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#2 K-Power - High Quality Teachers

All Children in the U.S. should be provided the opportunity to:

Be taught by a teacher who has received specialized training in working with and instructing young children, particularly kindergarteners, and who has shown his/her competency in providing intentional and appropriate evidence-based instruction to this age child.


Intentional and appropriate instruction

An intentional teacher “act(s) with specific outcomes or goals in mind for children’s development and learning.”[i]  To do so, a teacher must have strong content knowledge and be able to understand of where a child is in meeting the outcome or goal, use the most appropriate instructional strategies given the given, assess and readjust based on the assessment.

Teachers who provide appropriate instruction take into account knowledge of child development and learning, the individual child, and culture when providing instruction.[ii]


Why does “specialized training” matter?

Research finds that “…early childhood teachers who hold bachelor’s degrees (e.g., bachelor of arts, bachelor of science) with specialized training in early childhood education provide better quality learning experiences, which lead to better outcomes, most notably for 3- to 5-year olds (Barnett, 2003; National Research Council, 2001; Whitebook, 2003).”[iii]

The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Foundation Task Force on Early Learning recently recommended that pre-service training “include a focus on child development, knowledge and practice to promote children’s school readiness, early childhood curricula and assessment, and approaches to family engagement as well as the interrelationship between programs that serve children up to age 5 and K-3 programs.”[iv]

In order to provide intentional instruction, a teacher must be able to call upon sound judgment, content knowledge, developmental knowledge, and knowledge of the individual child to instruct towards reaching outcomes (across all domains). Without specialized training, kindergarten teachers are less likely to be able to provide effective intentional instruction because of lack of knowledge around developmental needs of children in kindergarten and the strategies to use to support strong child outcomes. Currently, teachers who have taught higher elementary grades, such as 4th grade, can be put in charge of kindergarten classrooms, despite being unfamiliar with the needs and capacities of children in kindergarten.  As a result, kindergarteners may receive instruction that is inappropriate for their age level, or not effective in reaching expected outcomes.


How does a teacher demonstrate competence?

NAEYC Professional Preparation Standards[v] encompass six standards that teachers should know and be able to do when working with children from birth to age 8.  They include:

  • Promoting child development and learning
  • Building family and community relationships
  • Observing, documenting, and assessing
  • Using developmentally effective approaches to connect with children and families
  • Using content knowledge to build meaningful curriculum
  • Becoming a professional

High quality kindergarten teachers build and maintain supportive relationships with children as they learn. They must also be adept in how to teach concepts and skills that are adapted to each child’s level. This combination of art and science requires pre-service training specific to early childhood as well as continue professional development once teaching in the field.


Epstein, A. (2007). The intentional teacher: Choosing the best strategies for young children’s learning. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/store/files/store/TOC/165_0.pdf

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009). NAEYC Standards for Early Childhood Professional Preparation. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Youth Children. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/files/2009%20Professional%20Prep%20stdsRevised%204_12.pdf

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (n.d.). Developmentally appropriate practice. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/DAP

National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Foundation Task Force on Early Learning. (2011). Building and supporting an aligned system: A vision for transforming education across the pre-k-grade three years. Alexandria, VA: NAESP. Retrieved from http://www.naesp.org/resources/1/NAESP_Prek-3_C_pages.pdf

Shore, R. (July 2009). PreK-3rd: Teacher quality matters. New York, NY: Foundation for Child Development.

[i] Epstein, 2007, 1

[ii] NAEYC, n.d.

[iii] in Pianta, Cox, and Snow, 2007

[iv] NAESP Foundation Task Force on Early Learning, 2011, p 7

[v] NAEYC, 2009