B.A.s for Pre-K Teachers: Making Them Possible

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To the Editor:

Regarding "Scholars Split on Pre-K Teachers With B.A.s" (March 28, 2007):

Consider this: In some states, the person who cuts your hair is required to have more training than the person who teaches your 4-year-old.

There’s little doubt that prekindergarten teachers play a vital role in getting children ready academically and socially to begin school. What is less clear is the level of training these teachers currently have, and whether that training is sufficiently focused on early-childhood education.

Research shows that the most important brain development occurs by age 5. Are we providing our children with the best-trained teachers to take full advantage of their growing brains? Parents should be confident that their children are being taught by qualified teachers. Unfortunately, bachelor’s degrees are not yet the standard for pre-K teachers.

In 2006, only 21 states required pre-K teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, and even fewer required one with a specialization in early-childhood development. Yet research shows that better-educated teachers create more-nurturing learning environments, use developmentally appropriate activities and individualized lesson plans, and better recognize learning disabilities so children can promptly receive the services they need. But pre-K teacher training hasn’t become the national priority it should be. We have a lot of work to do to build a B.A.-certified pre-K workforce.

More colleges and universities should offer degrees in early-childhood education, including flexible degree programs that allow teachers to teach while attending classes. Lawmakers must support this effort by offering tuition assistance and then paying pre-K teachers the professional salaries they deserve.

Schools wouldn’t think of hiring a kindergarten or 1st grade teacher who had not been to college. Why do our youngest learners deserve any less?

Libby Doggett
Executive Director
Pre-K Now
Washington, D.C.

To the Editor:

I am currently an assistant teacher at a pre-K center in New Jersey, where, after a 1998 state supreme court decision, all lead teachers are required to have bachelor’s degrees. I, for one, have decided to go to school full time and continue working full time so that I can earn my degree and become a lead teacher.

The notion that many culturally diverse and bilingual teachers don’t have bachelor’s degrees, or couldn’t attain one if it were required, is false and frankly destructive. My experience and that of my colleagues here in New Jersey and in centers across the nation proves that the assumptions of Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who is quoted in your article as speculating that such a requirement could result in a “purge” of these kinds of teachers, are just plain nonsense.

Minority and bilingual teachers in community-based settings, like all teachers, are fully capable of earning a bachelor’s degree and willing to do so when provided the necessary resources to get there. For every bit of anecdotal evidence showing that Latino, African-American, and bilingual professionals leave the field, I could counter with real-life examples of teachers who embrace the challenge and earn their degrees.

Teachers will do their part if states, pre-K programs, and the federal government will do theirs. We need flexible degree programs, leave time, scholarships, and increased compensation, which would allow us to work and attend classes. We’ll earn those degrees. We’ll become better teachers. And we’ll become role models who can inspire other early-childhood professionals to do the same.

I challenge Mr. Fuller to find one teacher who doesn’t want a bachelor’s degree. Contrary to his assertions, this is not an issue of race, language, cultural values, or even the value of higher education. This is about making children and the teachers who teach them a priority.

I’m tired of people making excuses for not having enough “qualified” teachers. We’re ready and willing. Help us take that next step.

Jennifer Franco
Elizabeth, N.J.

Vol. 26, Issue 33, Pages 31-32

Published in Print: April 18, 2007, as B.A.s for Pre-K Teachers: Making Them Possible
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