Early Childhood Education Teacher Preparation: First and Second-Year Teachers' Perceptions of Their Preparations for Wrokgin with Children with Special Needs

Preschool and early education teachers play a critical role in children’s development; yet, there is little agreement about how to codify teacher knowledge and skill (Whitebook & Ryan, 2011). There has been debate in the field of early childhood education regarding teacher preparation, skills, competencies, and education level. Early childhood education is defined as the growth, development, and education of children from birth through age 8, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Office of Special Education Programs (2014) stated that there are approximately half a million early childhood intervention teachers employed in public preschool programs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019), 1,312,700 childcare teachers provide care to children from birth to 5 years of age. Adequate preparation of teachers is becoming increasingly necessary as greater numbers of students with learning disabilities, behavior problems, and special needs are integrated into the general education environment as a result of the highly qualified teacher provisions and inclusive practices mandates of No Child Left Behind (Oliver & Reschly, 2010) and the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). This inclusion has introduced a need for teachers, including those who teach early childhood, who have the knowledge and the ability to work with special education children in a typical early learning setting. Early childhood teachers across early childhood settings are becoming more likely to have at least one child with an identified disability in their classrooms (Chang, Early, & Winton, 2005). The findings of this study identified the vital need for emphasis in undergraduate degree programs for individuals who are planning to teach to include the development of candidates’ knowledge and skills in working with children with special needs.