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New Study Sees No Shortage of Teachers If Preschool for All Pay Is Competitive


April 9, 2012

Springfield, June 16–As Illinois expands its preschool program to serve all 3- and 4-year-olds, there should be no shortage of qualified teachers if early childhood centers pay competitive salaries, according to a new study released today.

Key findings of the study included:

• An adequate number of qualified early childhood education teachers will be available to staff the hundreds of new early childhood center classrooms, and will consider doing so.

• The salary, not the setting, will be the primary incentive for most potential early childhood center teachers.

• Working in a childhood center as opposed to a public school would not be a deterrent to potential teachers; it might, in fact, be an advantage. Even current school teachers are viable candidates.

• Chicago will face more challenges than other parts of Illinois in hiring an adequate number of teachers, but the problems are not insurmountable.

The study, Pipelines and Pools: Meeting the Demand for Early Childhood Teachers in Illinois, was produced by the Illinois Education Research Council with funds provided by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Brenda K. Klostermann and Bradford R. White, two of the three authors, presented the findings at the Fifth Annual Focus on Illinois Education Research Council Symposium. The lead author of the report was Jennifer B. Presley.

"Concern about finding qualified teachers was expressed as Preschool for All moved through the Legislature," Presley said. "Our research shows that availability of qualified teachers should not impede implementation of universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds in Illinois as long as salaries are competitive and the program is phased in."

W. Steven Barnett, director of NIEER, said, "the study refutes some of the misinformation commonly used by opponents of preschool for all. While circumstances in other states may not be identical to Illinois, the economic principles of the study apply across the country. When states invest in adequate compensation, the supply of highly qualified preschool teachers will follow."

In the Illinois study, researchers followed two distinct lines of inquiry. They looked at the pipeline (the number of qualified early education teachers coming out of college) and the reserve pool (the number of teachers who are already qualified to teach early childhood education in Illinois who might be candidates to fill the growing number of teaching jobs).

Illinois' preschool program served 75,000 3- and 4-year olds during the past school year. With bipartisan support from the Legislature, Gov. Rod Blagojevich's Preschool for All program will add an additional 32,000 students during the next three school years, and then will reach all interested 3- and 4-year-olds two years later, adding an estimated 23,000 more students.

Under the program, community-based agencies, childcare centers, schools and others are eligible to access new funds to deliver high quality early childhood programs if they employ teachers with state certification, called Type 04, for instruction of children from birth to third grade.

The study found that over the eight-year period from 1998 to 2005, Illinois colleges awarded an annual average of 467 bachelor's and about 153 master's degrees in early childhood education, for a yearly average of 620 awards. However, the number of new Type 04 certificates awarded in Illinois was higher, rising to over 1,000 in 2005. If this trend continues, the study said, it bodes well for meeting the increasing need for the teachers through the pipeline.

Because Illinois has long awarded the Type 04 certificate that by definition requires the teacher to have a BA degree, the study found that "there are thousands of individuals who are already qualified to teach early childhood education, and many who are not currently doing so."

About 5,400 early childhood-certified individuals who were not working in Illinois public schools in 2002-03 were identified. To gauge the viability of the potential reserve pool, the study surveyed 4,000 of these individuals, obtaining a 46 percent response rate.

After removing those who reported they were currently working in an early childhood center the study found that 83 percent of those remaining, or 3,402 qualified early childhood teachers, were willing to consider working in an Illinois early childhood center under the right conditions. This group was defined as the reserve pool.

Under a model constructed for the study, to serve the additional 32,000 students over the next three years, an additional 800 new teachers would be needed. Recruiting 25 percent of the reserve pool members could provide 690 teachers. The deficit of 110 (over 3 years) would have to be made up from an anticipated annual 593 persons from regional pipelines who newly acquired Type 04 certificates.

In the subsequent two years, to serve an additional 23,000 children, the model showed that 575 new teachers would be required. Recruiting 25 percent of the reserve pool would fill 518 slots. The remaining 57 positions would need to be filled from the 593 teachers produced annually by regional pipelines.

Finding an adequate number of preschool teachers in Chicago may be more difficult than in other parts of Illinois, according to the study. Proportionately, Chicago has a smaller reserve pool than other regions, and their reserve pool members are on average older.

The study concluded: "Chicago will be more reliant on the pipeline than other regions." One problem identified in the study was that many college students who express interest in early childhood education, never actually enroll in such a program or earn a degree. The authors recommended that "institutions of higher education in Chicago should strive to help current college students prepare for admission to, and complete their programs, and find jobs in early childhood education."

Statewide, the authors found "compelling evidence that it is the salary, not the setting, which makes it hard to recruit certified teachers to some early childhood centers."

When reserve pool members were asked to choose the three most important incentives for returning to work in an Illinois early childhood center, higher salaries trumped all other strategies by a large margin. While 72 percent of the teachers named salary as one of their three most important incentives, less than 25 percent of respondents selected any other condition in their top three picks.

Almost half (45 percent) of the reserve pool members said they required less than $40,000 to take a full-year position. Another 29 percent wanted $40,000–$49,999. Individuals from Chicago, Cook County, Northeast Illinois and out-of-state required higher salaries compared to those in the Northwest, Central, and South regions of the state. For those reserve pool members who said they were only interested in a teacher position, 52 percent required annual minimum salaries between $20,000 and $39,999.

The study identified over 600 reserve pool members who were working in the state's public schools and interviewed 40 of them. They told researchers that the developmental emphasis, professional community, freedom and flexibility, connections with parents offered by early childhood centers were attractive to them as well as their personal passion for working with younger children.

"We find little evidence that the early childhood center setting itself is unappealing to certified teachers," the researchers wrote. "Indeed, almost half of the reserve pool have worked in such centers in the past, hundreds are doing so now, and thousands are willing to consider doing so in the future."

The Pipelines and Pools: Meeting the Demand for Early Childhood Teachers in Illinois report will be available on the Illinois Education Research Council's website, ierc.siue.edu. A companion report, The Illinois Early Childhood Teacher Reserve Pool Study, which provides extensive analysis of the Reserve Pool survey, is also available.

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The National Institute for Early Education Research (www.nieer.org), a unit of the Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, supports early childhood education policy by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research. NIEER is supported through grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts and others.