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Do Preschool Children Need to Be Guided by National Learning Standards?

Do Preschool Children Need to be Guided by National Learning Standards?

A new report from Educational Testing Service (ETS) based on surveys, focus groups and interviews found that implementing national learning standards for Pre-K Age 4 could be beneficial for improving early education and deserves the attention of policy makers.

Although all 50 U.S. states, its five territories and Washington, D.C. currently have learning standards that guide learning in Pre-K, the report found extensive variation between the standards as well as a consensus among early educators that uniting programs with national standards is a good idea.

"Systematic analysis of pre-K age 4 learning standards documents revealed extensive variation across titles, organization, terminology, and enriching materials, such as teacher strategies and child examples that assist teachers in implementing standards. A surprising finding is the positive view among early childhood leaders in focus groups and interviews toward establishing national pre-K age 4 learning standards,” according to the report.

Indeed, early education learning standards have come a long way over the past twenty years. In 1999 for example, only ten states had any kind of learning standard in place to guide early learning. Just seven years later in 2006, nearly all states had a learning standard in place.

Much has changed as continuous research supports how crucial quality early education is to the development of children. States and the federal government are now making it a priority to ensure that the majority of the country’s young learners are enrolled in early education by the ages of three of four.

But should they also be making the development of national learning standards for pre-k a priority too?

The report argues that most state standards lack components that are critical to raising a well-developed child. One such component is the lack of teaching diversity coupled with the lack of training and instructional materials for teachers to teach such a concept.

When asking a focus group questions about why having national learning standards for pre-k might be important, many had different answers as to why.

Some referenced promoting equality: "National standards could help ensure that children across the nation have the same opportunities to develop literacy skills and that children who move from one state to another are not left behind.”

Others referenced how national standards would help promote consistent learning across states: "Common vocabulary across not just the state, and it doesn't have to be a set vocabulary, but more common for the staff to understand what you're talking about and what they're talking about to each other as well as for the children and the parents.”

Most responses mimicked the reasoning behind implementing the national set of standards for K-12: Common Core Standards. As we now know, Common Core Standards are a politicizing force. Many figures like Bill Gates and Hillary Clinton blame a shoddy roll-out for not being able to win over public perception in its first few years of implementation.

One thing to think about would be ensuring that the national standards will support learning through play. As more rigorous leaning standards dominate k-12, some argue that the trickle-down effect has resulted in a decrease in necessary play-time for young learners. 

The researchers behind the report acknowledge that developing national pre-k age four learning standards will be a "long and difficult process that will involve deep conversation, collaboration, and compromise among U.S. states and territories” but deserves further research nonetheless.

Read the full report here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


Do you believe in pre-k age 4 learning standards?

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