January 18, 2018

Beth Graue, (208) 263-2736, beth.graue@wisc.edu
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

Early childhood workforce report fails to provide a nuanced discussion of the issues, usefulness limited

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jan. 18, 2018) — A recent report from New America sought to explore the impact of online degree programs for early childhood (EC) educators. The report argued that online degree programs had the potential to professionalize pre-K teachers. A review of the report released today finds that the report fails to recognize the economic realities that many pre-K teachers face across the U.S. and is of limited use for policymakers.

Beth Graue and Erica Ramberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison, reviewed the brief, When Degree Programs for Pre-K Teachers Go Online: Challenges and Opportunities, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), is funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The report claimed that flexible online bachelor's programs could facilitate degree completion, increase the overall quality of EC educators, and raise salaries for pre-K teachers. Unfortunately, it offers very little support for the claims made. In the review, Graue and Ramberg note that the report draws important attention to EC workforce policy, but it underplays a number of critical issues facing the field.

In particular, the reviewers find:

  1. The report does not provide an adequate treatment of the economic realities facing EC educators, placing them at the poverty line;
  2. It presents testimonials instead of outcomes for online programs; and
  3. It makes pre-K teachers responsible for closing the pay gap and upgrading their low professional esteem.

In conclusion, the reviewers write, "While having a bachelor's degree is one element that might contribute to quality, in the current landscape of EC education, it is insufficient. In a context where we are uncertain about how a bachelor's degree contributes to EC teaching, the major thrust of the report requires a leap of faith."

Find the review on the GLC website:

Find the original report on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/