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Study Shows Advantages of Bachelor’s Degree Programs for Early Childhood Educators

Data continues to show the merits of preschool for the development of young children—and online education degrees are helping meet the demand for well-qualified teachers.

As more and more public schools begin offering preschool programs, an exciting trend is surfacing: An increasing number of preschool teachers are strengthening their professional skills by earning online bachelor’s degrees. And a growing number of young children are reaping the benefits.

“Research shows that children benefit greatly by attending a high-quality preschool. Lasting gains are made in a child’s cognitive and social-emotional development,” said Dr. Martha Cheney, program director for the MS in Early Childhood Education, at Walden University. “On the social-emotional side, children in preschool learned to share, take turns, to get along with other children, regulate themselves a little better.”

Study Shows Advantages of Bachelor’s Degree Programs for Early Childhood Educators

Apparently, many others believe in the value of a high-quality preschool experience as well. According to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 65% of the nation’s 4-year-olds are enrolled in a preprimary program, though this is lower than many other countries.1

The Perry Preschool Project†

Bachelor’s degree programs in education regularly consider the results of the Perry Preschool Project, one of the most famous studies on the effects of attending preschool. Conducted from 1962 to 1967, the Perry Preschool Project provided a high-quality preschool education to 3- and 4-year-old African-American children who were living in poverty and deemed to be at high risk of school failure. By the time these preschool participants were 27–40 years of age, they had a number of successes as compared with the control group of students who had not attended preschool. The Perry Preschool Project showed that preschool attendees:

  • Had a 44% higher high school graduation rate.
  • Earned a median monthly income that was 42% higher than those who did not attend preschool.
  • Were 26% less likely to have received government assistance.
  • Encountered 50% fewer teen pregnancies.

“Serve and Return”: Quality Educators, Quality Education

“A highly responsive teacher is one who is engaged in the learning process,” said Dr. Cheney. “He or she provides opportunities for oral language expression in what are known as ‘serve and return’ interactions between a child and adult. These ‘serve and return’ interactions actually shape a child’s brain architecture, providing the foundation for future learning.” Shaping a young child’s brain development is an extraordinary responsibility, and education requirements for preschool teachers vary. That said, individuals designated as lead teachers, supervisors, or administrators in most public and private preschools are required to hold a bachelor’s degree, such as a BS in Elementary Education. This requirement has led many preschool teachers to enroll in online degree programs to balance their teaching responsibilities with their own BS degree coursework. Many may continue to further their education by pursuing an MS in Education or Master of Arts in Teaching

Every child deserves an equal opportunity to begin kindergarten ready for success. As we continue to invest in high-quality preschool programs, we are not only investing in the future of each child—we’re investing in the future of our nation.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering education degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Dr. Martha Cheney is the program director for early childhood programs at all degree levels in The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Human Sciences at Walden University. Before assuming this role, she taught courses in Walden’s MS in Education program and in the School of Education at the University of Montana-Missoula. Dr. Cheney began her career as a writer in educational publishing and has taught preschool as well as primary grades. She serves as a specialty professional association (SPA) program reviewer for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and as a site visitor for the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,