipline."
Specifically, PK-3 candidates must meet the following competency: "The ability to utilize effective classroom management skills through methods that build responsibility and self-discipline, promote self-regulation, and maintain a positive learning environment."
Praxis Tests www.ets.org/praxis Virginia Administrative Code 8 VAC 20-22-150, 8 VAC 20-542-100, 8 VAC 20-23-130, 8 VAC 20-543-110 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 the main developmental stages from birth through age eight.
States with multiple licenses covering preschool ages such as 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.
Virginia 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.