FINDING THE BEST PRESCHOOLS
Summary: If you can’t find the perfect preschool, at a minimum, choose a school where teachers are warm and nurturing. If possible, find a program where a teacher has a BA in early education or has extensive early education training.
There is an enormous amount of information that a teacher must understand to be effective and to be current with the latest research on early childhood development. When looking for a preschool, try to find a teacher who has a degree in early education and is warm and sensitive. Unfortunately, given the dismally low preschool salaries, a highly trained teacher may be hard to find. At a minimum, find a teacher who is warm and nurturing.
Bowman (2011), former head of NAEYC and member of the White House's education transition team, says that given the explosion of research and the increasing realization of the complexity of child development, teachers need extensive training. NAEYC, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and The Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy of the National Research Council all recommend a comprehensive range of teacher skills. A teacher must understand: child development and sequences, how to interact with families, how to assess, what teaching practices to use, a variety of teaching strategies, how to implement an integrated curriculum and what content to focus on (Bowman, 2011; Willer, Lutton & Ginsberg, 2011).
The bachelor’s degree is, by far, the best way to learn that volume of content. Barnett (2011) says that “analyses of state pre-K data find children make greater gains in pre-reading and math if their teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree” (p.51). He also says that a “review of the literature finds that virtually all reports of large effects on learning with highly rigorous designs are due to preschool programs in the public schools with licensed teachers who have bachelor’s degrees” (p.52).
Just because a teacher has a B.A., though, does not mean they always confer “an ethic of caring” (Fuller, 2011). Teachers also need to have “sensitive and warm interactions and responsive feedback and verbal engagement” (Pianta, 2011, p.65) with their students. Pianta (2011) claims that quality teacher/children interactions are what “uniquely predict gains in children’s development”. A study from University of North Carolina showed that children in classrooms with teachers who did not provide emotional support had higher cortisol levels than those in more nurturing environments (Hatfield, 2010). Cortisol, in turn, inhibits higher cognitive functioning.
Unfortunately, many teachers do not have the training they need because of the higher cost of education and the low pay scales for preschool teachers. If you are unable to find a highly trained teacher, please read other articles on this website to support your child at home and find a school where the teachers are warm and nurturing.
Fuller, B. (2011). College credentials and caring: how teacher training could lift young children. In E. Zigler, W. Gilliam & W.S. Barnett (Eds.), The Pre-K Debates: Current Controversies and Issues (54-57). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Hatfield, B.E. (2010). Cortisol and Alpha-Amalyse Levels of Preschool Children While Attending Child Care: Relationships with Indicators of Classroom Quality. University of North CarolinaGreensboro. Dissertation.
Pianta, R. C. (2011). A degree is not enough: teachers need stronger and more individualized professional development supports to be effective. In E. Zigler, W. Gilliam & W.S. Barnett (Eds.), The Pre-K Debates: Current Controversies and Issues (54-57). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Willer, B.A., Lutton, A., & Ginsberg, M.R. (2011). The importance of early childhood teacher preparation. In E. Zigler, W. Gilliam & W.S. Barnett (Eds.), The Pre-K Debates: Current Controversies and Issues (54-57). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.