Colorado's Teach for America responds to the demand for preschool teachers
- After a feasibility study and a nearly $800,000 grant award, the Colorado region of Teach for America (TFA) has launched a two-year pilot program to bring teachers into preschool classrooms and to hire a full-time staff member to work on larger early-childhood education issues, such as quality and teacher pay, Chalkbeat reports.
- About half a dozen of TFA's 51 regions, including New York, Chicago and Indianapolis, have already expanded into preschool, but it remains a relatively small part of the organization's efforts.
- Some educators are happy that the effort will help address the early-childhood education shortage in Colorado, but critics worry that TFA's six-week summer training and the two-year commitment on the part of its teachers is not enough.
While many states have teaching shortages, especially high-needs schools in the south and west, early childhood education seems to face more challenges because pay is generally lower – though in many cases, qualifications are lower as well. Other states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois are also facing shortages in the field. While teacher pay hasn't fully recovered at the K-12 level, most early-childhood teachers make considerably less than their counterparts in K-12, which contributes to a revolving door in the field.
When the teachers who are left are underpaid and oftentimes unqualified, that can effect the students they teach. There is mounting evidence that quality preschool education can aid in the development of literacy skills and a range of positive outcomes. Because a majority of brain development occurs in the early years, the quality of education at this time in a child’s life is an important factor.
While many states and large cities have expanded early-childhood programs over the years, the quality of preschool education varies widely. Teachers also want to see stronger connections between what is taught in preschool and what is taught in K-3 classrooms, but schools and early-childhood programs need resources to form those relationships. The expansion of TFA into preschool, however indicates that the state recognizes the importance of early learning.