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When degree programs for pre-K teachers go online: Challenges and opportunities

These policies are raising big questions: What is the best way to support lead teachers in attaining a bachelor's degree? What are the equity implications of this credential requirement for the existing workforce, for people new to the field, and for children? What do we know about the availability and quality of existing degree programs? Could they be offered in a way that would enable a teacher to earn her degree at night without disrupting her work with children? Could online degree programs provide new opportunities? Or do they simply represent a new set of challenges related to quality and access? This report aims to start answering those last two questions, which represent new and unexplored terrain in early childhood education policy. To investigate the intersection of issues in teacher preparation, early childhood policy, and online degree programs, my colleagues and I synthesized findings from published reports on the state of teacher preparation, conducted interviews with experts (including members of the advisory group described on page 4), culled information from websites of institutions offering online degree programs, and analyzed national data sets on early childhood teacher preparation programs, as well as surveys of the early childhood workforce. We focused primarily on the segment of the early childhood workforce that is closest to achieving the bachelor's degree credential and commensurate compensation: pre-K lead teachers. Our findings show how online degrees can provide teachers with greater access to programs, but also point to the need for better higher education data and the benefits of degree programs that provide teachers with financial supports. (author abstract)
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