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Study Shows 90 Percent of NJ Teachers to Meet Degree Deadline

February 27, 2004

Piscataway – A Rutgers University report released today said that 90 percent of preschool teachers in New Jersey’s 30 most disadvantaged school districts could earn a Bachelor’s degree with early childhood certification by the court-ordered deadline of September 2004. The report called for an extension of the certification deadline to September 2006.

Citing the increase as “quite remarkable,” the report said that an additional 7 percent of preschool teachers in those 30 districts are undertaking the necessary coursework, but are not expected to complete the credentialing requirement by the ’04 deadline. The report suggested the deadline extension only for those teachers who will be able to meet the ’06 date.

“Getting certified to meet the mandate is not simply an individual responsibility, however, but also one that resides with the State, the administration within each Abbott district and the leadership of the various programs and schools who are receiving public funds to provide a high quality preschool education to three- and-four-year-olds,” said the report.

Sharon Ryan and Debra J. Ackerman authored the report that was released at an Association for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) conference. The report was based on teacher responses to the Rutgers’ survey in preschool programs operated by public schools, private programs and Head Start Centers in the 30 districts, often referred to as Abbott districts after the long-running education equity court case, Abbott v. Burke.

“Given that when the 2000 NJ Supreme Court decision was handed down only 15% of teachers in the private settings had a BA in early childhood, and there was no system of professional preparation in place to meet the increased demand for qualified teachers created by this mandate, this outcome is quite remarkable,” said Ryan, in Getting Qualified: A Report on the Efforts of Preschool Teachers in New Jersey’s Abbott Districts to Improve their Qualifications.

Cynthia Rice of the Association for Children of New Jersey noted that, “while the progress has been tremendous, there is still a great deal of work to be done. The state and districts need to begin to plan, and plan quickly, for any teachers who will not meet the deadline, regardless of the extension.

“The problem with ensuring a qualified workforce will not end in September, 2004. In the next few years, more preschool teachers will be needed for required preschool expansion. The time to begin planning is now,” she said at the conference.

Ryan and Ackerman are Research Fellows at the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

Financial support was provided also by the Foundation for Child Development and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The report can be found on the NIEER website.

The National Institute for Early Education Research, a unit of Rutgers University, supports early childhood education policy by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research. NIEER is supported through a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Pew Charitable Trusts ( serve the public interest by providing information, policy solutions and support for civic life. Based in Philadelphia, with an office in Washington, D.C., the Trusts make investments to provide organizations and citizens with fact-based research and practical solutions for challenging issues. With approximately $4.1 billion in dedicated assets, in 2003 the Trusts committed more than $143 million to 151 nonprofit organizations.