ERIC Identifier: ED330674
Publication Date: 1991-00-00 
Author: Stein, Sheryl E. 
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education Washington DC. 

Prekindergarten Teacher Licensure. ERIC Digest. 

This digest considers prekindergarten teacher licensure, a process which enables states to ensure a certain level of specialized knowledge and experience among early childhood professionals. Trained individuals with knowledge of child development are needed to provide appropriate experiences and interaction which will contribute to the growth and development of young children (Zigler & Finn-Stevenson, 1989, p. 317). The past few years have seen increased concern that teachers receive sufficient preparation in both subject matter areas and grade levels (Cooper & Eisenhart, 1990, p. 185). The movement toward specialization in grade levels and subject matter has led to an increased number of states offering specialized early childhood education licenses rather than the broadly-scoped credentials (e.g., Kindergarten through Grade Eight) common to many states up until the 1980s. At the start of the 1990s, over one-half of the states including the District of Columbia offer early childhood education credentials in one form or another; some cover preschool while others begin at kindergarten (AACTE, 1990, p. viii; Cooper & Eisenhart, 1990, pp. 186-87). 


As noted in a report from the National Governors' Association (Taking Care: State Developments in Child Care, 1990), the National Child Care Staffing Study found that the best predictor of appropriate teacher behavior--having an understanding of the development and needs of children--is the amount of formal education, followed by the amount of training, an individual possesses (National Governors' Association, 1990, p. 6; Whitebook, Howes, & Phillips, 1989, pp. 40-48). The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has suggested that appropriate teacher behavior may result from knowledge and experience including ", specialized preparation in early childhood education/child development...current knowledge of child development and its application of early childhood educational practice..." (Bredekamp, 1987, p. 14). 


States can theoretically ensure that personnel working with children have appropriate training through regulations which require that particular educational or experiential criteria be met. However, a historic argument over whether early childhood programs are custodial, educational, or both has resulted in a dichotomous approach to regulation (Caldwell, 1989; Hayes, Palmer, & Zaslow, 1990, pp. 7-8; Mitchell, 1989, p. 665). 

Caldwell notes that early childhood education programs were originally designed as a service "for 'normal' children from intact, middle-class families with enough economic resources to pay for a service not considered essential enough by society at large to have been provided as a free and universally available public service." Custodial day care, on the other hand, operated as much as a service for parents as for the children, as such programs would provide care for children who were often socially and/or economically disadvantaged while a parent(s) worked (Caldwell, 1989, p. 405-6). Caldwell argues that high quality early childhood programs must encompass both worlds: "they must be comprehensive, integrated programs" (Caldwell, 1989, p. 413). 

Because one type of program was conceptually considered a program of education and the other a program of social welfare, regulatory control of programs was placed in the agency with a similar mission. Thus, programs seen as custodial traditionally have been regulated within the state's social service agency. With the growing realization of the educational aspects of early childhood programs, state education agencies have received regulatory power over public preschool programs (Mitchell, 1989, p. 666). This dichotomous arrangement can create problems, the severity of which ranges from inhibiting program planning, coordination, and advocacy to creating a two-tiered system that segregates children by income levels (Hayes, et al., 1990, p. 8). Although some states have developed a coordinated approach, preschool licensure and programs continue to be regulated predominantly by state departments of education. 


As a rule, teachers must hold some type of certification or license to work in the public school system. What constitutes an early childhood education credential and whether the state requires such a credential are two different issues. McCarthy (1988) notes several different configurations of preschool credentials (p. 2). 

1. Some states offer an early childhood education license that is separate and distinct from an elementary license. Such a license may include kindergarten and primary elementary grades up to grade three but is still not attached to the elementary license. It should not be assumed that this credential provides coverage for the same-aged children across all states offering such a credential, as some states' credentials cover work with children from birth through age four and others with children from ages five through nine (McCarthy, 1988). For instance, Minnesota offers an early childhood license which covers birth through age five and Missouri offers a license covering Nursery through Grade 3 (AACTE, 1990, pp. 64, 70; McCarthy, 1988, Table 7). 

2. Several states offer "title-specific certification," where the title of the credential denotes the range of the license; for instance, Prekindergarten Certification, Nursery through Grade 6 (N-6) Certification (McCarthy, 1988). For example, Ohio offers the Prekindergarten Certificate (AACTE, 1990, p. 94). 

3. Another pattern noted is that of early childhood education endorsements, which are added to elementary education credentials. Sometimes, this endorsement solely encompasses kindergarten; other times, it includes nursery as well (McCarthy, p. 3). An example of this is Wisconsin's early childhood endorsement, which encompasses both (AACTE, 1990, p. 130). Requirements for such endorsements vary from state to state. 

4. Another pattern McCarthy finds is that of elementary education credentials which include kindergarten (McCarthy, 1988, p. 3). Some states have added nursery onto their elementary education credential, as New Jersey did in January 1990 (AACTE, 1990, p. 80). 

5. With the recent passage of P.L. 94-142 and P.L. 99-457, legislation concerned with preschool education for special needs children, some states have created credentials which acknowledge preparation in both early childhood and special education, like Delaware (AACTE, p. 22). 

6. Finally, McCarthy (1988) notes that there are a few states which do not offer any credentials for teaching preschoolers but allow individuals holding an elementary education license to teach children of kindergarten age or younger (McCarthy, p. 4). Of the four states she mentions, only one state, Idaho, still does not offer an early childhood credential. 


Spodek and Saracho (1990) note that distinctions are made among early childhood professionals with regard to compensation: "(1) between public school-sponsored programs and non-public school programs, whether sponsored by public or private agencies and (2) between teachers in child care programs and educational programs" (p. 23). They note that early childhood teachers working in public programs must meet the same standards for preparation as their teacher counterparts who work with older children. Hayes et al. (1990) note that the public sector pays better and provides more benefits (i.e., health insurance) to teachers than the private sector; moreover, they find that child care workers in public settings earn more than their privately employed counterparts. With regard to the historic separation between early childhood education and child care, they note the long-standing pay disparity between education and social welfare programs: "Salaries in education, although low, have traditionally been higher than salaries for social services positions, even when levels of education are comparable." 


References identified with an EJ or ED number have been abstracted and are in the ERIC data base. Journal articles (EJ) should be available at most research libraries; documents (ED) are available in ERIC microfiche collections at more than 700 locations. Documents can also be ordered through the ERIC document Reproduction Service: (800) 443-3742. For more information, contact the ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education, One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-2450. 

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (June 1990). Teacher Education Policy in the States: A 50-State Survey of Legislative and Administrative Actions. Washington, DC: Author. 

Bredekamp, S. (Ed.). (1987). Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth Through Age 8. Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. 

Caldwell, B. M. (Spring 1989). A Comprehensive Model for Integrating Child Care and Early Childhood Education. Teachers College Record (90), pp. 404-414. EJ 35 979. 

Cooper, J. M., & Eisenhart, C. E. (1990). Chapter 10. The Influence of Recent Educational Reforms on Early Childhood Teacher Education Programs. In B. Spodek & O. N. Saracho (Eds.), Yearbook in Early Childhood Education Volume I: Early Childhood Teacher Preparation. New York: Teachers College Press. 

Hayes, C. D., Palmer, J. L., & Zaslow, M. J. (1990). Who Cares for America's Children? Child Care Policy for the 1990s. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. ED 319 523. 

McCarthy, J. (1988). State Certification of Early Childhood Teachers: An Analysis of the 50 States and the District of Columbia. Paper presented at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Early Childhood Teacher Education Colloquium, 1988. 

Mitchell, A. (May 1989). Old Baggage, New Visions: Shaping Policy for Early Childhood Programs. Phi Delta Kappan 70, pp. 664-672. EJ 388 718. 

National Governors' Association Center for Policy Research. (1990). Taking Care: State Developments in Child Care. Washington, DC: National Governors' Association. 

Spodek, B. & Saracho, O. N. (Eds.). (1990). Yearbook in Early Childhood Education Volume I: Early Childhood Teacher Preparation. New York: Teachers College Press. 

Whitebook, M., Howes, C. & Phillips, D. (1989). Who Cares? Child Care Teachers and the Quality of Care in America. National Child Care Staffing Study Executive Summary. Oakland, CA: Child Care Employee Project. 

Zigler, E. F. & Finn-Stevenson, M. (1989). Child Care in America: From Problem to Solution. Educational Policy 3, pp. 313-329. 

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