Pathways to Early Childhood Teacher Preparation
With increasing demand for school readiness and accountability in the early years, the importance of preparing well-trained early childhood (EC) professionals has not only received considerable attention in the literature but also become one of the major foci of EC policy in the past three decades. The ﬁ eld has constantly struggled with a complex set of intertwined issues such as low entry-level requirements for most EC sectors, increasing demand for highly qualiﬁ ed teachers, low compensation, and high turnover. This is compounded by the fact that starkly different qualiﬁ cations are required of EC teachers (e.g., high school diploma to a master’s degree) depending on the employment settings, roles, and age groups they serve. As indicated by the federal government’s “silence” on EC workforce standards while deﬁ ning “highly-qualiﬁ ed” teachers as those with a college degree, public policy on EC teacher preparation “both promotes degree acquisition and depresses workforce qualiﬁ cations” (Washington, 2008, p. 11). There are also concerns about the “value-added” components of earning higher education degrees due to “the persistently low compensation of people who work with young children, regardless of their credentials or the dynamics of supply and demand” (p. 10) and due to “the historically weak connection, outside of public schools, between credentials and compensation and career or salary growth” (pp. 14-15). In this context, it is not easy for EC teacher candidates to ﬁ nd the time, resources, and support necessary to earn a college degree and teaching certiﬁ cate. In addition, the route to becoming a teacher is not a clear path but often a circuitous route lacking articulation among systems. Due to these challenges, teacher candidates who try to cross into the more formal system often get stuck in the pathway. Given that different pathways do not always connect, describing pathways in a streamlined fashion for those with less formal education or training is a challenging task.