House Bill No. 1386, introduced by Rep. Phillips-Hill (R-York), seeks to bring back the K-6 teacher certification, while keeping the pre-K-fourth grade certificate. This will result in new teachers choosing K-6 certification when there is an increasing demand for preschool teachers in our public schools and community-based preschool programs. We will suffer a shortage of qualified early childhood education teachers for pre-K and pre-K to third grade school reorganization efforts.
Many research studies and national groups support the integration of early years learning and development into public education. Certification grade bands should reflect developmentally sensitive age periods. Specialized teaching is most important for ECE and middle school (Pennsylvania’s fourth-eigth grade certificate); research indicates these are the two most sensitive and consequential times in the lives of developing children.
Affluent families can afford quality ECE during the early formative years. We must have quality ECE in our public schools reaching as many families as possible. This is a social equity issue. This is a national investment issue. How many potentially very talented persons never come to be because of lack of good education when young? Our nation is stronger by reaching out to all our families with high quality ECE teachers in public schools and community-based pre-K programs.
The certification bands must be in accord with systematic research and a vision of our potential. We can nurture and educate our most treasured and precious resource, all our young children from their very beginnings. HB 1386 weakens this.
Jim Johnson, State College
The writer is a professor of early childhood education at Penn State.