September 27, 2023

Washington, D.C. (Jan. 19, 2016) — The Center for American Progress on Tuesday released a report titled “Examining Teacher Effectiveness Between Preschool and Third Grade,” which considers children’s access to indicators of effective teachers between preschool and third grade and how access differs by a child’s socio-economic status. The report is the second of a series of three on alignment from pre-K to third grade, also known as P-3.

The report examines three characteristics that are inherently interwoven and contribute to a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom: teacher qualifications; attitudes about teaching; and the teaching environment. The analysis identified some differences in teachers’ qualifications and attitudes across the P-3 spectrum, as well as variability in access to all three characteristics by children’s socio-economic and racial backgrounds. For example, children in center-based preschool classrooms are much less likely than children in the K-3 grades to have a teacher with a bachelor’s degree—a trend that is likely due to the drastically different standards for educators in early childhood versus elementary education. Across all grades, children from high-income households were more likely to be in classrooms with highly educated teachers compared to their lower-income peers. Additionally, fewer than half of all African American and Hispanic children in the sample attended preschool or kindergarten in a very safe neighborhood.

“Recently, some media outlets have called into question the effectiveness of pre-K programs, highlighting research that identifies a convergence of achievement scores between children who attended preschool and those who did not,” said Rebecca Ullrich. “However, there has been little acknowledgement that in order for the gains children make in pre-K to continue,  children need consistent access to high-quality learning environments and effective teachers across the P-3 spectrum and beyond.”

“Our research suggests discontinuity between the early education and K-12 systems and points to disparities in children’s access to indicators of effective teachers,” said Rachel Herzfeldt-Kamprath. “Policymakers should expand access to high-quality early learning and consider strategies to support effective teaching and better align standards for teachers between preschool and third grade.”

Policymakers can and should do more to support teachers at all grade levels and ensure that children have equitable access to effective teachers. To improve alignment in policy and practice between preschool and third grade, CAP lays out the following priorities for policymakers:

  • Expanding access to high-quality pre-K programs
  • Providing collaborative and multi-year professional development and in-service training opportunities to all teachers between preschool and third grade
  • Ensuring that school-level supports and instructional resources are available to all teachers, children, and their families
  • Aligning the oversight agencies that develop standards for teaching, instruction, and governance between preschool and third grade
  • Increasing teacher compensation

Read the report: “Examining Teacher Effectiveness Between Preschool and Third Grade” by Rachel Herzfeldt-Kamprath and Rebecca Ullrich.

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”