Content Knowledge: Illinois

2017 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

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.

Analysis of Illinois's policies

Illinois offers a birth to grade 3 early childhood education license. Candidates must pass the Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS) Early Childhood Education test.

Emergent Literacy and Oral Language:
The Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS) Early Childhood Education test references the main concepts of emergent literacy, requiring candidates to "demonstrate knowledge of the role of phonemic awareness in early reading development" and demonstrate knowledge of: concepts about print, the alphabetic principle, phonics, and spelling development.  The test also requires understanding "reading comprehension and how to use effective, developmentally appropriate strategies to promote young children's application of reading comprehension skills."   

With regard to oral language, the ILTS Early Childhood Education test requires that early childhood candidates: "Understand young children's oral language development and how to provide learning experiences that support and enhance young children's listening and speaking skills."  Requirements under this section include early childhood education candidates' ability to:

  • Recognize characteristics of young children's oral language, factors that influence young children's development of speaking and listening skills, and indicators that a young child may be experiencing difficulties in oral language development, and strategies for addressing oral language needs.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of developmentally appropriate strategies for promoting young children's oral communication skills and enhancing their ability to apply these skills in various contexts.
  • Demonstrate understanding of strategies for promoting young children's ability to listen and speak for various purposes (e.g., participating in discussions, conveying ideas and information, asking and responding to questions, interacting positively with others).
  • Relate oral language development to the development of skills in written language and reading.
  • Demonstrate understanding of strategies for integrating young children's instruction in oral language with the other language arts and other content areas.
Illinois standards for early childhood education teachers require in-depth knowledge of key concepts related to both emergent literacy and oral language. For example, a candidate, 
  • Recognizes the sequence of stages in language, reading and writing development from birth through grade 2 using supporting evidence from theory and research, and acknowledges individual differences among children progressing through those stages.
  • Models and supports the development of phonological awareness (recognition of phonemes and the sound structure of words, including rhyming words; initial, middle and ending sounds; syllables; and onsets and rimes) and its relationship to reading and writing proficiency.
  • Supports the development of text awareness and emergent reading behaviors in young children, including concepts of print, book knowledge and narrative structure evidenced in picture reading, story-telling and retelling of the story.
  • Uses "read-alouds" and shared reading experiences to support emerging language and literacy, and ongoing literacy development.
Emergent Mathematics and Science: The ILTS Early Childhood Education test requires candidates to: "Understand mathematical skills, concepts, and procedures and how to promote young children's development of mathematical understandings and their ability to apply mathematical skills in varied contexts." Candidates demonstrate competence in this component by demonstrating knowledge of basic math concepts such as "number sense, operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, data analysis and probability." Teachers must also be able to "identify developmentally appropriate strategies and activities for providing young children with opportunities to use mathematical problem solving in everyday situations." 

The ILTS Early Childhood Education test requires that candidates be able to: "Understand fundamental scientific concepts and processes and how to promote young children's development of scientific knowledge and skills, including their use of scientific thinking, reasoning, and inquiry." Requirements under this section include early childhood education candidates' ability to:
  • Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental concepts and principles related to Earth and space science, the life sciences, the physical sciences, and the environmental sciences.
  • Identify developmentally appropriate learning experiences and learning opportunities that encourage young children to conduct experiments, solve problems, apply the scientific process, and incorporate safety precautions.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of … integrating learning experiences in science with learning experiences in other content areas.
Early Childhood Development: The ILTS Early Childhood Education test addresses the concepts of child development birth through age eight. One test section is devoted to testing candidates on the following: "Understand human development and diversity in children from birth through grade three and conditions and factors that affect young children's growth and learning." Some means by which early childhood education candidates show competency in this area are by demonstrating "knowledge of characteristics and processes associated with young children's development in various domains (e.g., physical, cognitive, social, emotional, linguistic) from birth through grade three." 

Early childhood education teacher preparation standards require that teachers understand "how children from birth through grade three develop physically, socially, emotionally, cognitively, linguistically, and aesthetically."

Establishing a Positive and Productive Learning 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. The ILTS Early Childhood Education test devotes a section to understanding "principles and procedures for creating and maintaining a productive learning environment for young children that encourages communication, social skills, responsibility and self-motivation." Requirements under this section include early childhood education candidates' ability to: "Demonstrate principles and procedures for designing learning environments that are physically and psychologically safe; that promote responsibility, equity, active learning, and positive social interactions; and that support the educational needs and interests of all young children."

Illinois's standards for early childhood education teachers require that a candidate:
  • Understands how to design learning environments that support the educational needs and interests of all children from birth through grade three.
  • Understands how to design and maintain physically and psychologically safe, healthy, and productive learning environments.
  • Understands the influence of the physical setting, schedule, routines, and transitions on children from birth through grade three.
  • Integrates and applies individual and group guidance and problem-solving strategies that develop positive and supportive relationships, encourage positive social interaction, promote conflict resolution, and develop personal self-control, self-motivation, and self-esteem in children from birth through grade three.

Citation

Recommendations for Illinois

Due to Illinois's strong policies in this area, no recommendations are provided. 

State response to our analysis

Illinois recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also indicated that the early childhood education test will be redesigned to align with standards that are effective September 1, 2019.

Last word

NCTQ looks forward to reviewing the state's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.

How we graded

Not applicable. This goal was not scored in 2017.

Research rationale

A strong preschool experience can set children up for achievement gains in elementary school,[1] and even more critically, for improved long-term outcomes including college attendance and degree completion.[2] However, not all preschool programs have achieved these positive results.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] Teacher training in these areas can translate into substantial gains for children in alphabet knowledge, vocabulary, and language skills.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] Little research exists on what teachers need to know about preschool science instruction, but experts agree that this area is important.[11]

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.[12] Similarly, preschool teachers need to know effective classroom management strategies that can build social-emotional skills and prevent or resolve many behavioral problems.[13] 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.[14] Teachers' emotional support for their students is associated with better social competence and lower rates of behavior problems.[15]


[1] For example, see: Andrews, R. J., Jargowsky, P., & Kuhne, K. (2012). The effects of Texas's targeted pre-kindergarten program on academic performance (Working paper no. 84). CALDER. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w18598; Campbell, F. A., Pungello, E. P., Miller-Johnson, S., Burchinal, M., & Ramey, C. T. (2001). The development of cognitive and academic abilities: Growth curves from an early childhood educational experiment. Developmental Psychology, 37, 231-242; Ramey, C. T., Campbell, F. A., Burchinal, M., Skinner, M. L., Gardner, D. M., & Ramey, S. L. (2000). Persistent effects of early intervention on high-risk children and their mothers. Applied Developmental Science, 4, 2-14; Ramey, C. T. & Campbell, F. A. (1991). Poverty, early childhood education, and academic competence: The Abecedarian experiment. In A. Huston (Ed.), Children reared in poverty (pp. 190-221). New York: Cambridge University Press; Ramey, C. T., & Campbell, F. A. (1984). Preventive education for high-risk children: Cognitive consequences of the Carolina Abecedarian Project. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 88, 515-523.
[2] Schweinhart, L. J., Montie, J., Xiang, Z., Barnett, W. S., Belfield, C. R., & Nores, M. (2005). Lifetime effects: The HighScope Perry Preschool study through age 40. Ypsilanti, MI: HighScope Press; Campbell, F., Conti, G., Heckman, J.J., Moon, S.H., Pinto, R., Pungello, E., Pan, Y. (2014, March 28) Early childhood investments substantially boost adult health. Science, 343(6178):1478-85. DOI: 10.1126/1248429. PMID: 24675955; Campbell, F. A., Pungello, E. P., Burchinal, M., Kainz, K., Pan, Y., Wasik, B. H., Sparling, J. & Ramey, C. T. (2012). Adult outcomes as a function of an early childhood educational program: An Abecedarian Project follow-up. Developmental Psychology, 48, 1033. Campbell, F. A., Wasik, B. H., Pungello, E. P., Burchinal, M. R., Kainz, K., Barbarin, O., ... & Ramey, C. T. (2008). Young adult outcomes from the Abecedarian and CARE early childhood educational interventions. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23, 452-466. Campbell, F. A., Ramey, C. T., Pungello, E. P., Sparling, J., & Miller-Johnson, S. (2002). Early childhood education: Young adult outcomes from the Abecedarian Project. Applied Developmental Science, 6, 42-57. Dynarski, S., Hyman, J., & Schanzenbach, D. W. (2013). Experimental evidence on the effect of childhood investments on postsecondary attainment and degree completion. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 32, 692-717. Chetty, R., Friedman, J. N., Hilger, N., Saez, E., Schanzenbach, D. W., & Yagan, D. (2010). How does your kindergarten classroom affect your earnings? Evidence from Project STAR. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w16381
[3] Lipsey, M. W., Farran, D. C., & Hofer, K. G., (2015). A randomized control trial of the effects of a statewide voluntary prekindergarten program on children's skills and behaviors through third grade. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University, Peabody Research Institute. Retrieved from http://peabody.vanderbilt.edu/research/pri/VPKthrough3rd_final_withcover.pdf
[4] Diamond, K. E., Justice, L. M., Siegler, R. S., & Snyder, P. A. (2013). Synthesis of IES research on early intervention and early childhood education (NCSER 2013-3001). National Center for Special Education Research; Beck, I. L., & McKeown, M. G. (2007). Increasing young low‐income children's oral vocabulary repertoires through rich and focused instruction. The Elementary School Journal, 107(3), 251-271; Institute of Medicine & National Research Council. (2015). Transforming the workforce for children birth through age 8: A unifying foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; M. Adams, personal communication, January 2016; Dickinson, D. K., & Porche, M. V. (2011). Relation between language experiences in preschool classrooms and children's kindergarten and fourth‐grade language and reading abilities. Child Development, 82(3), 870-88.
[5] U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, What Works Clearinghouse. (2012). Early childhood education interventions for children with disabilities intervention report: Phonological awareness training. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/InterventionReports/wwc_pat_060512.pdf; Diamond, K. E., Justice, L. M., Siegler, R. S., & Snyder, P. A. (2013). Synthesis of IES research on early intervention and early childhood education (NCSER 2013-3001). National Center for Special Education Research.
[6] Landry, S. H., Swank, P. R., Smith, K. E., Assel, M. A., & Gunnewig, S. B. (2006). Enhancing early literacy skills for preschool children bringing a professional development model to scale. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39(4), 306-324.; U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, What Works Clearinghouse. (2012). Early childhood education interventions for children with disabilities intervention report: Phonological awareness training. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/InterventionReports/wwc_pat_060512.pdf
[7] Diamond, K. E., Justice, L. M., Siegler, R. S., & Snyder, P. A. (2013). Synthesis of IES research on early intervention and early childhood education (NCSER 2013-3001). National Center for Special Education Research.
[8] Diamond, K. E., Justice, L. M., Siegler, R. S., & Snyder, P. A. (2013). Synthesis of IES research on early intervention and early childhood education (NCSER 2013-3001). National Center for Special Education Research.
[9] Watts, T. W., Duncan, G. J., Siegler, R. S., & Davis-Kean, P. E. (2014). What's past is prologue: Relations between early mathematics knowledge and high school achievement. Educational Researcher, 43(7), 352-360.
[10] Diamond, K. E., Justice, L. M., Siegler, R. S., & Snyder, P. A. (2013). Synthesis of IES research on early intervention and early childhood education (NCSER 2013-3001). National Center for Special Education Research.; Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., ... & Japel, C. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1428-1446; Other research found that children's math ability in preschool predicted their math ability at age 15, even after controlling for early reading ability and family characteristics. See: Watts, T. W., Duncan, G. J., Siegler, R. S., & Davis-Kean, P. E. (2014). What's past is prologue: Relations between early mathematics knowledge and high school achievement. Educational Researcher, 43(7), 352-360.
[11] Putman, H., Moorer, A., & Walsh, K. (2016). Some assembly required: Piecing together the preparation preschool teachers need. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from: http://www.nctq.org/dmsStage/Preschool
[12] Putman, H., Moorer, A., & Walsh, K. (2016). Some assembly required: Piecing together the preparation preschool teachers need. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from: http://www.nctq.org/dmsStage/Preschool
[13]  Diamond, K. E., Justice, L. M., Siegler, R. S., & Snyder, P. A. (2013). Synthesis of IES research on early intervention and early childhood education (NCSER 2013-3001). National Center for Special Education Research.; Epstein, M., Atkins, M., Cullinan, D., Kutash, K., and Weaver, R. (2008). Reducing behavior problems in the elementary school classroom: A practice guide (NCEE 2008-012). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/PracticeGuide/behavior_pg_092308.pdf; National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2010). 2010 NAEYC standards for initial and advanced early childhood professional preparation programs. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/ecada/file/2010%20NAEYC%20Initial%20&%20Advanced%20Standards.pdf
[14] Raver, C. C., Jones, S. M., Li‐Grining, C., Zhai, F., Bub, K., & Pressler, E. (2011). CSRP's impact on low‐income preschoolers' pre-academic skills: Self‐regulation as a mediating mechanism. Child Development, 82(1), 362-378.; Blair, C., & Raver, C. C. (2014). Closing the achievement gap through modification of neurocognitive and neuroendocrine function: Results from a cluster randomized controlled trial of an innovative approach to the education of children in kindergarten. PloS One, 9(11), e112393.
[15] Mashburn, A. J., Pianta, R. C., Hamre, B. K., Downer, J. T., Barbarin, O. A., Bryant, D., ... & Howes, C. (2008). Measures of classroom quality in prekindergarten and children's development of academic, language, and social skills. Child Development, 79(3), 732-749.