To maximize the benefits of pre-kindergarten investments, states need to create policies that define and support teacher quality, according to a report released today by Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States. The report reviews research on training for pre-k teachers and concludes that educators with at least a bachelor's degree coupled with specialized training in early childhood are best able to foster development of the cognitive, social and emotional skills children need to be ready for kindergarten.
“A Matter of Degrees: Preparing Teachers for the Pre-K Classroom” also highlights state models for increasing teacher quality and shows how raising qualification requirements can professionalize the workforce and improve student outcomes.
“From improved academic outcomes to the economic savings for schools and states, the benefits of high-quality pre-k are irrefutable,” said Marci Young, the director of Pre-K Now. “Rigorous preparation requirements and incentives for teachers to attain higher degrees will help improve student readiness and outcomes so that states get the most out of their investment in early education.”
The report examines the research on pre-k teacher preparation, children's learning and program quality to determine how preparedness influences effectiveness. It explores the potential costs and benefits of professionalizing the pre-k workforce, the challenges associated with increases in preparation standards for early childhood educators and the strategies some states and localities have used to address those challenges. Education experts Marisa Bueno, Linda Darling-Hammond and Danielle Gonzales were commissioned to research and write the report for Pre-K Now.
“Our review of the research indicates that, in general, teachers with bachelor's degrees and specialized training for early childhood support stronger social-emotional and cognitive development for children,” said Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University. “Ensuring all teachers have this kind of training will help raise the effectiveness of the nation's publicly funded pre-k classrooms.”
The report also describes Pre-K Now's recommendations, which call on states to require higher education levels for pre-k teachers while creating systems that help educators attain advanced qualifications.