Increasing Early Childhood Education Training and Credentialing
Research shows that “investments in quality preschool programs bolster student success.” Preschool programs prepare students for success in elementary grades, specifically in areas such as literacy and math.
A 2020 policy brief, from the Education Commission of the States, further highlights and quantifies the impacts of quality preschool programs, including positive generational gains, enhanced social and emotional learning skills, and spillover effects to students who did not participate. A recent study also shows that additional training for educators and caregivers further strengthens the impact of those learning experiences.
State policymakers across the country are working to implement policies that expand and enhance training and credentialing opportunities for in-service and pre-service early childhood educators in a variety of ways. Below, we break down specific examples of how states are offering – and funding – these opportunities.
Specific, Relevant Professional Development Training
Many state policies focus on specific instruction. For policymakers and educators, there is a major emphasis on improving literacy outcomes. Early childhood education is especially important, as it provides the foundation for future literacy development. As a result, policymakers are working to better equip early childhood educators and child care practitioners in establishing a foundation of literacy.
- Arizona and Delaware require specific literacy instruction in line with the science of reading.
- Connecticut directs the Department of Education Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success to develop a plan to improve reading, including research-based literacy training for providers of early child care and other instructors working with children under five.
Other states are adding specific literacy instruction to pre-service courses and programs for early childhood educators.
- Kentucky requires pre-service early childhood teachers to receive training in reading instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency and vocabulary. The state further requires that pre-service teachers complete an assessment on reading instruction knowledge and skills.
- Minnesota and Oregon require pre-service teachers to receive instruction on dyslexia and reading difficulties generally.
While most research does not specify the time requirements necessary to ensure high-quality professional development, some states are striving to ensure in-depth literacy training for early childhood educators.
- Arizona requires either 45 classroom hours or three college credit hours of literacy training within three years of obtaining a teaching certificate.
- Florida requires in-service pre-kindergarten teachers complete three emergent literacy training courses, then complete one course every five years.
Numeracy—the practice of applying mathematic skills and ability—is a topic not commonly observed in pre-K training policies. However, Alabama established a task force to provide guidance for higher education institutions in training early childhood educators, based on current research in mathematics.
Another topic of emphasis is social-emotional learning. This is used to teach and practice interpersonal skills and self-awareness/regulation. Several states have enacted policies to support professional development training in social-emotional learning.
- Colorado created the early childhood mental health consultation initiative to expand and enhance practices throughout the state.
- Florida requires training in social-emotional behavior intervention models.
- Maine makes available a voluntary early childhood consultation program to provide support, guidance and training to early childhood educators in social and emotional learning strategies.
- Oklahoma provides trauma-informed care training to child care providers.
Funding Opportunities for Training
Many states are funding various opportunities to expand and enhance the training for early childhood educators. Some policies provide opportunities for professional development and credentialing training for early childhood educators.
- Minnesota uses grant funds to provide economically disadvantaged individuals job skills training and other career assistance to help them obtain a Child Development Associate credential.
- Utah uses available appropriations to provide scholarships to early childhood education teachers seeking a Child Development Associate credential.
- Washington provides scholarships to underqualified staff to earn credentials or stackable certificates from state community and technical colleges.
Other policies fund scholarship opportunities for students pursuing a degree in early childhood education. For example, Washington established a pipeline for paraeducators conditional scholarship program for non-certified teaching assistants without a college degree and recently expanded eligibility from requiring three years of experience to one, while giving more time to complete the degree.
States are also funding financial and career incentives for early childhood educators and child care workers who pursue further education and credentials.
- California requires preschool/child development programs to have a career ladder that allows employees to increase their salary as they earn additional education.
- Texas provides stipends for early childhood professionals seeking additional education.
- Washington’s child care collaborative task force incentivizes advancements in higher education credentials and other equivalencies (as well as experience and training) through increased compensation. The state’s Department of Education provides support for implementing trauma-informed training, including additional compensation for staff who have an infant and early childhood mental health or other specialty credential.
Coaching and Mentoring Provisions
Some states focus on teacher coaching/mentorship.
- Colorado provides payments to child care providers to promote teachers to coaching and mentorship roles.
- Connecticut provides scholarships for early childhood educator training, including the training of mentor teachers.
- Washington, D.C. requires child development centers/homes to partner with child development hubs to create and implement a quality improvement plan, including aligning program policies and procedures to support on-site coaching and professional development.
While state policymakers are working to expand and enhance training and credentialing opportunities for early childhood educators, states are also implementing a variety of other policy measures to support early child care beyond supporting educators. As states continue to look for ways to support early childhood education, policymakers can compare methods across the states to support their own education workforce improvement policies.