The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has created an overview of the criteria with which preschool teachers need to be equipped for assisting the country's youngest children in getting a good start.
Hannah Putman, Amber Moorer, and Kate Walsh of the council have written Some Assembly Required: Piecing Together the Preparation Preschool Teachers Need. The authors report that some studies note that kids who attend preschool have lower rates of requiring special education services, receive higher test scores, attend and graduate from college at higher rates, and are likely to have fewer health problems.
Other studies, according to the NCTQ, have shown that the cost of preschool programs outweigh the benefits since the gains fall away after a few years, resulting in some students who attended preschool doing even worse than their classmates who did not.
But the most important factor has been overlooked, according to the report, and that is the quality of preschool teachers. A top-notch preschool teacher is expected to educate his or her students for one year and confer knowledge that will last for many years. The fact is that preschool teachers must be trained appropriately.
The NCTQ is working on this initiative — and the "gold standard" of a bachelor's or master's degrees does not always ensure a high-quality of the preschool teacher. NCTQ began to research preschool issues, such as course requirements; course syllabi; textbooks; student teaching observation and evaluation forms; and student teaching handbooks.
They found that great preschool teachers understand the role of play in learning, engage families, open the world to children, and know how kids develop, among other important traits.
But for this particular study, the skills on which researchers focused included helping children explore science around them, building a foundation in literature, developing language, introducing math concepts, creating a warm and inviting classroom, understanding how children develop and having a background of experience with preschool kids.
The authors found that too many education majors in colleges and universities around the country are in programs that train them how to teach older students. Teaching language to preschoolers is very different than developing language in the upper grades; candidates for preschool positions must be adept in building vocabulary, modeling language, developing critical thinking skills, and asking questions.
Preschool is the perfect time for improving literacy in students to prevent them from having to catch up in elementary school. The ability to help preschool children in this area comes from teaching college students how to be preschool teachers.
Research exists showing that the relationship between early and later math skills is even stronger than for early and later reading skills. Preschool teachers can assist their students in age-appropriate math concepts if he or she has been instructed how to do so.
Unfortunately, few preschool education programs include how to make a classroom warm and inviting, that teach preschool educators how to address behavior problems, how to give positive reinforcement, or how to manage preschool materials.
Too often, even when student classroom teaching is included in a prep program, teachers are not adequately observed in the classroom.
NCTQ has provided on its website multiple resources for preschool teachers, administrators, and professors centering on developing language, teaching math, observation instruments, and even state and local government policy recommendations.