Standards. What is their relevance to early childhood education? This is an important discussion, for standards are at the heart of educational equity. There are are different kinds of standards: for programs, content, learning or performance, and professional development.
1. Program standards are input standards; they define what we need to put into the learning environment for children to flourish. These standards may include such things as the number of children in a group, the kinds of activities the program provides for children, and the credential requirements for teachers and directors. They are designed to set the organizational structure for programs.
2. Content standards are also input standards and define the knowledge, concepts, and skills to be taught at each age or grade level. Curriculum is aligned with content standards and sets forth the activities into which the standards are embedded. For example, for preschool the standards might list the alphabet, fine motor coordination, and following directions as content to be included in the curriculum. Content standards are structured so that each level builds on the prior one, and they typically include academic knowledge as well as physical and social skills.
3. Learning or performance standards are outcome oriented. While content standards guide the curriculum, learning standards detaor il what children should know and be able to do. They are necessary because, although the program may put in all the right things, they may not be organized or presented in a way that allows children to learn. Therefore, it is essential to know what outcomes educators and families want so that learning can be assessed. To have learning standards does not mean all children must achieve them at the same time in the same way. It just means we know what we want children to learn.
4. Standards for professional development specify the skills and knowledge teachers should have if they are to be effective. Professional development standards are generally tied to accreditation and often designate organizational structures for the institution providing training (another kind of program standards) as well as the learning goals and objectives upon which assessment is based.
Miss Carrie mentions these standards because they provide the cornerstone for high quality preschool programs. These standards provide direction for curriculum planning, and offer a rubric with which to measure what your child is learning. In our program, we not only base our content on these standards, but we use them as an testing tool, to evaluate new tools your little one has acquired. Through these standards, we can assess what is or is not working in our preschool program.