Date of Award

8-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Priscilla Blanton

Committee Members

Denise Brandon, Ralph Brockett, Rena Hallam

Abstract

Over the past two decades, children’s school readiness has gained national attention. This has resulted in a variety of national, state, and local initiatives often with an emphasis on accountability. However, the beliefs of those who are held accountable (teachers, administrators, and parents) are rarely included in the development of such systems. This study sought to identify any relationships between teacher beliefs about school readiness with parents’ beliefs or directors’ beliefs about school readiness. Additionally, the study examined predictors of teacher beliefs and whether teacher beliefs were related to teachers’ practices in the classroom.

This study used a statewide sample of 114 preschool teachers of community-based child care programs. Teachers, parents, and director beliefs were examined using the same 13-item question while child care quality was examined in four distinct ways: global quality (as measured by ECERS-R), curricular quality (as measured by ECERS-E), the quality of teacher-child interactions, and instructional quality (both of which are measured by the CLASS). The findings indicate that teachers, directors, and parents believe that both academic and social skills are very important in preparing children for kindergarten. Parents placed more emphasis on both sets of skills than teachers and directors. Teacher years of experience in early childhood education was negatively related to their beliefs about academic skills while the level of urbanization and program type were positive predictors of teachers’ beliefs about school readiness skills. Teacher beliefs about school readiness were not related to the practices associated with any of the types of quality captured in this study.

Although these beliefs do not translate into practice, there is reason to think that beliefs are still important in understanding what teachers do in the classroom. As a result of their job demands, preschool teachers may no longer be aware of the teaching practices they are utilizing. Those working with teachers can help them make this connection by encouraging them to think about their beliefs and then examine their beliefs in the context of the classroom. Policymakers can support practice by allocating resources to provide opportunities for teachers to increase their formal education.

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