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Eager to Learn: Educating our Preschoolers
ber of years of education and the appropriateness of a teacher’s classroom behavior. One study (the Florida Child Care Improvement Study; Howes et al., 1995) found that classroom ratings of global quality and teacher effectiveness (i.e., sensitivity, responsiveness, positive initiations, decrease in negative management, promotion of positive peer interaction) were most likely to improve when the teacher had at least a child development associate credential (or equivalent); the highest scores were obtained by teachers with a B.A. and advanced education.1
Early childhood teacher education is a patchwork of preservice and in-service education opportunities and credentials, characterized by varied state and local requirements across types of programs, auspices, and roles. Although research focused on early childhood teacher education is sparse, it is reasonable to draw implications from related research about how teachers of young children should be prepared. The committee concludes, on the basis of evidence from the research on program quality combined with the research on teacher education, that a college degree with specialized education in child development and the education of young children ought to be required for teachers of young children. In addition, all early childhood teachers should have some course work focused on creating inclusive classrooms for children with special needs and children who are culturally and linguistically diverse.
Although there is some evidence that well-designed and implemented in-service education programs can lead to improved program quality, it has been repeatedly documented that the amount, scope, and quality of professional development provided to early childhood teachers is inconsistent, fragmented, and often chaotic. Effective in-service education must be intensive and continuous, with opportunities to apply knowledge and receive individualized feedback and mentoring in order to support improved teaching practices and positive outcomes for children.
In a very important step forward, the recent congressional reauthorization of Head Start set performance standards for programs that include a requirement for B.A.-qualified classroom staff.