For Immediate Release: December 5, 2016

Contact: Renee Rybak Lang,, 703-740-4841

State Boards Can Boost Quality of Early Education Workforce through Policy

Alexandria, VA – Although children’s earliest years are widely acknowledged as critical for achievement in school and in life, the bar for joining the US preschool workforce is low. One-third of preschool teachers in childcare centers or public school programs hold bachelor’s degrees, and most preschoolers are likely to end up with a teacher who is not trained in early learning. A new NASBE policy update examines this skills gap and outlines ways state boards can strengthen policies to advance the early education workforce and ensure a high-quality education for preschool learners.

Of the 43 states with state-funded preschool programs, only 23 require bachelor’s degrees in those programs. Outside state pre-K systems, however, no state requires bachelor’s degrees in early education settings. To boost the quality of the workforce, “state policymakers must streamline and align standards, licensure requirements, and preparation programs and support educator’s professional development and economic well-being,” writes Winona Hao, NASBE project manager for early education. She outlines policy ideas in four areas:

  • Certificates and Licensures. States should ensure that certificate offerings use common language to limit the number of certificates used in a given state. States also need to reconsider the stratification of licenses: Teaching young children requires a different skill set than teaching older children.
  • Teacher Preparation. Too often, the wider the grade span a teacher license covers, the less training is provided for skills specifically needed for teaching lower grades. By creating a more focused licensure, or narrowing the grade span, states can prompt higher education institutions to develop more targeted programs.
  • Professional Development. Hardly any professional development is available for early education teachers, particularly in center or family daycare settings. Boosting incentives and offerings can help teachers attain qualifications.
  • Compensation. Forty-six percent of the early education workforce in public support programs relies on an average $9 per hour paycheck. Requiring new competencies of this workforce also requires states to address compensation.

Hao notes two states, Nebraska and Virginia, that are exemplars in addressing the early education workforce gap. State boards of education in both have focused on revising state core competencies in collaboration with early learning professionals and key agencies.

“The early learning workforce deserves no less attention and pay than do K-12 teachers,” Hao concludes. “Early learning teachers need strong commitment from state policymakers to raise the bar on requirements, align system policies, set new norms, and elevate the profession.”

Read “Advancing the Early Learning Workforce through State Policies.” 

The National Association of State Boards of Education represents America’s state and territorial boards of education. Our principal objectives are to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, promote excellence in the education of all students, and ensure responsible lay governance of education. Learn more at