Early Childhood Teachers: Do Qualifications Matter?

"The CDA program is a brass-tacks program that focuses on the health and safety of very young children," Bye told Education World. "It's pragmatic, not theoretical. The CDA is great background, but people with CDA training don't get the pay or status of teachers who have bachelor's degrees -- nor do they get the continuing professional development. Someone with a bachelor's degree is treated like a professional. It's not surprising their [CDA teachers'] enthusiasm wanes over time." However, many CDA teachers continue their education and go on to earn a B.A.'s, Bye said.

DISRUPTIVE KIDS AFFECT OVERALL PRE-K BENEFITS

Bye made note of the finding that disruptive kids negatively affect other kids in a class. "We can all agree that the willingness to mainstream [all behaviorally challenged students] is good, but these findings remind us to look at the impact on all kids," she said.

Marilou Hyson, the National Association for the Education of Young Children executive director for professional development, expressed concern that the implications about the negative impacts of disruptive children may deter inclusion of children who exhibit challenging behaviors in regular classrooms. "That finding jumps right out," Hyson told Education World. "The message of that finding is that we need much better professional development on how to prevent challenging behaviors."

Hyson further stated that under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), teachers should not remove disruptive children who have disabilities. Teachers need to reduce the impact of disabled children's behavior on the rest of the class by using professional development resources to manage challenging student behaviors.

PRE-K COUNTS

According to other research, including Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers, by the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, very young children generally benefit from having a teacher certified in early childhood education, Hyson points out.

However, there aren't enough certified teachers to meet the national need nor is there enough money to pay their salaries, Hyson said. "There are economic issues we need to address."

Formerly affiliated with the early childhood teacher preparation program at the University of Delaware, Hyson said that the vast majority of early childhood teachers who graduated from that program became kindergarten teachers instead. Most couldn't afford to pay for their educations and go into a profession that paid only $15,000 annually. Those few who did work as teachers in pre-school childcare programs had to work second jobs, she said.

Hyson said the decision to phase out CDA-certified teachers as lead teachers in Georgia's pre-K program is consistent with the direction of Head Start, as well. "It doesn't mean CDA teachers aren't valuable," she said. "They are still valuable as assistant teachers and their CDA certification can be the first step for a career ladder move toward being an early childhood teacher."

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