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What is Early Childhood Education?

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the nation as it is only 48 miles long and 37 miles wide and it’s considered to be one of the most densely populated states with a population of 1,056,298 in 2015, according to the United States Census Bureau. Five percent of the population are children under the age of five, making the demand for early childhood educators quite high and expected to increase by 17% during the next three years (by 2022).

Because Rhode Island considers its children one of its most precious assets, early childhood teachers are required to have very high qualifications and all education professionals are held to a high standard. According to the American Communities Survey, done in 2013, Rhode Island’s elementary school teachers are the highest paid in the country, with an average salary of $75,028.

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Steps to Become an Early Childhood Education Teacher in Rhode Island

According to the U.S. Department of Education and the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), there was a shortage of educators in 2010 to 2011 for Grades PreK-12 in Early Childhood Education, English as a second language, and more.

The RIDE Office of Educator Quality and Certification requires teacher certification candidates to meet a high level of quality, as defined by the federal government. Qualifications include earning a bachelor’s degree from an approved educator preparation program as well as passing certain state-required examinations to obtain certification.

All employers of educators in Rhode Island must ensure the educator holds a valid certification or an appropriate permit while also determining the competency of the educator’s English before hiring the individual to teach.

The Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training estimates by 2024 there will be an annual average of 85% job openings due to elementary school teachers’ replacements.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently around 10,380 elementary, middle, and secondary teachers in RI.

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There is clear evidence that shows children who attend early childhood education programs that are of high quality, develop important cognitive and social skills as well as knowledge, which helps to prepare them for success in future classes.

Rhode Island will also be taking a phased-in approach called, The Rhode Island Educational Aid Foundation Formula, to broaden access to high-quality learning for Pre-K, which will begin with communities that have a higher need for free or reduced lunch. This Pre-K expansion will create high-quality learning processes, improvements for students who are most in need of access, and establish a smooth transition from early childhood learning through K-12.

Step 1. Earn Your Degree

To become a certified ECE teacher in the state of Rhode Island, early childhood education candidates must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, earned from an RI Department of Education-approved accredited Institution. You’ll also have to make sure to graduate from an academic preparation program specifically tuned for ECE teachers. A list of these programs can be found at the Rhode Island Department of Education website.

If you’ve earned a degree from an out-of-state institution, you’ll need to take specific courses to make sure you have fulfilled all requirements, but you can still earn certification as long as you have at least a bachelor’s degree and six semesters of age-appropriate student teaching.

Step 2. Pass Your Exams

In Rhode Island in order to become a certified teacher, you must take and pass the Praxis l Pre-Professional Skills Exams before enrolling in a Rhode Island educator program. You must score a composite of 535 or; 179 in Math, 179 in reading, and 177 in writing. You may be exempt from this test if:

  • Your SAT score was 1150 composite (530 on math and 530 on verbal)
  • Your ACT score was 24 on reading and 20 on math
  • Your GRE score was 1100 composite with at least 584 quantitative and 465 verbal
  • You hold a master’s degree accompanied by a GPA of 3.0 or higher

In Rhode Island, all educators are also required to take and pass PRAXIS ll, content tests and pedagogy exams in their chosen area.

ECE EXAMS you can take option 1 or option 2

  • Option 1

    • Early Childhood Education - test code 5025 - passing score 156
    • Education of Young Children - test code 5024 - passing score 160
  • Option 2

    • Principles of Learning & Teaching, K-6 - test code 5622 - passing score 160
    • Elementary Education (multiple subjects) - test code 5001


  • Reading & Language Arts - test code 5002 - passing score 157
  • Mathematics - test code 5003 - passing score 157
  • Social Studies - test code 5004 - passing score 155
  • Science - test code 5005 - passing score 159

You can retake any of the above exams, if needed, just by registering.

Step 3. Standards and Qualifications

Rhode Island has five Standards for Educator Preparation:

    Programs must ensure that candidates have a deep understanding of the practices, principles, and critical concepts of their chosen area and, after completing the program, they can use their knowledge flexibly to progress towards higher education and career readiness.
    Programs ensure that effective partnerships and clinical practice are of high quality and central to preparation for candidates to develop the professional dispositions, skills, and knowledge necessary for positive impact on PreK-12 student’s development and learning.
    Programs are responsible for ensuring the candidate develops teaching quality, as this is the goal of preparation for educators in all program phases - from recruitment and admission to clinical experience and courses progression, and upon completion, candidates will be recommended for certification and will be effective educators.
    Programs produce effective PreK-12 classrooms and educators that demonstrate responsibility, improvement, and practice for PreK-12 student learning and development.
    Programs collect and analyze multiple measures of data and program performance and use it for improving continuously. They also assure that their programs are adequate for physical and personnel resources to meet these standards and address needs identified in maintaining program quality.

On top of leadership and teaching standards for professional educators, RIDE has also established a code of professional responsibilities:

  • Rhode Island Professional Teaching Standards (RIPTS)
    Standards that identify professional knowledge and skills expected of all teachers.

  • Rhode Island Standards for Educational Leadership
    Educational leaders ensure that each student is successful

  • Rhode Island Code of Professional Responsibility
    Teachers establish a deep understanding of their field

Popular Career Choices:

  • Preschool Teacher
  • Kindergarten Teacher
  • Elementary School Teacher
  • Special Education Teacher

Online Accredited Teaching Preparation Programs

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Complete a teacher preparation program that ensures candidates demonstrate pedagogical competencies, is approved by RIDE, and meet their professional teaching standards.
  • A minimum of 12 weeks of field experience that includes student teaching in the first area of certification, as well as other field requirements.
  • 60 hours minimum of field experience prior to passing scores on subject matter testing, pedagogy testing, and student teaching required for the area of certification.

Early Childhood Teacher Certificates

  • Early Childhood Education Teacher
  • Early Childhood Special Education Teacher
  • Early Childhood Bilingual and Dual Language Education Teacher
  • Early Childhood English as a Second Language Teacher
  • Early Childhood Education Teacher, Grades PK - 2

Top Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Programs in Rhode Island

When colleges or universities voluntarily choose to be accredited, they are evaluated by an outside association and if the association’s standards are met by the institution, they approve accreditation. Therefore, if you want to look good in an employer’s eyes, you should only attend a school that is accredited by a reputable association.

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Most of the colleges and universities in Rhode Island are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. In addition to the institutional accreditations, a number of individual programs offered by schools are often also accredited by a separate organization.

  • Brown University

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bilingual and Multilingual Education; Master’s
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Master’s
    • Education, General; Bachelor’s & Dr.
    • Urban Education and Leadership; Master’s

    Accreditation By:

    • The New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Johnson & Wales University

    Degrees Offered:

    • Educational Leadership and Administration; Dr.

    Accreditation By:

    • The Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE)
    • the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Providence College

    Degrees Offered:

    • Counselor Education/School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s
    • Elementary and Middle School Administration/Principalship; Master’s
    • Reading Teacher Education; Master’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s & Master’s
    • Urban Education & Leadership; Master’s

    Accreditation By:

    • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
    • New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
  • Community College of Rhode Island

    Degrees Offered:

    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; 1-year Certificate
    • Special Education and Teaching; Associate’s
    • Kindergarten/Preschool Education and Teaching; Associate’s

    Accreditation By:

    • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
    • National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
  • Rhode Island College

    Degrees Offered:

    • Curriculum and Instruction; Post-grad Certificate
    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s & Master’s
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals in Early Childhood Special Education Programs; Master’s
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals who are Developmentally Delayed; Master’s
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Autism; Post-grad Certificate
    • Elementary Education and teaching; Bachelor’s, Master’s, & Post-grad Certificate
    • Kindergarten/Preschool Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s
    • Reading Teachers Education; Master’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s & Master’s
    • ESL Teacher Education; Master’s

    Accreditation By:

    • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
    • Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)

Additional Specialization Certifications

Applicants who seek reciprocity can get a Preliminary Certificate called the Temporary Initial Educator Certificate, which is issued for a limited time if requirements are met, which include, when applicable, the English Language Competency Test. This will give the applicant some time to take the test that may not have been an option in their state.

Those who are not eligible for full certification can get a Preliminary Certification if they meet specific criteria to qualify them as educators of record and complete all other certification requirements.

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The holders of an Alternative Route Preliminary Certificate can serve as a teacher of record for at least a year. After successfully completing all the program, recommendation for licensure, and state testing requirements, candidates will be eligible for a Rhode Island Initial Educator Certificate.

There are six types of preliminary certificates that the Department of Education issues:

  • Career and Technical Education Preliminary Certificate
  • Expert Residency Preliminary Certificate
  • Emergency Preliminary Certificate
  • Temporary Initial Educator Preliminary Certificate
  • Alternate Route Preliminary Certificate
  • Visiting Lecturer Preliminary Certificate

If you would like to continue your education and become a special education teacher, principal, or assistant, you must first obtain a qualified certificate issued by the authority of the council.

Potential Careers and Salaries for Graduates

There are many benefits to being a teacher in Rhode Island. Two of the most important benefits are; teachers are in high demand in Rhode Island and they get paid above average salaries. The following are some of the salary rankings in Rhode Island:

  • Kindergarten & elementary school special education teachers in the US: rank #2
  • Childcare and preschool education administrators in the US: rank #3
  • Preschool special education teachers in the US: rank #5
  • Childcare workers in the US: rank #5
  • Preschool teachers, except special education in the US: rank #16

Early childhood educators also have the advantage of choosing where they wish to work, here are some of your options:

  • Public schools
  • Private childcare
  • Private schools
  • Head Start programs
  • Community-based programs
  • Faith-based programs
  • Military programs

Some of the many jobs you will qualify for are:

  • Childcare Worker
  • Social workers for child, family, and school
  • Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education
  • Kindergarten and Elementary School Special Education Teachers
  • Preschool Special Education Teachers
  • Childcare and Preschool Education Administrators

Early Childhood Education Teaching Salaries in Rhode Island

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Preschool Teacher $26,200 $31,000 $31,400
Elementary School Teacher $42,300 $49,800 $53,600
Professor of Education $84,000 $104,600 $134,600
Special Education Teacher $55,500 $60,900 $80,500
ESL Teacher $38,500 $41,400 $55,900
School Psychologist $60,100 $66,300 $83,100

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