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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Does your kid’s preschool teacher need a degree?

Should preschool teachers be college graduates?

“Our most important teachers” — preschool teachers — are paid the least, writes Jeneen Interlandi in the New York Times Magazine.

“Teaching preschoolers is every bit as complicated and important as teaching any of the K-12 grades, if not more so,” says Marcy Whitebook, a director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. “But we still treat preschool teachers like babysitters.” . . . The solution to this paradox seems obvious: Hold preschool teachers to the same standards as their K-12 counterparts, and pay them a salary commensurate with that training. But that proposition is rife with intractable questions. Who will pay the higher salaries? How will current teachers rise to meet the new credential requirements? And if they can’t or won’t, who will take their place?

Given the fade-out effect, I wonder if preschool teachers really are the most important — and whether the qualities that make a preschool teacher good are learned in school.

Last year, the District of Columbia required a two-year degree to work as a preschool teacher. Child-care workers are struggling to meet the new requirements, which don’t guarantee higher pay.

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Sara Mead sums up the degree debate in U.S. News.

A 2015 National Academies report  “called for all adults leading classrooms of young children to have a bachelor’s degree,” she writes. Yet, even as child-care workers earn 2nd-percentile wages, “many parents already struggle to pay for preschool and child care.”

Improving preschool teachers’ training will require “new delivery models that make higher education more modular, accessible, efficient or aligned to skills employers seek,” Mead writes.

Teaching young children is a challenging job, argues Anne Douglass, who teaches early childhood education at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She also wants to make it easier for early childhood educators to earn college degrees, but concedes “there is a lack of conclusive evidence that teachers with college degrees improve educational outcomes for young children.”

In other news, Tennessee requires a high school diploma or GED — and 1,500 hours of training — to get a barber’s license.

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