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What We Know

• Better-educated preschool teachers withspecialized training are more effective.

• Preschool programs employing teacherswith four-year college degrees have beenshown to be highly effective and goodeconomic investments for the taxpayer.

• Low educational qualifications and alack of specific preparation in preschoollimit the educational effectiveness ofmany preschool teachers.

• In 19 out of 38 states that finance pre-k,educational requirements for prekinder-garten teachers are lower than forkindergarten teachers.

• The federal government’s Head Startprogram has lower educational require-ments for teachers than most stateprekindergarten programs.

• Leading educators and researchers have called for improved educationalstandards for preschool teachers.

• Better compensation is required to hire and retain more effective teachers.

Policy Recommendations

• Require publicly funded preschoolteachers to have a four-year collegedegree and specialized training.

• Ensure that colleges and universitiesprepare new teachers and provide sus-tained professional development forthose already teaching based on the bestscience regarding what and how toteach young children.

• Design programs enabling current earlyeducation teachers to get a four-yeardegree.

• Pay preschool teachers salaries and ben-efits comparable to those of similarlyqualified teachers in K-12 education.

• Support the National Association for the Education of Young Children(NAEYC)/National Council forAccreditation of Teacher Education(NCATE) standards for new programs to prepare preschool teachers.

• Develop state policies to ensure thatmore capable teachers are maximzingtheir effectiveness in the classroom.

Once they begin kindergarten, America’s children are taught by professionals with at least

a four-year college degree. Prior to kindergarten their teachers are far less prepared. Fewer

than half of preschool teachers hold a bachelor’s degree, and many never even attended college.

New research indicates that young children’s learning and development depend on

the educational qualifications of their teachers. The most effective preschool teachers have

at least a four-year college degree and specialized training in early childhood. Despite a

substantial body of evidence, public policy has yet to fully recognize the value of

well-educated, professional, early education teachers.







Better Teachers, Better Preschools:Student Achievement Linked to Teacher Qualifications

Issue 2 / Revised December 2004

Contact Us:120 Albany Street, Suite 500 New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Tel (732) 932-4350 Fax (732) 932-4360 Website:


Preschool Policy Matters

by W. Steven Barnett

This brief defines preschoolsas center-based programsthat provide educationalexperiences for children during the years precedingkindergarten. They can belocated in a child care center, state prekindergarten, private nursery school, orHead Start center.

Preschool Policy Matters Revised December 2004

Estimates of the percentage of teachers with a BA degree in Child Care centers range from 31% to 47%.

Public Elementary Preschool in Head Start5 Child Care6 School Public Schools
















Percentage of Teachers with BA Degrees

Summary High-quality preschool education pro-duces substantial long-term education-al, social, and economic benefits. Butresearch finds large benefits occur only when teachers are professionallyprepared and adequately compensated.Unfortunately, most of America’s preschool programs are not required tohire teachers who meet even the mostbasic professional requirements, norcould they afford to without increasedfunding.

This brief looks at current educationalrequirements for preschool teachers,reviews the evidence on the importanceof professional preparation, and provides key recommendations for policy makers.

Professional PreparationNumerous studies have found that the education levels of preschool

teachers and specialized training inearly childhood education predictteaching quality and children’s learningand development.1 However, fewer thanhalf of all early education teachers holda four-year degree, and many have nocollege education.2 In most states, ahigh school diploma is all a personneeds to teach in a licensed child carecenter.3 As a result, many preschoolteachers are not adequately prepared tobe educationally effective.

If a college degree is considered essen-tial for teaching 5-year-olds in kinder-garten, why isn’t it required for teaching3- and 4-year-olds? Apparently, manypeople are unaware of the evidence,and there is a reluctance to view preschool teachers as professionals and pay them accordingly.4 Yet, analysesof what we expect of preschool teachers


Better Teachers, Better Preschools:Student Achievement Linked to Teacher Qualifications by W. Steven Barnett

Preschool Policy Matters Revised December 2004

and their actual performance suggestthat the minimum qualification for a preschool teacher should be a four-year degree with specialized trainingteaching young children.

Adequate CompensationResearch regularly finds that preschoolteacher quality and effective teachingare strongly linked to compensation.Poor pay and benefits make it difficultto recruit and hire professional earlyeducation teachers. In addition, poorcompensation contributes to highturnover, which harms educationaleffectiveness and wastes the resourcesspent on teacher preparation and continuing education.7 We stand to lose far more in educational benefitsthan we save by underpaying preschoolteachers.

What qualifications do preschoolteachers need now?The nation has yet to fully appreciate the importance of high standards for preschool teacher knowledge andexpertise, as it does for K-12 teachers.This is evident in the minimal require-ments for early childhood teachers inHead Start and many state preschooland child care programs. Early child-hood teacher qualifications are low relative to other professions and havenot been improving over time.8

Other industrialized countries havemore rigorous qualifications for theirpreschool teachers than we do in theUnited States. For example, most 3- and 4-year-olds in France attend publicschools in which teachers are requiredto have the equivalent of a master’sdegree.9

America’s preschools vary widely inteacher education requirements, tosome extent because standards varyacross the different government agen-cies that sponsor and regulate HeadStart, public school, and other

preschool and child care programs.The consequence is that preschool edu-cation is less effective than it should be, and educational effectiveness variesdepending on the government agencyresponsible.10

Preschool programs operated by publicschools employ the best-educated teach-ers. Nearly 90% of preschool teachers in public school programs have at leasta four-year college degree.12 Typicallythey have degrees that require special-ized preparation in early childhoodeducation. Most early childhoodteachers in public schools have a teaching credential or license that hasrequirements beyond completing abachelor’s degree, such as taking additional courses in teaching methods,having had supervised teaching experi-ences, and passing a test of teachingknowledge and skills.

State-funded prekindergarten programs are not always providedthrough the public schools,however, and vary in whether theyrequire a four-year degree or a teaching credential. Of the 44 state pre-school programs operating in 2002-2003, only 23 required all lead teachersto have a BA. Eight additional programs required teachers to have a BA when teaching in the publicschools, but did not extend thisrequirement to teachers outside public school settings.13

Until recently, the federal government’sHead Start program did not requireteachers to have any higher education.Fewer than one-third of Head Start’steachers have at least a four-year collegedegree.14 Others have some college and many have a Child DevelopmentAssociate (CDA) credential, which maynot require college coursework.

Current qualifications for early education teachers

• Forty-two states require no more formal education than a high school diploma for teachers in child care centers.

• France requires the equivalent of a master’sdegree.


Preschool Policy Matters Revised December 2004


Congress has increased the accountabili-ty of Head Start for enhancing children’sschool readiness. However, it was reluctant to substantially increase stan-dards for Head Start teachers, requiringonly that half of all teachers have a two-year college degree by 2003. Until HeadStart teacher qualifications and comp-ensation are raised, it is unlikely to fullyproduce the large educational gains for disadvantaged children that was theimpetus for the creation of Head Start,

based on studies of high-quality preschool programs.15

Government regulation and funding for child care provide little supportfor teacher quality, with the lowestteacher education standards of anyearly childhood program. As a result,compensation is poor and teacherqualifications are highly variable.Less than half the teachers in childcare centers have four-year collegedegrees, and many teachers have just

a high school education. More teachersin child care centers have just a highschool education than in Head Start or other public programs.16

Forty-two states require no formal education beyond a high school diplomafor teachers in child care centers. Manyof the states require some kind of earlychildhood-specific preparation, but this can be as little as a few hours oftraining. Only two states (California and New Hampshire) have a minimumrequirement that includes trainingobtained through college courses.

What does research tell us about the link between teacher qualifications and child development?

Preschool teachers with a college education tend to be more effective.Studies have found teacher education to be related to the quality of preschool

education and the development of chil-dren in preschool classrooms. Bothgeneral education and specific prepara-tion in early childhood education havebeen found to predict teaching quality.Better-educated teachers have morepositive, sensitive and responsive inter-actions with children, provide richerlanguage and cognitive experiences,and are less authoritarian, punitive and detached. The result is better social, emotional, linguistic, and cognitive development for the child.17

Several studies of state-supported preschool programs have found thatquality is higher in programs where more teachers have at least a four-year college degree.18 The higher quality of preschool programs in thepublic schools is plausibly related tobetter pay and benefits that enablesthem to hire teachers with at least a BA. Teachers with four-year degreesalso have been found to be better teachers in Head Start.19

Multi-state studies of child care lead tosimilar conclusions. In a study of 521preschool classrooms, Phillipsen andcolleagues found that the percentage of teachers with a four-year collegedegree was related to preschool classroom quality as measured by theEarly Childhood Environment RatingScale (ECERS) and to teacher warmth,attentiveness, and engagement.20

Using data from two massive studies,Howes examined the effects of four levels of teacher education on teachingquality and child development. Shefound that higher education was associ-ated with better teaching and betterlanguage acquisition. Also, childrenwhose teachers had four-year degreesengaged in more creative activities.

Overall, “teachers with the mostadvanced education and trainingappear to be the most effective.”21

Preschool Policy Matters Revised December 2004


Another study compared the teaching of teachers who had four different levels of education and training (including one with four semesters of specific college coursework in earlyeducation).

Teacher preparation in early childhoodeducation was effective in improvingteacher behavior, but teachers withfour-year degrees in early educationwere found to be distinct from all threeother groups. “They expressed greaterwarmth for the children and greaterenthusiasm for the activities theyengaged in, they communicated moreclearly with children, and they encour-aged children to share and cooperatewith their peers. They were less punitivewith the children. . . [and] exhibited lessapathetic and uninterested behavior.”22

Disadvantaged children have lessaccess to high-quality teachers thoughthey may benefit the most fromteacher quality.

All studies have limitations, and notevery study finds that teacher educationand training influence educational quality and child development. Whilethe failure to find a relationshipbetween professional preparation andteaching quality or child outcomes mayresult from study flaws in some cases,it should be recognized that teacherqualifications alone cannot guaranteeeffective teaching. Poor pay, poor workconditions, classes that are too large,inadequate leadership, and a lack ofinstructional focus are all problems thatcan block good teachers and goodteaching, whatever the formal qualifica-tions required. However, many studieswith a variety of strengths and weak-nesses lead to the conclusion that professionally prepared teachers aregenerally necessary (but not sufficient)for highly effective preschooleducation.23

One recent report from the NICHDchild care study found that teacher’seducational attainment predicted

teacher behaviors that in turn predictedchildren’s achievement and social devel-opment controlling for the direct andindirect effects of mother’s education,parenting behavior, and family eco-nomic circumstances.

The United States will provide its children with the quality of preschooleducation they deserve only when it raises the qualifications needed to teach at this level and offers compensation consistent with our expectations for these teachers and the importance of their work.

Another recent NICHD report foundthat teacher education influences children’s achievement at age 4 control-ling for a prior achievement, type ofchild care, and a wide range of childand family characteristics.24

Confidence in this conclusion also derives from the simple logic thatexplains this pattern of findings.Better-educated teachers have moreknowledge and skills. This makes them more effective teachers for manyreasons. For example, they:

• have larger vocabularies to whichyoung children are exposed

• are better at constructing and individualizing lesson plans

• are better problem solvers when they encounter challenges in theclassroom such as a child with a learning difficulty or a child upset by a death in the family.

And, teachers who have beentaught what young children need tolearn and how to teach them arelikely to spend more time conduct-ing rich learning activities thataddress each child’s needs and lesstime in unproductive and inappro-priate activities.

Better-educated teachers have

more positive, sensitive and

responsive interactions with

children, provide richer language

and cognitive experiences, and

are less authoritarian,

punitive and detached.

Preschool Policy Matters Revised December 2004

Support for the conclusion that preschoolteacher education is important for educa-tional effectiveness is also provided byother closely related research literatures.Research on families has establishedstrong links between parental educa-tion, parenting practices, and the preschool child’s learning and development.25

Research on programs specificallydeveloped to study the effects of high-quality preschool education on disad-vantaged children demonstrates thatsuch programs produce larger gains inchildren’s knowledge and abilities thanthe lower-quality programs that are too often provided to even our mostdisadvantaged young children.26

Low quality is linked to poor compensa-tion. Poor pay and benefits make it difficult to recruit and hire good earlyeducation teachers. And poor compen-sation contributes to high turnover,which harms educational quality andwastes the resources spent on teacherpreparation and continuing education.27

Benefit-cost analyses demonstrate thatpreschool programs employing well-paid,well-prepared teachers can be soundpublic investments.28 Two rigorous long-term studies with “gold standard”experimental designs and another witha strong quasi-experimental designfound that preschool programs for chil-dren from economically disadvantagedfamilies produced economic benefitsthat far exceed costs. Two programswere operated by the public schoolsand served children at ages three andfour. They employed only certifiedteachers with at least a BA degree.

The third was the Abecedarian program, which served children from birth to age five in a university-based child development center. SomeAbecedarian teachers had MA and BA degrees, others had demonstratedskill and competencies as teachers of young children in lieu of formalqualifications.

In all three studies, preschool teachercompensation was comparable to thatof K-12 teachers in the public schools.Yet, all three generated strongly positiveeconomic returns for society.

On the other hand, lower-quality preschool programs with less qualified,more poorly paid teachers have muchsmaller effects on learning and develop-ment and may not pay-off. Thus, thequestion taxpayers should be asking iswhether America can afford not to payfor highly qualified preschool teachers.

Good teaching depends on the teacher’sknowledge and skills and not necessarilyon formal education. Formal educationand training are one way to acquirethese knowledge and skills, but similarabilities might be acquired throughinformal education including on-the-job learning experiences. However,there is ample evidence that experienceper se is not an effective method ofteacher preparation.

Although the Abecedarian programemployed some teachers without formalhigher education, the program provid-ed constant, intensive training andsupervision by curriculum experts and others. Employing teachers withoutformal educational qualifications is nota means to cut costs because attractingand retaining good teachers stillrequires adequate compensation, and itmay increase supervision costs.

From a policy perspective, it makessense to rely on a combination offormal educational requirements anddemonstrations of knowledge and skills to assure a minimum of quality in new teachers. However, policies also are required to ensure that thosecapabilities are used effectively and continue to develop after teachers are hired.

NAEYC Standards (2001)Early Childhood ProfessionalsMust Know How To:

• Promote child development

and learning by creating

learning environments based

on a deep understanding of

children’s needs and develop-


• Build relationships with family

and community that support

and involve them in children’s


• Systematically employ

observation, documentation

and assessment to positively

influence children’s

development and learning.

• Promote learning and

development by integrating

knowledge of: relationships

with children and families;

a wide array of effective

educational approaches;

content knowledge in each

area of young children’s

learning; and how to build

a meaningful curriculum.


Preschool Policy Matters Revised December 2004


Disadvantaged children have less accessto high-quality teachers, even thoughthey may benefit the most from teacherquality. Studies from around the nationshow that preschool education qualityis lower for children from the most dis-advantaged families. While there is evidence that quality makes a differencefor all children, a number of studiessuggest that quality may have largerimpacts on the learning and develop-ment of children from disadvantagedfamilies.29

What should good preschoolteachers know?The knowledge and skills required of an effective preschool teacher have increased as science has revealedmore about the capabilities of youngchildren, how they learn best, and theimportance of early learning for laterschool success.

In addition, the public expects pre-school education to enable disadvan-taged children to close the achievementgap with their more advantaged peersdespite the challenges posed by povertyor limited knowledge of English.30

The National Research Council (NRC)report, Eager to Learn,31 recommendsthat the minimum standard for teach-ers of 3- and 4-year-olds should be afour-year college degree, with special-ized training in early childhood educa-tion. The report says preschool teachersneed to know:

• How young children learn and whatthey need to learn based on an under-standing of child development andknowledge in specific subject areas.

• How to individualize teaching

based on the temperament,responsiveness, learning style,ability, home language and culture,and other characteristics of eachchild.

• How to establish effective relation-ships with young children and theirfamilies.

• How to best work with groups of young children.

In 2001, NCATE and NAEYC approved standards to prepare earlychildhood professionals. They require a four-year college degree and practicalexperience in which teacher candidateslearn and demonstrate the abilities ofeffective teachers.

The NAEYC standards and a U.S.Department of Education (2000)report, “The Future of Early ChildhoodProfessional Education,” emphasize theimportance of preparing teachers toeducate – in regular early childhoodprograms – a highly diverse populationthat includes increasing numbers ofchildren with disabilities and childrenwho speak a language other thanEnglish at home.32

The knowledge and skill required

of an effective preschool teacher

have increased as science has

revealed more about the capaci-

ties of young children, how they

learn best, and the importance

of early learning for later school



Preschool Policy Matters Revised December 2004

Recommendationsfor Policy Makersand EducatorsQualifications for New TeachersRequire a four-year college degree and specialized training for teachers in Head Start, state prekindergarten programs, and licensed child-care centers serving as the primary providersof education for 3- and 4-year-olds out-side the home. Courses to prepare newteachers and professional developmentfor experienced teachers both need to incorporate the best new science on what and how to teach preschool-age children.

Professional Development Support for Current Teachers Design and subsidize professionaldevelopment programs that will enable current teachers and assistantteachers to obtain four-year degreeswithin a reasonable time.

Certification and RegulationEncourage policy makers and schools of education to use NAEYC/NCATE standards in designing new programs to prepare preschool teachers.

Salary and BenefitsPay preschool teachers salary and benefits comparable to those ofsimilarly qualified teachers in K-12 education, whether they work in publicschools, Head Start, or child care cen-ters. The cost will be offset by savingsfrom reduced teacher turnover and the economic returns to taxpayers frommore educationally effective public programs.

Education and Training InstitutionsSupport institutions of higher educa-tion in developing the faculty and programs required to provide the professional development early child-hood teachers need. These programsmust meet high standards for preparing teachers with knowledge of child development, best teachingpractices, and the knowledge and skills required to teach a highly diverse population.

Other Elements of QualityWell-prepared teachers are one elementin a quality program. They make possi-ble, but do not guarantee, highly effective teaching. Other policies are important for quality: decent pay andworking conditions, strong leadershipand supervision, and a goodcurriculum.33


Preschool Policy Matters Revised December 2004



State Financed Child Pre-K Care 2

BA NoneN/A None CDA None BA1 None CDA 6 credits3 CDA None CDA None CDA NoneBA1 CDA

N/A NoneAA1 None CDA CDAN/A NoneBA1 CDA or CCP N/A None None None BA CDA BA1 None BA None BA NoneBA1 None3 credits3 NoneAA None CDA CDA

N/A None

Minimum Post-Secondary DegreeRequirements For PreschoolTeachers, By State5


CDA NoneN/A None BA1 None BA1 None N/A 12 credits4 BA CDA or CCP None None None NoneBA1 NoneN/A NoneCDA None BA1 NoneCDA NoneBA None N/A None BA1 None N/A None BA1 None BA None N/A NoneBA1 CDANone NoneAA1 NoneBA None CDA NoneN/A None

AA – Associates Degree; BA – Bachelor’s Degree; CDA – Child Development Associates Credential; Pre-K – Prekindergarten; CCP – Certified Childcare Professional.N/A – state does not provide finances for pre-k; None – no post-secondary degree requirements. 1 – with courses or certification in early childhood.2 – many states require professional training or ongoing development.3 – in topics related to early childhood education or child development.4 – in early childhood education, 6 of which may be non-credit courses.5 – update December, 2004.

Preschool Policy Matters Revised December 2004

1 Arnett, J. (1989). Caregivers in day care centers: Does training matter? Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 10, 522-541. Barnett, W. S., Tarr, J.,Lamy, C., & Frede, E. (1999). Children’s educational needs and community capacity in the Abbott Districts. New Brunswick, NJ: Center for Early Education,Rutgers University. Berk, L. (1985). Relationship of caregiver education to child-oriented attitudes, of satisfaction, and behaviors toward children. Child CareQuarterly, 14 (2), 103-129. Burchinal, M. R., Roberts, J. E., Riggins, R., Zeisel, S. A., Neebe, E., & Bryant, D. (2000). Relating quality of center child care toearly cognitive and language development longitudinally. Child Development, 71, 339-357. Cost, Quality and Outcomes Study Team. (1995). Cost, Quality,and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers. Denver, CO: Economics Dept., University of Colorado at Denver. Dunn, L. (1993). Proximal and distal features ofday care quality and children’s development. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 8(2), 167-192. Finkelstein, N. (1982). Aggression: Is it stimulated by daycare? Young Children, 37, 3-9. Howes, C. (1997). Children’s experiences in center-based child care as a function of teacher background and adult: child ratio.Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 43, 404-425. Howes, C., Smith, E., & Galinsky, E. (1995). The Florida child care quality improvement study: Interim report. NewYork: Families and Work Institute. Marshall, N. L., Creps, C. L., Burstein, N. R., Glantz, F. B., Robeson, W. W., and Barnett, W. S. (2001). The cost and qualityof full day, year-round early care and education in Massachusetts preschool classrooms. Cambridge, MA: Wellesley Center for Women and Abt Associates.NICHD Early Childcare Research Network (2002). Child-care structure, process, outcome: Direct and indirect effects of child care quality on your children’sdevelopment. Psychological Science, 13 (3), 199-206. Tizard, B., Philips, J., & Plewis, I. (1976). Play in preschool centers – II: Effects on play of the child’ssocial class and of the educational orientation of the center. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17, 265-274. Whitebook, M., Howes, C., & Phillips, D.(1990). Who Cares? Child Care Teachers and the Quality of Care in America (First report of the National Child Care Staffing Study). Washington, DC: Centerfor the Child Care Workforce. Zill, N., Resnick, G., Kim, K., Hubbell McKey, R., Clark, C., Pai-Samant, S., Connell, D., Vaden-Kiernan, M., O’Brien, R., &D’Elio, M. (2001). Head Start FACES: Longitudinal Findings on Program Performance, Third Progress Report. Washington, DC: Research, Demonstration andEvaluation Branch & Head Start Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.2 Saluja, G., Early, D. M., & Clifford, R. M. (2002, Spring). Demographic characteristics of early childhood teachers and structural elements of early care andeducation in the United States. Early Childhood Research and Practice,[On line] 4 (1). Although this is the most com-prehensive recent survey, comparison to Head Start records and other data indicate that it substantially overestimates the education levels of preschoolteachers. Thus, the percentage of preschool teachers with a BA is likely to be much lower than the 49.9% estimated by Saluja et al. One probable cause ofoverestimation is that the survey asked program directors to select the teacher who “was best qualified to answer” to respond to questionnaire.3 Edwards, V. (Ed.) Building blocks for success: State efforts in early childhood education, Quality Counts 2002. Education Week, 21, (17).4 Peter. D. Hart Research Associates/Market Strategies Inc. (2001.) National Institute for Early Education Research state study #6400. New Brunswick, NJ:Rutgers University.5 The percentage of teachers with a BA degree in Head Start centers is 26% in the Head Start Performance Information Report, 2001. Two surveys of sam-ples of Head Start programs provide higher estimates: 37% in FACES 2000, Resnick, G., & Zill, N. (2002) Relationships of teacher beliefs and qualifications toclassroom quality in Head Start. (paper presented at the Head Start National Conference, Washington, DC.), and 40% from Saluja, et al. (2002). The surveymethod used by Saluja et al. plausibly leads to overestimation. It is unclear why the FACES estimate would overestimate the percentage to this extent.6 Study findings on the percentage of teachers with a BA degree in child care centers range between 31% in the National Child Care Staffing Study(Whitebook et al., 1990) to 33% in the Cost, Quality and Child Outcomes Study (Helburn, 1995), 46% in Saluja, et al. (2002) and 47% in A Profile of ChildCare Studies, (Miller et al., 1991).7 Cost, Quality and Outcomes Study Team (1995). Howes & Brown. (2000). Improving child care quality: A guide for Proposition 10 commissions. In N.Halfon, E. Shulman, M. Shannon, & M. Hochstein (Eds.), Building Community Systems for Young Children. Los Angeles: UCLA Center for HealthierChildren, Families, and Communities. Whitebook et al. (1990). Whitebook, M., Phillips, D., & Howes, C. (1993). National child care staffing study revisited:Four years in the life of center-based child care. Washington, DC: Center for the Child Care Workforce. Whitebook, M., Sakai, L., Gerber, E., & Howes, C.(2001). Then and now: Changes in child care staffing, 1994-2000 (Technical Report). Washington, DC: Center for the Child Care Workforce.8 Edwards (2002). Helburn, S. & Bergmann, B. (2002). America’s Child Care Problem. New York, NY: Palgrave. Kisker, E. E., Hofferth, S. L., Phillips, D.S., &Farquhar, E. (1991). A profile of child care settings: Early education and care in 1990. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research. Saluja et al. (2002).9 Helburn & Bergmann (2002).10 Saluja et al. (2002). Howes (1997). Kisker et al. (1991). Barnett, W. S. (1998). Long term effects on cognitive development and school success. In W. S.Barnett and S. S. Boocock (Eds.) Early care and education for children in poverty: Promises, programs, and long-term results. (pp. 11-44) Albany, NY: SUNYPress. Barnett, et al. (1999). Barnett, W.S., Tarr, J., Lamy, C., & Frede, E. (2001). Fragile lives, shattered dreams: A report on implementation of preschool education in New Jersey’s Abbott districts. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research, Rutgers University.11 Edwards (2002).12 Kisker et al. (1991). Saluja et al. (2002).13 Barnett, W.S., Hustedt, J.T., Robin, K.B., Schulman, K.L. (2004). The state of preschool: 2004 state preschool yearbook. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institutefor Early Education Research.14 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Head Start Bureau. (2004). Head Start Program InformationReport for 2002-2003 program year. National level summary report. Washington, DC: Author.15 Barnett (1998). Bowman, B., Donovan, S., & Burns, S. (Eds.) (2001). Eager to Learn: Educating our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Zill et al. (2001).16 Burton, A., Whitebook, M., Brandon, R., Maher, E., Young, M., Bellm, D., & Wayne, C. (2002). Estimating the size and components of the U.S. child careworkforce and caregiving population. Washington, DC: Center for the Child Care Workforce. Kisker et al. (1991). Saluja et al. (2002). Accurate data are difficult to obtain on private programs, and the percentage of teachers in licensed child care centers with BA degrees may be considerably less than half.17 The key finding is that only teachers with at least a four-year college degree consistently provide the good-to-excellent quality linked to future school success. Arnett (1989). Berk (1985). Dunn (1993). Whitebook et al. (1990). Howes & Brown (2000). Howes, C., Phillipsen, L., & Peisner-Feinberg, E. (2000).The consistency and predictability of teacher-child relationships during the transition to kindergarten. Journal of School Psychology, 38, (2), 113-32. Peisner-Feinberg, E., Burchinal, M., Clifford, R., Yazejian, N., Culkin, M., Zelazo, J., Howes, C., Byler, P., Kagan, S., & Rustici, J. (1999). The children of the Cost,Quality, and Outcomes Study go to school. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center. Vandell, D. L. &Wolfe, B. (2002). Child care quality: Does it matter and does it need to be improved? Madison, WI: Institute for Research on Poverty, University ofWisconsin-Madison .[On-line]. Available at



Preschool Policy Matters Revised December 2004

18 Barnett et al. (1999). Marshall (2001). Marshall, N.L., Creps, C.L., Burstein, N.R., Glantz, F.B., Robeson, W.W., Barnett, W.S., Schimmenti, J., & Keefe, N.(2002) Early care and education in Massachusetts public school preschool classrooms. Cambridge, MA: Wellesley Center for Women and Abt Associates. Roach,M., Adams, D., Riley, D., & Edie, D. (2002). Wisconsin Child Care Research Partnership Issue Brief #8: What characteristics relate to child care quality? Madison,WI: University of Wisconsin-Extension.19 Zill et al. (2001).20 Phillipsen, et al. (1997). The relationship with quality was stronger for a four-year degree than for some college. Controlling for teacher wage, teacher edu-cation had an independent effect on teacher sensitivity, but not total ECERS score. This is to be expected as teacher wage determines teacher qualificationsincluding educational level.21 Howes (1997). The samples included 655 classrooms from the Cost, Quality and Outcomes study and 410 classrooms from the Florida QualityImprovement study. The teacher education levels tested were high school only, some early childhood education, an AA degree or CDA (depending on thestudy), and a BA in early childhood education.22 Arnett (1989).23 Limitations in research on the effects of preschool teacher qualifications on education quality and children’s learning and development include to varyingdegrees: less than ideal sample size; samples that are not randomly selected or nationally representative; imperfect measures of teacher characteristics, quali-ty, learning and child development; inadequate controls for child and family characteristics; and, incorrectly specified statistical models. Some limitationscould lead to overestimates of the importance of teacher qualifications, others to underestimates. Examining the strongest studies and comparing theirresults to those of randomized trials of high-quality preschool education, this reviewer concludes that underestimation is the most common result. At leastone researcher, Blau (2001) appears to disagree. He concludes that teacher education does not contribute to teacher effectiveness. However, this view is basedon an analysis that considers only variation within a child care center. His analysis also implies that wages do not affect quality, which seems implausible.An alternative view is that Blau’s favored analysis mistakenly focuses on variation where the link between teacher education and teacher quality is brokenbecause centers seek to hire teachers of uniform quality regardless of their qualifications on paper (due to financial constraints, market niche, and other factors).24 One study employed structural equation models to test for the effects of teacher education on child care quality and the effects of quality on outcomes.NICHD Early Child Care Research Network (2002). Child-care structure, process, outcome: Direct and indirect effects of child-care quality on young chil-dren’s development. Psychological Science, 13(3), 199-206. Another study estimated the effects of caregiver education and care quality on achievement at 54months employing statistical models that varied in their assumptions and in the (ultimately quite large) number of child and family variables controlled.NICHD Early Child Care Research Network & Duncan, G. (2003). Modeling the impacts of child care quality on children’s preschool development.Rockville, MD: NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, NICHD. Both studies seem likely to underestimate the effects of preschool teacher qualifica-tions due to sample restrictions, error in the measurement of child outcomes and teacher qualifications, sample restrictions, and because of the very low pay in child care that leads higher ability teachers with college degrees to find jobs elsewhere (e.g., in the public schools). Note that the NICHD studyincludes all kinds of child care, including home-based care that does not appear to produce the same benefits for child achievement as center-based programs between the ages of 36 and 54 months.25 Collins, W., Maccoby, E., Steinberg, L., Hetherington, E., & Bornstein, M. (2000). Contemporary research on parenting. American Psychologist, 55, 218-232.Duncan, G. & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2000). Family poverty, welfare reform, and child development. Child Development, 71, 188-196.26 Barnett (1998).27 Whitebook et al. (1990). Whitebook et al. (1993). Howes & Brown (2000).28 Barnett (1998). Burchinal, M. R., Roberts, J. E., Nabors, L. A., & Bryant, D. M. (1996). Quality of center child care and infant cognitive and language development. Child Development, 67, 606–620. Campbell, F. A., & Ramey, C. T. (1995). Cognitive and school outcomes for high-risk African-American students at middle adolescence: Positive effects of early intervention. American Educational Research Journal, 32, 743-772. Reynolds, A. (2000). Success inearly intervention: The Chicago Child-Parent Centers. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. Schweinhart, L. J., Barnes, H. V., Weikart, D., Barnett, W.S.,& Epstein, A. (1993). Significant benefits: The High/Scope Perry Preschool study through age 27. Monographs of the High/Scope Educational Research FoundationNo. 10. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Educational Research Foundation. Ramey, C., McGinniss, G., Cross, L., Collier, A., Barrie-Blackley, S. (1982). TheAbecedarian approach to social competence: Cognitive and linguistic intervention for disadvantaged preschoolers. In K. Borman (ed.), The social life of chil-dren in a changing society (pp. 145-174). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.29 Adams, D., Roach, M., Riley, D., & Edie, D. (2001). Wisconsin Child Care Research Partnership Issue Brief #3: Are program characteristics linked to childcare quality? Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Extension. Barnett et al. (2001). Caughy, M.O., DiPietro, J.A., & Strobino, D.M. (1994). Day care partici-pation as a protective factor in the cognitive development of low income children. Child Development, 65, 457-471. Marshall et al. (2001). Peisner-Feinberg etal. (1999). Zill et al. (2001). Phillips, Voran, et al. (1994).30 Lee, V. E., & Burkam, D. T. (2002). Inequality at the starting gate: Social background differences in achievement as children begin school. Washington, DC:Economic Policy Institute.31 Bowman et al. (2001).32 Buysse, V., Wesley, P., Bryant, D., & Gardner, D. (1999). Quality of early childhood programs in inclusive and noninclusive settings. Exceptional Children,65(3), 301-314. Kushner, M. & Ortiz, A. (2000). The preparation of early childhood education teachers to serve English language learners. In D. Horm-Wingerd, M. Hyson, & N. Karp (Eds.) New Teachers for a New Century: The Future of Early Childhood Professional Development (pp. 123-154). Washington,DC: US Department of Education. Miller, P., Fader, L., & Vincent, L. (2000). Preparing early childhood educators to work with families who have exceptionalneeds. In D. Horm-Wingerd, M. Hyson, N. Karp (Eds.) New Teachers for a New Century: The Future of Early Childhood Professional Development (pp. 93-122). Washington, DC: US Department of Education.33 Espinosa, L.M. (2002). High-quality preschool: Why we need it and what it looks like. Preschool Policy Matters (1). New Brunswick, NJ: National Institutefor Early Education Research.


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Website: nieer.orgE-mail:


Author: W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D. Director, National Institute for Early Education Research

Dr. Barnett’s research has focused on the long-term effects of preschool programs on children’s learning and development,the educational opportunities and experiences of young children in low-income urban areas, and benefit-cost analyses of

preschool programs and their long-term effects. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan.He is a Professor of Education Economics and Public Policy at

Rutgers University.

Better Teachers, Better Preschools is Issue 2 in a series of briefs, Preschool Policy Matters, developed by The NationalInstitute for Early Education Research. It may be reprinted with permission, if you make no changes in the content.

Suggested citation style: Barnett, W.S. (2003). Better Teachers, Better Preschools: Student Achievement Linked toTeacher Qualifications, Preschool Policy Matters, 2. New Brunswick, NJ: NIEER.

Available online under “Publications” at

This document was prepared with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Trusts’ Starting Early, Starting Strong initiative seeks to advance high quality prekindergarten for all the nation’s three-and four-year-olds through objective,policy-focused research, state public education campaigns and national outreach. The opinions expressed in this report

are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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