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This article presents results of a study of 229 kindergarten teachers who completed a survey designed to gather information about the current state of Michigan kindergartens. In addition to detailed data that reveals teachers’ literacy instructional practices, teachers provided written responses to the following open-ended questions: What are the main issues facing kindergarten teachers? What, if anything, would make a difference in your ability to provide the type of program you would like to provide? What kind of professional development would be useful to kindergarten teachers? Teachers identified issues related to working conditions (time, class size, materials) and literacy instruction (autonomy for decision-making, developmental appropriateness of curriculum, student readiness, parental involvement in literacy, and professional development). Their patterns of response and vibrant words provide a window on the current kindergarten teaching experience and highlight the pull (or tensions) that many teachers experience in their instructional decision making because of the complex links between policy and practice. Implications for future policy makers and professional development based in principles of emergent literacy are discussed.

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