Today New America and Bellwether Education Partners are releasing Pre-K Teachers and Bachelor’s Degrees: Envisioning Equitable Access to High-Quality Preparation Programs, a report that lays out a variety of approaches to enable pre-K teachers to gain access to bachelor's degrees and to ensure preparation programs help educators build the competencies they need to effectively teach three- and four-year-olds. The report synthesizes ideas from a meeting we hosted last fall to explore what needs to change in the current system, and it concludes with six areas in need of further research and experimentation.
The report recounts the current state of pre-K teacher qualifications—including the fact that Head Start and the majority of state-funded pre-K programs have requirements related to a bachelor's degree. It then focuses on how to consider the impact of the bachelor's degree in light of current research on quality and effectiveness, why it is important to ensure continued diversity in the workforce, and why social and financial support services will be needed. Current members of the workforce, for example, may find it exceedingly difficult to find the time and money to attend college courses and complete traditional preparation programs, given the low wages that come with most jobs in early childhood. The state of today's degree programs is also problematic, as some may not be designed to help teachers gain the skills and knowledge that research shows are needed to help young children learn.
Among the strategies underway for overcoming problems are: improving students' opportunities to access and complete degree programs, employing nontraditional methods for instruction in degree programs, getting creative with scholarships and financing, and revamping coursework and field experiences.
The report ends with six areas demanding further research and experimentation. The field needs:
1) More strategies to improve the quality of bachelor's degree and teacher preparation programs for pre-K teachers.
2) More sophisticated approaches for defining the "early childhood specialization" of a bachelor's degree program.
3) A deeper understanding of the implications of teacher licensure.
4) Reflection on how to motivate higher education institutions to revamp their programs.
5) Strategies for recruiting and retaining the next generation of pre-K teachers.
6) A continued push for improving compensation and workplace quality for pre-K teachers.
For a deeper dive into the report, join us at our event at 12 pm ET today, which will include a panel moderated by Jeneen Interlandi, contributor to the New York Times Magazine. And join us to discuss the topic on Twitter at #Bachelors4PreK.