Dr. Wright: It's absolutely critical because of much what is learned in early childhood education is the foundation for future learning. The extent to which non-White children experience a positive beginning to their entry into school matters. Research has demonstrated that a child only needs one teacher who is not highly qualified to set in motion their academic decline.
FOTRP: How often are children of color exposed to a teacher who is not highly qualified?
Dr. Wright: Unfortunately, there exists a mismatch between content taught in the classroom and the lived experiences outside of school for children of color. This mismatch between children’s home cultures and the cultures of schools plays havoc with student achievement. For this reason, creating equitable (fair and impartial) early childhood classrooms that recognize, nurture, and integrate the home cultures of children of color is critical given that culture shapes how children understand life and their connection to the world as well as ‘how’ and ‘what’ they learn. Sadly, more often than should be the case. Teacher preparation in early childhood education is uneven and therefore there is no guarantee that a child of color will have a teacher who understands their cultural worlds.
FOTRP: What does data suggest are the lifetime academic benefits of children exposed to a highly qualified teacher at the early stages of learning?
Dr. Wright: Research regarding the outcomes of having a highly qualified teacher in kindergarten demonstrates greater academic skills, communication skills, social behaviors, and readiness for grades one and two. So the foundation of early childhood Pre-K-Kindergarten is critical for first, second and third grades.