Sometimes there seems to be a disconnect between educators who work with children prior to elementary school and those who teach in the early grades, but new survey results find a strong connection between the two groups.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children, or NAEYC, recently released results from a survey of more than 530 current or recent K-3 teachers. The group also conducted online, in-depth qualitative interviews with 14 K-3 teachers.
On average, two-thirds of the teachers who were surveyed viewed themselves as “early-childhood educators.” The numbers were highest among kindergarten teachers with 93 percent agreeing with that statement, while it dropped to 52 percent among 3rd grade teachers.
Lauren Hogan is NAEYC’s senior director of public policy and advocacy. She also managed the polling for this project.
She recently discussed the findings with us via email and said they show that the perceived divide between these groups is not as wide as many believe.
“My sense from this research is that K-3 teachers want to be attached to and included in ‘early-childhood education’ because they understand that it’s about a child’s development across multiple domains—cognitive, social-emotional, physical, etc.—and they know how much the young kids they work with need and will thrive with that developmentally appropriate approach,” wrote Hogan.
The survey also found that 76 percent of K-3 teachers supported the creation of a unified and aligned system of early-childhood education from birth to age 8.
Hogan said by working together these groups would be able to accomplish a lot because voters view K-12 teachers as trustworthy sources of information.
“If they were to come together more consistently with educators of children 0-5 around a shared message of the critical need to invest in early-childhood education, it would be very powerful indeed,” wrote Hogan.
Those surveyed indicated that a unified and aligned system has several potentially important outcomes such as more developmentally appropriate standards for students (92 percent) and higher wages for teachers (88 percent).
Kindergarten teachers showed the most support for a unified system with 87 percent in favor of it. But that support drops off significantly among 2nd and 3rd grade teachers to 71 and 69 percent respectively.
The survey also questioned the teachers about their thoughts on preparation programs. A small majority (54 percent) thought early-childhood educators should be required to have a four-year degree.
Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed viewed their pre-service training as “excellent” or “pretty good.” Of those who rated their preparation as “excellent,” 35 percent were certain they would stay in the profession. Only 24 percent of those who rated their preparation as “pretty good” said the same, and that number dropped to 21 percent of those who rated their preparation as “only fair/poor.”
Hogan said she found that correlation intriguing and wanted to know if teachers who described their training as excellent were more likely to remain in the profession long-term or if excellent training could influence a teacher’s commitment to the classroom.
“I think we know a lot about how much retention matters—for a teacher’s own quality of teaching, to the relationships they are able to develop with students, to school and community stability—and it’s helpful to think broadly about what we can do, from the start of a career all the way through the end, in order to help great teachers keep teaching,” wrote Hogan.
The survey was conducted by a bipartisan team of researchers including Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin, Mertz & Associates (FM3) and Public Opinion Strategies with support from the Richard W. Goldman Family Foundation.
Image by Getty
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.