As part of my email Q&A with New America Foundation’s Laura Bornfreund about improving early-elementary teacher-preparation, I asked her what various stakeholders could do to make changes benefitting early-elementary teachers and students. Here’s what she said:
If I’m a university president: Be willing to make investments in schools of education, particularly for hiring additional faculty members with early-childhood teaching experience and for transitioning to clinically based models of teacher training. Build a relationship with superintendents of surrounding school districts, as is done with leaders of other professions.
If I’m a funder: Make investments in university-school district partnerships as well as university-community college efforts to articulate early-childhood preparation programs. Foundations can also fund research on promising teacher-preparation models, particularly those that prepare teachers for the early grades and how their students perform in the upper grades, as well as more research on the attributes and abilities of the most-effective teachers.
If I’m an early-childhood professor: Get up to date on the latest research about young children’s capacity to learn and how they develop both cognitively and socially. Professors should also become well-versed in how to engage young children in rich and challenging subject matter, and how to demonstrate strategies that help teachers plant a love of learning in their students to lay a strong foundation upon which teachers of later grades can build.
If I’m a state governor or legislator: Consider restructuring teacher licenses to align with developmental spans and making approval processes for teacher-preparation programs more rigorous.
If I’m a school principal or district leader: Seek out professional development opportunities that provide information on early childhood and work with teachers’ unions to eliminate policies that place more emphasis on seniority [than on] a teachers’ readiness for a position when it comes to layoff decisions. And consider a teacher’s preparation for the early grades when selecting a teacher for a kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade classroom.
If I’m an elementary school teacher: Seek out professional development that focuses on engaging young children and understanding how they learn and develop. Reach out to parents to help them to be active participants in their child’s education, creating a positive relationship with “school” with the hope it continues through high school.
If I’m a parent: Find out how the principal at your child’s school hires teachers in the early grades and determine the importance they place on a teachers’ understanding of and knowledge about child development and appropriate practices, along with knowledge of how to engage children in challenging subject matter. Ask your child’s teacher about how your child is progressing, not just academically, but also how well your child is learning social-emotional skills and strategies to work with peers and adults.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.