As policymakers, you
can play more of a role than you might think in making sure that educators have
the knowledge and skills they need to teach young children. It starts by
recognizing that to foster high-quality learning, B–8 educators will need a
deeper knowledge of subject-matter content, the developmental progress of how children
learn, and the instructional strategies that best promote learning.
The Transforming the Workforce report
summarizes insights from multiple new studies on the effectiveness of various
practices with young children that lead to development of social and emotional skills, language and literacy skills, early math and early science skills, and the
use of technology, as well as how to tailor methods to support dual language
learners and other diverse populations of young children. Yet many early
educators enter the field ill-equipped to teach certain subjects, such as math,
or support specific populations. This is in part because preparation programs
are usually designed in response to state competencies, qualifications, and
licensure requirements, which may not align with the latest research.
Transforming the Workforce includes a full list of the competencies that B–8
educators need on pages 328–329. However, there is no current
consensus on what professionals need to know and be able to do. National
statements and state expectations for B–8 educators overlap, but also vary in
significant ways. While some aspects of practice need to be tailored to
specific professional roles, specialization should be developed in the context
of a shared foundation in child development and early learning. States and
other entities responsible for competencies and standards should revise them to
align with the latest research on child development and early learning. The
report recommends that states expand their existing core competency statements
on areas such as the science of child development, the use of assessment, and
work with dual language learners.
344–345, the report lays out specialized knowledge and competencies
for leaders in the field. Program leaders are important in ensuring the quality
of early learning experiences, yet their training often does not prepare them
to be both administrative and instructional leaders. There is a pronounced
divide in expectations for leaders in elementary school settings and those in
early childhood learning settings outside of the public schools. Existing state
and federal policies, such as minimal qualifications for center directors and
accountability systems focused on the later grades for elementary school
principals, often fail to motivate or support leaders in acquiring the knowledge
and skills necessary to lead early childhood educators and their students.
In addition to strong
educator preparation programs and professional learning opportunities, which we
expand on below, you should help ensure that educators have access to
research-based curricula and other relevant materials instrumental in
supporting their practice. States or districts can provide guidance around
curricula selection and use.
Lastly, the report
points out that B–8 educators and administrators need to learn how to foster
collaboration with and to coordinate practices across early care and education
settings and between the care and education sector and related sectors, especially
health, mental health, and social services.
- Are there particular subject areas
that are weak among educators in your state or locality that need to be
addressed? For example, what is the state of early math or science instruction?
Are educators being trained in how to build language and literacy skills? Are
there best practices for the use of technology with young children that need to
be integrated into early learning guidelines and teacher training?
- Are all B–8 educators in your
state or locality provided opportunities to learn more about child mental
health and what services may be offered to the children and families in their
- Does the state have one
foundational set of competencies that are expected for all educators B–8?
- Do documents exist that outline
competencies for those working with young children in various capacities?
- When were these competency
expectations last revised and how are they used?
- Are current state competency
expectations aligned with those in the report?
This synopsis was drawn from our summaries of chapter 6 and chapter 7 of Transforming the Workforce; we encourage you to go to those summaries
for key takeaways, examples, graphics, important quotations from the National
Academies’ volume, and more.