Identifying and reaching consensus on what early care and education teachers and administrators need to know and be able to do is an essential part of ensuring that children are supported as competent learners, regardless of the B–8 early care and education setting.
The knowledge and competencies needed by adults to support learning, development, and school success should draw from the science of child development and early learning, the knowledge base about educational practices, and the context of early care and education and related sectors.
The knowledge and skills necessary for competent practice by early educators are listed on pages 328-329 of Transforming the Workforce, which organizes them into five categories:
- Core knowledge of the science of child development and early learning
- Practices to help children learn and develop based on this science
- Knowledge and skills for working with diverse populations of children
- Developing and using partnerships with families and support services to bolster child learning and development
- Ability and motivation to continually improve the quality and effectiveness of one’s practices
Perceptions expressed by practitioners in B–5 and elementary education communities suggest that significant differences exist between them. A comparison of national and state statements of core competencies, however, indicates more agreement exists than typically thought, especially in terms of supporting children’s growth and development across domains, including general and specific cognitive skills, social and emotional development, health, and physical well-being. These two communities both have public statements indicating shared belief in the importance of collaborating with colleagues and interacting with children in developmentally appropriate ways.
Nonetheless, there are meaningful variations in the knowledge and skills expected of early childhood educators in B–5 and elementary grade educators, especially in the areas of child assessment, family engagement, and use of technology.
Examination of national statements and state expectations for what B–8 educators need to know and be able to do indicates several areas where additional and/or more defined competencies are warranted based on the current science of child development and early learning and the importance of competent educational practice:
- Teaching subject-matter-specific content
- Addressing stress and adversity
- Fostering social and emotional development and general learning competencies, including a coherent conceptual framework for preparing learning environments and experiences that support learning and growth in these areas. This realm includes understanding self-regulatory capacities and the ways these capacities interrelate with one another and connect to academic achievement when connected to specific developmentally appropriate teacher strategies
- Working with dual language learners
- Integrating technology into curricula
Program and school administrators are increasingly being recognized for creating the context for children’s effective learning and teachers’ continuing growth. In contrast to a broad overlap between the stated competencies expected of early childhood (B–5) and elementary educators, a more pronounced divide in expectations exists for administrators in elementary school settings and those in early childhood learning settings outside of the public schools.