Align PreK and Elementary Ed Standards

by Alice Wiggins
April 22nd, 2009

So far this week, I’ve discussed two ways to improve U.S. early childhood education—changing the way we evaluate preschools (and preschool teachers) and establishing clear and specific preschool learning standards.  The third item on my wish list is aligning preschool and elementary school standards.

Creating a seamless PreK to elementary school system is also the No. 1 item on the “to do” list of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).  In a paper titled Promoting Quality in PreK-Grade 3 Classrooms by Dr. Mariana Haynes, NASBE’s research director, argued for aligning not just standards, but curricula, assessment and teaching practices for Pre-K through grade three, to reflect what research tells us about learning environments on children’s developmental outcomes.  “This is an important foundational step to creating the infrastructure for a coherent, evidence-based early learning system,” Haynes wrote. “States may want to examine how to create incentives for school districts and early education providers to partner in building a seamless prekindergarten through grade three system,” she concluded.

A New America Foundation report by Kristie Kauerz also makes a strong argument for advancing the alignment of PK through grade 3. Lack of availability of high-quality preschool for all children (we’ll talk about this later this week!) coupled with the absence of alignment between PK and subsequent grades results in classes that include some children who have the background knowledge and academic gains for preschool and some children who do not. As a result, Kauerz notes “teacher must focus on those children who do not have the relevant and necessary cognitive or social skills, thereby being forced to slow and level down the curriculum and pedagogy in order not to leave behind less well prepared children.”  The result?  Children who arrived well prepared are often hindered in their continued progress.

Kauerz goes on to cite a study of elementary school in California that “analyzed why some schools score substantially better on the state’s academic performance index than other schools with similar students. Practices found to be associated with higher performance included school-wide instructional consistency within grades, curricular alignment from grade-to-grade, and classroom instruction guided by state academic standards (Williams, Kirst, & Haertel, 2005).”

It’s safe to say that one unambiguous victory of the standards-based education movement has been a general rise in expectations, especially in schools serving low-SES children.  Clear and specific preschool learning standards would ensure that children transition more smoothly to kindergarten bringing with them social skills and foundational skills and knowledge for ongoing educational achievement.  Aligning those standards with a state’s existing K-8 standards would be better still.

4 Comments »

  1. On a related topic the House Education and Labor Committee has schedule a full committee hearing April 29 on developing common “standards” http://edlabor.house.gov/hearings/2009/04/strengthening-americas-competi.shtml

    Comment by Mitchell Hirsch — April 22, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

  2. This is a big annoying issue, thanks for raising it. In Florida, there are fundamental problems in that the Preschool readiness standards have a totally different approach than the Sunshine State Standards.

    For those of us that are developing curriculum, we need to pick which set of standards to ally ourselves to and which ones to ignore. Very annoying.

    Comment by john edelson — April 23, 2009 @ 5:07 pm

  3. As long as we look at the standards as a whole and not look at just making pre-k standards fit the standards of higher grades I am all for it. I can tell that in my pre-k classroom I teach pre-algebra, statistics, and reading. But, that’s just me.

    We shouldn’t necessarily assume that because K-8 standards got there first that they are better even more valuable to society than standards in place that have been asserted by NAEYC or other pre-k organizations.

    Comment by J.M. Holland — April 23, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

  4. J.M.
    Yes, it’s not a matter of connecting to existing standards, PreK or K8, it’s a matter of ensuring that what I teach in preshool aligns with what children will learn in kindergarten, and that what children learn in first grade builds on what they have learned in kindergarten, etc.

    It’s about ensuring a smoother transition from Preschool to kindergarten throught alignment of not just standards, but teacher practices and expectations.

    It’s about removing redundancies that exist within and between standards for individual greades (and states for that matter).

    Thanks…

    P.S. Love your blog.

    Comment by Alice Wiggins — April 24, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

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