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A Blog from New America's Early Education Initiative

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BAM Radio: Child Development and Learning

Published:  February 24, 2011
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Is there enough emphasis in education schools on the principles of child development in the early years? Not nearly, according to guests on a recent segment on the BAM Radio Network.

James Cibulka, president of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, said that the knowledge of child development has always been part of what prospective teachers learn in teacher preparation programs, but that it’s not emphasized enough. He said that programs need to improve their ability to assess how well teacher candidates can effectively apply child development knowledge. He called attention to recommendations recently released by an NCATE panel that call for more emphasis on child development in all preparation programs, pre-k through 12th grade. (Last fall, Early Ed Watch wrote a post about those recommendations.)

James Comer, Maurice Falk professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center, raised the notion that children are developing skills and knowledge from the day they are born and that academic learning grows from that early development. He said teachers who know and understand this are better able to determine where children are developmentally and to provide appropriate instruction. When teachers place children in situations they aren’t yet ready to manage, he said, children’s behavior can deteriorate. This is less likely to happen when teachers understand and can apply the principles of child development.

As one of two organizations that accredit teacher preparation programs, NCATE can influence the type of coursework and experiences that teacher preparation programs offer. The other organization, the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, will soon be merging with NCATE; Cibulka said the merger provides a perfect opportunity to incorporate additional emphasis on the knowledge and application of child development principles. The newly formed organization will be developing new standards for teacher preparation programs, which will be released within the next two years.

I was also a guest on the show and briefly discussed the state’s role in preparing teachers to work with elementary school children. This is a topic I’ve been immersed in for the past several months. Next week, here at the New America Foundation, the Early Education Initiative will be releasing a paper with a series of recommendations for revamping the way elementary school teachers licensed and prepared to teach children in pre-k, kindergarten and the early grades. Stay tuned.

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