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Report: Early-Grade Teachers Require Different Skill Set

Recently we wrote about a call to align the child-care and early-education professions with unified standards and professional development to improve workforce quality. Here's news about another report that explores the need to revise training for teachers who work with our youngest learners.

Laura Bornfreund, a senior policy analyst for New America Foundation's Early Education Initiative, examines the issue in this month's Educational Leadership magazine published by ASCD.

Bornfreund shares research from her policy paper, "Getting in Sync: Revamping Licensing and Preparation for Teachers in Pre-K, Kindergarten, and the Early Grades," and discusses the idea that "disparate preparation" of early-grade teachers has resulted in many lacking the complete training they need to successfully teach younger kids.

That disparity results in teachers who may be trained in cognitive development of young kids, but not in content areas, or vice versa, Bornfreund says.

Preparing early-grade teachers properly is key because of the important role they play in building the foundations of learning. And doing so requires a different skill set than that of teachers in later grades, she says in her report.

Early-grade teachers "need to be equipped with knowledge and skills that show a deep understanding of early childhood, including a focus on social-emotional growth and family engagement and instruction in the most effective ways to teach early science, early literacy, and the building blocks of mathematics," the report says.

Bornfreund takes a critical look at the licensure and preparation of teachers working with children in prekindergarten through 3rd grade, highlighting problems including a lack of focus on the learning needs of young kids.

The solution?

Revising preparatory programs so that they adequately train early-grade teachers and then making sure that those teachers are the ones hired to teach the youngest students. That will ensure that kids in prekindergarten through 3rd grade will get the foundation they need to be successful in school, Bornfreund says.

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