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March 17, 2010

In Pre-K Degrees Matter

College-degree-300x258 What does a degree mean when you are teaching preschool? It is hard to qualify but, Pre-K Now's recent report, A Matter of Degrees, enlisted some researchers to discover why a college degree and specialized training matter to preschool quality. What they found is that degrees and training do matter when child outcomes are the measurement. This confirms some suspicions I have had since I pursued my own graduate degree 15 years ago, that it was important that I went to college, and that there were things I needed to know about teaching very young children that were not addressed in my bachelors program or teacher prep. The report by Marisa Bueno, Linda Darling-Hammond and Danielle Gonzales looks at the relevant research and tries to understand some conflicting studies.

From the report:
"Research suggests that both teachers and parents with higher levels of education expose children to broader vocabularies, fostering the development of better language and literacy skills."
"Teachers with specialized training have been found to provide more appropriate direction, build upon children’s prior knowledge, “scaffold” – or layer – activities to develop emerging understanding and skills and engage students in activities that are appropriately challenging rather than merely repetitive."
 
As a young adult deciding on a career in education in Virginia, I could have taken multiple pathways to teacher certification. When I decided to become a teacher I already had one degree, a BFA in sculpture. My art degree prepared me for some crucial aspects of pre-k teaching like the need for a disposition towards experimentation and learning (not to mention experience with Play-Doh).
 
I decided to pursue so many professional development opportunities to flesh out my own understanding of teaching pre-k, even though I was already considered competent by the state. My state-funded program provided me additional training in curriculum development and the processes of a high-quality preschool classroom. Things like knowing when to say no, when to say maybe, when to ask the hard question and when to just let kids explore.

A Matter of Degrees found that the cumulative effect of both a bachelor's degree and specialized training is the most powerful form of pre-k teacher prep because it provides the specialized knowledge of teaching young children and language and concept knowledge of a liberal college education. My own experience supports this finding because without both, I could have made a lot of mistakes with kids who can't afford any. My application of basic literacy principles based on my love of reading, and my application of child development theories based on specialized training helped me to be much more effective in my first couple years than if I had lacked either one.

Image from: http://selfmadescholar.com/b/2009/05/22/should-we-abolish-the-college-degree/

Comments

I agree with your comments on this article. I have my BA in Elementary Education. I also have coworkers whom only have what they call CDA's. The CDA's are great but they do not go in depth like they do when you get a BA. I feel that the pre-school children I teach benefit greatly from my experience and schooling. Never in my wildest dream did I think that the degree would be handy in pre-school. I was wrong, without that schooling, I would not be successful in what I am doing.
Thank you for your insight!
Denise

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