It’s widely known that early education plays a critical role in how students perform in their later school years. Understanding just how crucial these early education years are is important.

According to The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the annual average learning gain for students in kindergarten through second grade is higher than at any time during a child’s years in school. And the ability to read proficiently by fourth grade is so important that not doing so often puts kids on track to drop out of high school.

For teachers considering a master’s degree in education, focusing on elementary education offers a chance to become a leader in this critical area.

The Power of Reading

While there are important aspects to elementary education across all subjects, almost all of it comes back to the ability to read. Reading is how students can be introduced to every educational subject presented to them. And although it’s a skill we learn at a young age, reading is complex. Students need the opportunity to ask questions, make predictions and grasp words they may not completely understand based on their contextual use.

Teachers of elementary education have to stretch their teaching skills to face the challenges of teaching children to read.  Students in any given classroom possess a vast range of reading skills. Elementary school teachers must have strategies to help students interpret complex ideas, develop critical skills, synthesize information from diverse sources and use reading to learn about all subjects.

This requires a high level of teaching expertise in elementary education – something that the state of Massachusetts requires.

A Master of Education with a focus on elementary education can prepare teachers to become leaders both in the classroom and with their peers, helping them find strategies that will lead to better outcomes for students.

What You’ll Learn in a Master’s Degree Program

Because of the challenging nature of elementary education, quality master’s degree programs are designed to give graduates expertise in a range of areas.

In the Merrimack College Master of Education programs, students take classes on a variety of topics, including the following.

Teaching and Learning in the Inclusive Classroom

Teachers learn how to use different instructional strategies to accommodate students of varying backgrounds, learning styles and levels of academic readiness. They also learn how to create cooperative, orderly and motivational student environments.

Foundations of Language and Reading

Good reading skills are the foundation for academic achievement. Teachers taking this course learn the fundamental skills behind language and reading development.

Reading Strategies and Interventions

This course provides an introduction to the significant theories, practices, and programs for developing literacy skills in students with learning challenges. This includes students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, as well as students with limited experience in an educational environment.

Math Methods for the Elementary School

Students learn how to teach math skills to students from diverse backgrounds and experiences. This includes developing learning objectives, instructional methods, and assessment techniques. This course is designed with consideration for recommendations from the professional standards established by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, among other sources.

Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment in Social Studies and World Geography

This course focuses on teaching skills in three areas of social studies: the development of geography skills and global awareness, the development of history skills that include critical, creative and analytical thinking, and cooperative learning, vocabulary, and concept formation.

Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment in Science, Health and Physical Education

Students learn teaching methods that promote the development of cognitive and scientific reasoning, as well as strategies for teaching science and assessing students’ understanding. Other sections of the course deal with health education, laws and regulations on student health and safety, warning signs that students are experiencing issues and development of school physical education programs.

Massachusetts and Elementary Education

The Merrimack College degree program prepares teachers for the MTEL exams. Massachusetts requires these exams before teachers can earn the Initial License to teach in Massachusetts.  Preparation for the exams is a part of the degree program. The MTEL exams required are:

  • Communication and Literacy Skills
  • Math and Multi-Subject subtests of the General Curriculum exam
  • Foundations of Reading

Merrimack College provides a degree program that meets the state’s rigorous standards. The Elementary education years are some of the most important in the life of a student. They deserve teachers who have trained themselves to work at the highest possible level.