Content Knowledge: Minnesota

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 Minnesota's policies

Minnesota's early childhood education license covers birth through grade 3. All early childhood education candidates are required to pass the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examinations (MTLE) Early Childhood Education test.

Emergent Literacy and Oral Language: The MTLE Early Childhood Education test covers the main concepts related to emergent literacy and oral language, such as oral language and oral language development, literacy, learning how to read, phonics, phonemic and phonological awareness, concepts of print, vocabulary, and written language development. The test also requires candidates to demonstrate "knowledge of basic concepts related to beginning literacy development (e.g., relationships between beginning stages of reading, writing, and spelling; reciprocity between decoding and encoding)."

With regard to oral language, the MTLE Early Childhood Education test requires candidates to "understand oral language foundations of literacy development in English, including phonological and phonemic awareness." This competency includes the requirement that candidates demonstrate "knowledge of the interdependent nature of reading, writing, listening, and speaking; and knowledge of strategies for promoting infants', toddlers', and preprimary- and school-age children's oral language development (e.g., receptive and expressive oral vocabulary, listening comprehension skills) to support their literacy development."

Minnesota's preparation standards for early childhood education teachers fully address the concepts related to emergent literacy and oral language.

Emergent Mathematics and Science: The MTLE Early Childhood Education test requires candidates to "understand the central concepts and tools of inquiry for teaching mathematics" and "how to facilitate learning in mathematics." Candidates are required to demonstrate their understanding of these competencies in a number of ways, including:

  • Demonstrating knowledge of central concepts, processes, and skills related to the various areas of mathematics (e.g., numbers and numeration, measurement, geometry, probability, algebra)
  • Demonstrating knowledge of how to select and create a variety of developmentally appropriate resources and materials (e.g., everyday objects, such as shells and buttons; base-ten blocks; cut-out shapes) for counting, sorting, and studying patterns and mathematical relationships
  • Applying knowledge of developmentally appropriate learning experiences that encourage children's use and construction of numeracy skills (e.g., by incorporating counting into play activities and daily routines)
  • Applying knowledge of how children learn mathematics to build environments in which children can construct their own mathematical knowledge and to guide instruction that develops children's understanding of mathematical concepts and skills (e.g., related to number sense, number systems, geometry, measurement)
  • Demonstrating knowledge of strategies for helping children experience math as a way to explore and solve problems in their environment through open-ended work that includes child-invented strategies in the context of various problems, games, and authentic situations.
Minnesota's preparation standards indicate that teachers should be able to develop:  
  • Children's understanding of number sense and number systems, geometry, and measurement 
  • Planning activities that develop primary-age children's understanding of mathematics and increase their ability to apply mathematics to everyday problems  
  • A method to help primary-age children experience mathematics to explore and solve problems in their environment at home and in school through open-ended work that includes child-invented strategies with different problems, games, and authentic situations.
Minnesota's early childhood preparation standards require candidates understand "the central concepts and tools of inquiry for teaching science, including:
  • Building on primary-age children's capabilities for using their senses to acquire information by examining, exploring, comparing, classifying, describing, and asking questions about materials and events in their environment
  • Encouraging primary-age children to make predictions, gather and classify data, carry out investigations, make observations, and test ideas about natural phenomena and materials
Minnesota's early childhood preparation standards require candidates understand "the central concepts and tools of inquiry for teaching science, including:
  • building on primary-aged children's capabilities for using their senses to acquire information by examining, exploring, comparing, classifying, describing, and asking questions about materials and events in their environment;
  • encouraging primary-aged children to make predictions, gather and classify data, carry out investigations, make observations, and test ideas about natural phenomena and materials"
Early Childhood Development: Minnesota's preparation standards for early childhood education programs require candidates to be able to know "the physical, social, emotional, language, cognitive, and creative development of young children from birth through age eight and the major theories of early childhood development and learning and their implications for practice with young children and families from birth through age eight." In addition, candidates must know, "the unique developmental milestones associated with young infants 0 to 9 months, mobile infants 8 to 18 months, and toddlers 16 to 36 months." The MTLE test for early childhood candidates also has a sub test covering the "Development of Children age 0-5 years."

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. Minnesota's preparation standards for early childhood education candidates specify that all teachers must know how to:
  • Establish environments in which responsive and predictable interaction sequences occur
  • Structure the classroom to promote positive and constructive interactions among children
  • Promote healthy peer relationships
  • Build in each child a sense of belonging, security, personal worth, and self-confidence toward learning
  • Allow for the construction of social knowledge, such as cooperating, helping, negotiating, and talking with others to solve problems
  • Facilitate the development of self-acceptance, self-control, and social responsiveness in children through the use of positive guidance techniques.
In addition, all early childhood education teachers must be able to "plan and implement appropriate curriculum and instructional practices based on developmental knowledge of individual pre-primary-age children...including how to use: developmentally appropriate methods that include play, small group projects, open-ended questioning, group discussion, problem solving, cooperative learning, and inquiry experiences to help children develop curiosity, solve problems, and make decisions." For students at the primary level, teachers must also know how to "create learning environments that emphasize play, active manipulation of concrete materials, child choice and decision making, exploration of the environment, and interactions with others."


Citation

Recommendations for Minnesota

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

State response to our analysis

Minnesota declined to respond to NCTQ's analyses.

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.