Education Policy

Do Pre-K Teachers Even Need College Degrees — Let Alone Online Ones?

A report out from the National Education Policy Center questions the findings of a report on online programs for pre-K teachers from New America that THE Journal reported on in 2017. At the heart of its concerns: whether bachelor's degrees — let alone online ones — are really essential for the job or whether that'll raise wage levels.

The earlier report explored how online degree programs can give early childhood workers a more flexible route for earning bachelor's degrees to improve the quality of their teaching skills. It focused on "lead teachers" — those who had already earned some number of credits toward their degrees. The new report questioned whether bachelor's degrees are even necessary for this type of worker and whether it would lead to greater pay, which tends to hover between $10.33 per hour on average and $15.11. In fact, researchers questioned "four core biases" from the earlier report:

  • That the report's attention on pre-K teachers obtaining their degrees "overlooks the complicated reality" of early childhood environments, which may take place in schools, but may also be community-based, home-based, approach-based, private, non-profit or for-profit.
  • That the report implies that pre-K teachers "are unprofessional until they achieve a degree," which denies the experience they "bring to their classrooms through knowledge accumulated over years working with young children, or rich understandings of the communities, children, and families they serve."
  • That the report equates professionalism, credentials and quality as something that requires education vs. "a teaching practice that is responsive to unique local contexts, children, and families."
  • That the report assumes the pursuit of college degrees will result in "uplifting" the early childhood workforce.

The new report also questioned the earlier report's reliance on other reports, existing data and interviews and a group meeting with experts. "Glaringly missing" from the conversation, according to the new report, were the pre-K teachers themselves, "who will bear the largest burden if policymaking continues to favor a push towards bachelor's requirements."

As the reviewers asserted, the earlier report makes pre-K teachers "responsible for their own esteem," asking them to "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps in a system that is marked by deep inequities."

The earlier report, "When Degree Programs for Pre-K Teachers Go Online," is openly available on the New America website.

The review report is openly available on the NEPC website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.