Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Early Childhood Teacher Certification

Most states have an early childhood education certification that spans the pre-primary to primary grade levels. Age/ grade bands vary. Pre-kindergarten through third grade is common. Some states make the credential valid from birth. A few have an endorsement that is specifically for kindergarten teaching and/ or teaching below the kindergarten level. Some states have more than one early childhood education credential. Connecticut, for example, has an endorsement that covers birth through kindergarten and another that covers three year old preschool through third grade.

Some states issue early childhood integrated or inclusive credentials, designed to give educators a background for working with typically developing and special needs children. It's special needs children who are most often included in the school system at an early age, but education of special needs peers often takes place in inclusive settings. These licenses qualify teachers for work in different settings. Idaho, for example, notes “any educational setting”. In some states, there is a separate early childhood special education endorsement.

Early childhood credentialing is typically most important for individuals who want to teach pre-kindergarten children in public school settings where licensure is required. Elementary certification typically, though not universally, includes kindergarten. Some require early childhood credentialing. One may even be required to hold it at the first grade level, though this is very uncommon. States have varying requirements for teachers who want to extend their credential beyond the grade levels for which it was initially issued.

Early Childhood Teacher Certification Requirements

Certification requirements vary but there are some commonalities. Prospective educators must complete approved early childhood education degree programs and pass assessments required for their certification area. They can expect background checks before beginning teaching. States have different regulations for when and how the check(s) are carried out.

Educator preparation programs are typically taught at the bachelor's level. One can do their preparation at the master's level.

States set requirements for approval of educator preparation programs. Student teaching is often stated as a formal requirement; 12 weeks is a typical minimum. The state may set standards for pre-student teaching practicum experiences.

States often mandate a broad general or liberal arts background as well as specific preparation courses. Many states describe endorsement requirements in the form of competencies. Educator preparation programs have the responsibility of ensuring that teacher candidates meet the competencies. Receiving an institutional recommendation can signify a good deal more than just having completed a prescribed set of courses.

Some states mandate that programs go through a national accreditation process. The National Association for the Education of Young Children sets the standards for CAEP-accredited early childhood education programs.

Assessments Required for Certification

An early childhood education candidate will typically take several assessments. States generally use assessments by ETS or Praxis. Praxis subject assessments include Early Childhood Education and Education of Young Children.

Some states allow early childhood educators to take elementary subject area assessments en lieu of early childhood ones.

A number of states mandate the Foundations of Reading test, an assessment of understanding of teaching literacy.

Evaluation has long been part of the student teaching experience. In some places, the evaluation process has become more standardized. A portfolio-based assessment may be completed as part of the student teaching process. Some states require a performance assessment of early career professionals even if they are coming from out of state. Well-known national assessments include the PPAT and edTPa.

Seeking Certification

The prospective early childhood teacher will go through the licensing or certification process in each state where he or she seeks a credential. Some states make the actual application process easy for individuals who complete in-state educator preparation programs. The EPP may ensure that all requirements have been met before issuing an institutional recommendation. Often this is done through an online system. The prospective educator will typically complete a few steps, like answer background questions.

In some states, an education student receives a credential of some sort before student teaching; the school may have the responsibility of securing credentials for its student.

Some states require that students who complete a program physically located in another state go through the out-of-state licensing process before seeking licensure there. Some accept out-of-state programs that are approved for licensing purposes in their own state.

Often states will accept assessments taken in other states. When additional tests are required, a transitional credential may be issued to authorize employment.

There may be specific trainings or courses required (for example, English language dvlopmnt or recognizing and reporting child abuse.

License Levels

There is often a tiered licensure system with successful experience part of the process for moving up the continuum. States may choose to credit Head Start experience.

Some states issue not a license or certificate but a statement of eligibility upon graduation. The graduate will then seek a job and go through an induction process with mentoring and evaluation.

Achieving the highest level often depends on an advanced degree or National Board certification.

Additional Resources

The Education Commission of the States has provided a list of early childhood endorsements by stat (