As promised in my last blog, here's a little more food for thought about Standards and young children. Are learning standards and developmentally appropriate practice inherently incompatible? The gold standard bearers at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) say, "NO!" Having Standards to meet, even in very early childhood education, can be consistent with NAEYC's own highest standard---the insistence that educational expectations must fit the developmental level of each individual young child. Educators are expected to start where the kids are, as an age group, and individually. General principles of what to expect of children of any given age or grade, are important to recognize; but so too are individual differences in readiness.
"Learning standards and developmentally appropriate practices can indeed go together! No change in acceptable early childhood practices is necessary. Learning standards can be incorporated into play, into emergent curriculum and projects and into small and large group times". (Young Children, July, 2008)
"All 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted early learning standards related to language, literacy, and math for 3-5 year olds." NAEYC strongly recommends that those standards consider "social/emotional development, physical development and approaches to learning in addition to traditional content areas associated with schooling."
Further cautions include: avioding a cookie cutter style curriculum. Trust young children's ability to learn in self-directed, exploratory ways. Be wary of testing and other inappropriate assessment methods for young children. Find a way to support training of early educators in how to best implement standards. In short, "Take good care of young children and help them to grow and learn and flourish", given who and where they are developmentally.
September 17, 2008