NEPC Review: When Degree Programs for Pre-K Teachers Go Online: Challenges and Opportunities (New America Foundation, November 2017)
A report from New America argues that online programs, appropriately structured, have the potential to professionalize many early childhood (EC) teachers. The report contends that online bachelor’s programs offer more flexible and financially accessible pathways for pre-K teachers to obtain a degree, thereby propelling these teachers towards higher quality practice and higher salaries. The report presents a perspective on what a professionalized pre-K workforce should entail, recognizing the significant knowledge and skills required of these teachers, and equating raising pre-K teacher credential standards with professionalization, and therefore, quality. While the report draws attention to some of the unique considerations necessary for EC workforce policy, it underplays a number of critical issues in professionalizing the field. It lacks adequate treatment of the EC workforce’s economic realities that place them at the poverty line, regardless of credential or degree. It presents testimonials rather than evidence of outcomes for online programs. It makes pre-K teachers responsible for closing the pay gap and for upgrading their low professional esteem. Finally, though recognizing the importance of high-quality EC programs, it leaves the term under-analyzed at best. Unfortunately, without a nuanced discussion of these issues, the report’s usefulness is limited.