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Curriculum and Instruction News

Report underplays critical issues in professionalizing early childhood teachers

January 22, 2018

UW-Madison's Beth Graue and Erica Ramberg recently reviewed and responded to a report about the advantages of online degree programs, as reported in a news release ​from the National Education Policy Center.

The report, titled, “When Degree Programs for Pre-K Teachers Go Online: Challenges and Opportunities,” is written by Shayna Cook and published by the New America Foundation. Cook argues that appropriately structured online degree programs have the potential to professionalize and increase the quality of early childhood (EC) teachers.

Graue and Remberg ReviewGraue and Ramberg reviewed the report and assert that while it draws attention to some of the unique considerations necessary for EC workforce policy, it underplays a number of critical issues in professionalizing the field. Graue is the Sorenson Professor of Early Childhood Education and the director of the newly formed Center for Early Childhood Education Research within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Ramberg is a Ph.D. student with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction who is examining childhood studies and teacher education.

The report by Cook contends that online bachelor’s programs offer more flexible and financially accessible pathways for teachers to obtain a degree. These programs are presented in the report as a way to raise standards and thus propel these teachers towards higher quality practice and higher salaries.

Graue and Ramberg conclude that the report lacks adequate treatment of the EC workforce’s economic realities that place these pre-K teachers at the poverty line, regardless of credential or degree. The report also is problematic in its choice to present testimonials rather than evidence of outcomes for online programs. Finally, though recognizing the importance of “high-quality” EC programs, the report leaves the term under-analyzed.

Unfortunately, without a nuanced discussion of these issues, the report’s usefulness is limited, argue Graue and Ramberg.

Find the review by Graue and Ramberg on the NEPC web page. Find “When Degree Programs for Pre-K Teachers Go Online: Challenges and Opportunities,” written by Cook, on this New America Foundation web page.

NEPC Reviews provide timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The NEPC, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions.

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