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Ask A REL Response

January 2021


What recent studies have linked education and training of the early care and education workforce (birth-5) with teacher quality, more positive child interactions and more positive child outcomes?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles that have linked education and training of the early care and education workforce (birth-5) with teacher quality, more positive child interactions and more positive child outcomes. We focused on identifying resources that specifically have linked education and training of the early care and education workforce (birth-5) with teacher quality, more positive child interactions and more positive child outcomes. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Brown, E. T., Molfese, V. J., & Molfese, P. (2008). Preschool student learning in literacy and mathematics: Impact of teacher experience, qualifications, and beliefs on an at-risk sample. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 13(1), 106-126.
    From the abstract: "Few studies investigating the impacts of teacher characteristics and beliefs about the importance of early skill learning have included measures of children's learning outcomes. This study investigated how teachers' educational attainment, experience, and beliefs impact the development of letter identification and number concepts (enumeration, cardinality, and numeral identification). One hundred thirty-eight 4-year-old children from low-income homes attending public preschool programs were the focus of a study based on findings that early learning is impacted by family characteristics and teachers' perceptions of children's eagerness to learn (West, Denton, & Germino Hausken, 2000). Children's skills were assessed fall and spring, with more change found in spring measures of letter identification than in measures of number concept skills. Teachers' educational attainment was found to strongly influence development of letter identification, with teacher experience a weaker influence. For number concepts, teacher education and experience were equivalent influences. Teachers' beliefs about literacy and mathematics were weakly related to children's learning outcomes, but added to the variance accounted for beyond the influence of teacher education and experience in the development of numeral recognition. More information is needed from studies focusing on children learning across the school year on how structural and process features influence young children's learning. (Contains 6 tables.)"
  2. Conners-Burrow, N. A., Patrick, T., Kyzer, A., & McKelvey, L. (2017). A preliminary evaluation of reach: Training early childhood teachers to support children's social and emotional development. Early Childhood Education Journal, 45(2), 187-199.
    From the abstract: "This paper describes the development, implementation and preliminary evaluation of the Reaching Educators and Children (REACH) program, a training and coaching intervention designed to increase the capacity of early childhood teachers to support children's social and emotional development. We evaluated REACH with 139 teachers of toddler and preschool classrooms. Teacher attendance and survey results suggest that teachers were highly satisfied with the training and materials. Data from classroom observation scales conducted pre- and post-REACH implementation suggest significant improvements in the sensitivity of teachers' interactions with children in the classroom, and increased teacher use of targeted social and emotional supports (such as teaching children to resolve conflicts). Further, data from observations of children's classroom behavior suggest increases in children's prosocial behaviors and small but significant decreases in verbal aggression. These findings provide preliminary evidence that the REACH program may be effective in building teachers' capacity to support social-emotional development of young children, and point to the need for additional research."
  3. Early, D. M., Maxwell, K. L., Burchinal, M., Alva, S., Bender, R. H., Bryant, D., Cai, K., Clifford, R. M., Ebanks, C., Griffin, J. A., Henry, G. T., Howes, C., Iriondo-Perez, J., Jeon, H-J., Mashburn, A. J., Peisner-Feinberg, E., Pianta, R. C., Vandergrift, N., Zill, N. (2007). Teachers' education, classroom quality, and young children's academic skills: Results from seven studies of preschool programs. Child Development, 78(2), 558-580.
    From the abstract: "In an effort to provide high-quality preschool education, policymakers are increasingly requiring public preschool teachers to have at least a Bachelor's degree, preferably in early childhood education. Seven major studies of early care and education were used to predict classroom quality and children's academic outcomes from the educational attainment and major of teachers of 4-year-olds. The findings indicate largely null or contradictory associations, indicating that policies focused solely on increasing teachers' education will not suffice for improving classroom quality or maximizing children's academic gains. Instead, raising the effectiveness of early childhood education likely will require a broad range of professional development activities and supports targeted toward teachers' interactions with children."
  4. Manning, M., Wong, G. T. W., Fleming, C. M., & Garvis, S. (2019). Is teacher qualification associated with the quality of the early childhood education and care environment? A meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 89(3), 370-415.
    From the abstract: "Poor-quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) can be detrimental to the development of children, as it may lead to poor social, emotional, educational, health, economic, and behavioral outcomes. A lack of consensus, however, regarding the strength of the relationship between teacher qualification and the quality of the ECEC environment makes it difficult to identify strategies that could enhance developmental and educational outcomes. This meta-analytic review examines evidence on the correlation between teacher qualifications and the quality of ECEC environments. Results show that higher teacher qualifications are significantly correlated with higher quality ECEC environments. Specifically, the education level of teachers or caregivers is positively correlated to overall ECEC qualities, as well as subscale ratings including program structure, language, and reasoning."
  5. Saracho, O. N., & Spodek, B. (2007). Early childhood teachers' preparation and the quality of program outcomes. Early Child Development and Care, 177(1), 71-91.
    From the abstract: "The issue of the preparation of effective teachers becomes more critical for teachers of early childhood programs. It has been hypothesized that better program quality depends on better-educated teachers. The purpose of this investigation was to explore the importance of a high level of education for all early childhood education teachers. This issue has intrigued early childhood researchers and has prompted a large amount of research studies over the past decades. In order to assess the status of this line of inquiry and to provide guidance for future research, a critical analysis of 40 studies on the preparation of early childhood education teachers and the quality of their educational programs that were published within a 15-year (1989-2004) period is presented here. The analysis consisted of literal and allegorical critical analysis and interpretative critical analyses, which generated results in three main areas that focused on the professional development of the teachers, including teachers' professional development, the importance of a Bachelor's Degree and educational standards for early childhood education teachers. (Contains 4 tables.)"
  6. Vu, J. A., Jeon, H-J., & Howes, C. (2008). Formal education, credential, or both: Early childhood program classroom practices. Early Education and Development, 19(3), 479- 504.
    From the abstract: "Research Findings: This study is intended to widen the debate around the bachelor's degree (BA) as preparation for early childhood teaching when head teachers possess various levels of credentials and education. We examined classroom quality and teacher involvement in 231 classrooms sponsored by 122 different agencies, staffed and supervised by teachers and program directors who had varying levels of credentials within the California Child Development Permit. We found that not only teachers' education and credential level but also the credential level of the program director as well as auspice predicted classroom quality. In private, nonprofit programs as well as Head Start/general child care programs, teacher BAs did predict classroom quality, but when classrooms were sponsored by school districts and the state, preschool program teacher BAs were not as predictive of classroom quality. Practice or Policy: These findings point to the importance of considering not only teachers' education but also the effects of supervision and auspice when examining the influences of variations in professional development on classroom quality. (Contains 6 tables and 1 footnote.)"
  7. Wolf, S., Aber, J. L., Behrman, J. R., & Peele, M. (2019). Longitudinal causal impacts of preschool teacher training on Ghanaian children's school readiness: Evidence for persistence and fade-out. Developmental Science, 22(5), e12878.
    From the abstract: "Preschool programs have expanded rapidly in low- and middleincome countries, but there are widespread concerns about whether they are of sufficient quality to promote children's learning and development. We conducted a large schoolrandomized control trial ('Quality Preschool for Ghana' -- QP4G) of a one-year teacher training and coaching program, with and without parental-awareness meetings, designed to improve preschool quality and child development. We followed 3,435 children in 240 schools in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, a country with universal pre-primary education. A previous study reported positive impacts of teacher training (but not teacher training plus parental-awareness meetings) at the end of the implementation year on some dimensions of classroom quality, teacher well-being, and children's school readiness (Wolf et al., [2019] "Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness," 12, 10-37). The present study analyzed a new round of data collected 1 year after the end of implementation to assess (a) the extent of persistence in impacts on child development and (b) whether such impacts vary by select child, household, and school characteristics. We found impacts of the teacher training intervention on children's overall school readiness were sustained (d = 0.13), but were only marginally statistically significant. When broken down by domain, impacts on social-emotional skills specifically persisted. Persistent negative effects of teacher training plus parental-awareness meetings varied by the literacy status of the male parent such that negative impacts were concentrated in children in households with non-literate male heads."

Additional Organizations to Consult

  1. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) —
    From the website: "The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is a professional membership organization that works to promote high-quality early learning for all young children, birth through age 8, by connecting early childhood practice, policy, and research. We advance a diverse, dynamic early childhood profession and support all who care for, educate, and work on behalf of young children. The association comprises nearly 60,000 individual members of the early childhood community and 52 Affiliates, all committed to delivering on the promise of high-quality early learning. Together, we work to achieve a collective vision: that all young children thrive and learn in a society dedicated to ensuring they reach their full potential."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Early childhood teacher qualifications, student achievement
  • Teacher qualifications and preschool outcomes
  • Professional development student achievement
  • Professional development teacher performance

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.