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Early Learning Standards: A Huge Problem or A Huge Possibility?. Sharon L. Kagan, Ed.D. Santa Monica, CA November 19, 2005. Overview. The History of Play in ECE The Importance of Play to Development Contemporary Context Defining Standards Different Types of Standards

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Early Learning Standards:A Huge ProblemorA Huge Possibility?

Sharon L. Kagan, Ed.D.

Santa Monica, CA

November 19, 2005


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Overview

  • The History of Play in ECE

  • The Importance of Play to Development

  • Contemporary Context

  • Defining Standards

  • Different Types of Standards

  • Early Learning and Development Standards

  • Using Standards

  • Standards in Action

  • Concluding Thoughts


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I. The History of Playin ECE


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The History of Play in ECE

  • The commitment to play dates back a long, long time in early childhood education

  • Froebel and Pestalozzi were pioneers in advocating the use of play in childrearing and education

  • Piaget viewed play as the mode by which children understand their experience and development


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The History of Play in ECE

  • Since then, leading scholars in early childhood education have all recognized that play is the basis of good early childhood pedagogy and practice

  • Moreover, play is THE fundamental cornerstone for children’s development


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II. The Importance of Play to Development


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Domains of Development

  • About 10 years ago, the National Education Goals Panel was assigned the task of determining what the research said about the most significant domains of development for young children

  • Groups of scholars and teachers reviewed decades of research and hundreeds of articles and concluded that:


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Domains of Development

  • There are five major domains of development:

    • Physical Health, Well-Being and Motor Development

    • Social and Emotional Development

    • Approaches Toward Learning

    • Language, Literacy and Communication

    • Cognition and General Knowledge


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Domains of Development

  • Since then, these five domains have been widely accepted, and have been used for a variety of purposes

  • Today, we are going to use the five domains to answer two questions:


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Domains of Development

  • First,

    How can and does

    play

    help children’s development

    progress in each of the domains?


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The Importance of Play to Development

  • Physical Health, Well-Being and Motor Development

    • Indoor play equipment can promote gross-motor skills

      • Steps, balance beams, jump ropes, bean bag toss, hollow blocks, strollers for dramatic play

    • Outdoor play improves motor fitness

    • Manual dexterity is enhanced by activities such as drawing and painting, working with playdough, and constructing with Legos

    • Sensorimotor skill development is also enhanced through play

      • Coordinated movement such as kicking a ball


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The Importance of Play to Development

  • Social and Emotional Development

    • Symbolic role taking of dramatic play provides children opportunities to identify their own feelings and others’

    • Contact with playmates helps children develop cooperative, reciprocal relationships and gain mutual understanding and trust

    • Pretend play helps children form their personalities and develop social skills


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The Importance of Play to Development

  • Approaches Toward Learning

    • This domain encompasses efforts that enable children to approach learning tasks with confidence and zest

    • These goals derive from a variety of efforts, many of them involved with representation through play and the arts

    • Representational activity evokes major cognitive benefits

      • Allows child to make permanent what could be fleeting

      • Allows child to edit or perfect work

      • Allows child to make ideas public

      • Enables “flexible purposing” – the ability to set a goal and shift gears when necessary


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The Importance of Play to Development

  • Language, Literacy and Communication

    • Play has been found to accelerate communication

    • Play fosters the three basic functions of language: communication, expression, and reasoning

    • Symbolic play is related to understanding written language


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The Importance of Play to Development

  • Cognition and General Knowledge

    • Play is the primary vehicle for concept development and problem solving

    • Play provides opportunities for contact with multiple stimuli, inducing the development of categorization, generalization, and conceptual acquisition skills

    • Play contributes to a vast range of specific cognitive processes and to generic functioning


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The Importance of Play to Development

So, we see that PLAY does enhance children’s development in all domains…

BUT, the BIG, BIG question is:

Can we maintain fidelity to all domains and play

AND

have early learning standards?

YES, YES, YES

Indeed, the ONLY way to preserve play is via early learning standards


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III. Contemporary Context


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Contemporary Context

  • To those outside ECE, play is always suspect.

  • Today, there is even more concern about play, because:


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Contemporary Context

  • Press for standards and accountability is changing education and placing more demands on student accomplishment

  • Emphasis is being placed on the more easily measured domains of language and cognition, at the expense of the other three domains

  • Focus is on getting kids academically ready for the more rigorous curriculum in K-3


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Contemporary Context

  • The consequence is that more people have more to say about ECE,

  • And they are calling for more Rigor, not realizing that Play is Rigorous!!!


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Contemporary Context

  • The problem is that they are confusing the

    • ENDSof ECE: [what they want children to know and be able to do]

    • PROCESSof ECE: [Play]


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Contemporary Context

  • We need to focus on both: the ends (or the standards) and the means (or the process) of early education, which is play

  • Play is a known given!!!

  • Standards are unknown…so we need to turn to them to understand them better…


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IV. Defining Standards


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Defining Standards

What are standards?

Statements that are used as a basis of comparison in measuring quality, value, or quantity.


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Defining Standards

Common Standards…

The weight a child should achieve at birth to be considered healthy


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Defining Standards

The grades a student receives to be considered competent

Report Card A+


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Defining Standards

The skills one demonstrates to be certified as a teacher, plumber, doctor, driver, etc.


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Defining Standards

Standards are a part of our daily

life—so routine, we may not even recognize them as standards.


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Defining Standards

Why are standards important?

  • Lend precision to vague constructs

  • Help to clarify what we want to achieve

  • Provide an opportunity to build consensus

  • Establish a base for measurement

  • Can produce more equitable outcomes

  • Can advance an agenda like school readiness


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BUT…

There are many different kinds

of standards related to

school readiness.


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V. Different Types of Standards


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Different Types of Standards

I. II. III.

Early Learning & Development Teacher StandardsProgram/School Standards

Standards

IV. V. VI.

Social Indicators Access to Services Systemic Effectiveness


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I. Defines what children should know and be able to do.

Early Learning & Development Standards

Example: Four-year-old children will be able to state name, where they live, parents’ names, and siblings’ names.

Note: These are usually manifest in children’s behavior or discourse.


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II. Defines what teachers should know and do to advance their students’ learning.

Teacher Standards

Example: All teachers should know how to assess their students’ competence and report such findings to parents.

Note: These are usually the basis for teacher preparation programs.


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III. Defines the nature of the program or school.

Program/School Standards

Example: Every program will have indoor and outdoor space.

Example: Every program will have appropriate developmental materials for children.

Example: Every program will welcome families.


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IV. Defines the nature of the social context in which the child exists (family and community conditions).

Social Indicators

Example: The percentage of children who live in poverty.

Example: The percentage of children who are born malnourished.

Note: These are usually phrased in terms of risk factors.


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V.Defines the nature and amount of children who have access to diverse services.

Example:The percentage of children who have access to high-quality child development programs.

Example:The percentage of children who have developmental screenings upon entry to preschool programs.

Note:These are usually defined for a geographic catchment, area, city, town, or neighborhood.

Access to Services


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VI.Defines the degree to which elements or disparate services work together.

Example: The cost savings that are realized when programs buy supplies jointly.

Note: This is the least well-developed area, and is often quite problematic for nations and states with highly diverse delivery systems.

System Effectiveness


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We are focusing on Bucket One:

Early Learning & Development Standards:

Standards that specify what children know and can do

Different Types of Standards

I.


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VI. Early Learning and Development Standards


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Early Learning & Development Standards

Statements of expectation for

“what children should know

and

be able to do”


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Returning to the NEGP Domains and the Second Question:

  • Physical Health, Well-Being, and Motor Development

  • Social & Emotional Development

  • Approaches Toward Learning

  • Language, Literacy & Communication

  • Cognition and General Knowledge

    What are examples of standards?


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Physical and Motor Development

  • Run around obstacles and corners

  • Walk up and down stairs, alternating feet, without assistance

  • Throw and catch large balls

  • Kick ball forward

  • By age four, children will be able to…


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Social & Emotional Development

  • By age four, children will be able to…

  • Take turns and share with peers to have fun playing together

  • Show understanding of the consequences of own actions on others

  • Describe how own actions make others feel and behave

  • Show empathy for hurt child


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Approaches Toward Learning

  • By age four, children will be able to…

  • Invent new activities or games

  • Use imagination to create a variety of ideas

  • Make up words, songs, or stories

  • Express ideas through art, construction, movement, or music

  • Engage in pretend play


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Language, Literacy & Communication

  • By age four, children will be able to…

  • Speak clearly enough to be understood by most listeners

  • Use multiple-word sentence(s) to communicate needs, ideas, actions, and/or feelings

  • Repeat works or ideas to be sure information is communicated

  • Draw a picture with objects and people to communicate an idea or event with assistance


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Cognition and General Knowledge

  • By age four, children will be able to…

  • Explore various ways to solve a problem and select one option

  • Seek assistance from another child or an adult to solve problems

  • Modify actions based on new information and experiences


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VII. Using Standards


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Your Standards are the BASIS for Many Diverse Uses:

Evaluate Programs

Improve Parenting Skills and Behaviors

Improve Instruction

Early Learning & Development Standards

Improve Diagnostic Screening

Improve Public Knowledge of Children’s Development

Improve Teacher Preparation

Monitor National Progress


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Some of the Uses Directly Benefit Individuals

  • Improve parenting

  • Improve diagnostic screening

  • Improve teacher preparation

  • Improve instruction


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Benefits Individuals!

Improve Instruction

Improve Diagnostic Screening

Improve Parenting Skills

Improve Teacher Preparation


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Some of the Uses Directly Benefit the Total Population

  • Improve the public knowledge of child development

  • Evaluate programs

  • Monitor national progress


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Benefits Total Population!

Public Knowledge

Program Evaluation

National Monitoring


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Provide, for the first time, an integrated approach!

Public Knowledge

Improve Instruction

Improve Diagnostic Screening

National Monitoring

Program Evaluation

Improve Parenting Skills

Teacher Preparation


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The beauty of the standards is that we are creating an integrated approach to school readiness!!!

Standards


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Consider Your Standards as a Bank

Standards Bank

Improve Instruction

Improve Parenting Skills

Improve Diagnostic Screening

Improve Teacher Preparation

Evaluate Programs

Monitor National Programs

Improve Public Knowledge of Children’s Development


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Possible Use I

Improve Instruction

  • Used as an observation guide for

    children’s progress

  • Can aggregate results into a class profile

  • Can use as the base for planning class activities and tailoring them to children’s needs

  • When used to improve instruction, we:

    • Use items from all domains

    • Use with all children

    • Conduct the observations at least 2 or 3 times a year


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Possible Use II

Improve Parenting Skills and Behaviors

  • Use as the basis for pedagogical activities

    and the development of learning materials

    to be used in the home

  • Help parents better understand realistic expectations for children and their progress

  • When we use standards for this purpose, we usually

    • Use items from all domains

    • Use as a guide


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Possible Use III

Improve Public Knowledge

  • Use as the basis for public service announcements

  • Use to train media reporters

  • Use to inform policy makers

  • Use to inform public at large

  • When we use standards for this purpose, we

    • Don’t use all of them

    • Pick those that are most clear to the public


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Possible Use IV

Diagnostic Screening Tool

  • Use standards as the basis for developing screening tools

    • Can use to screen large numbers of children for learning or behavioral status

    • Screening is always followed by more detailed assessments


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Possible Use V

Improve Teacher Preparation and Certification

  • Use to train teachers of young children what they should be exposing children to

  • Could establish modules around the domains

  • Use standards to develop teacher certification criteria that specify what teachers should know and do

  • Use as the basis for revamping teacher education


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Possible Use VI

Program Evaluation

  • Become basis for data collection

    instruments that assess child outcomes

  • Collect data on program variables (e.g., group size, teacher quality) and relate to child outcomes

  • Use to make decisions about effectiveness of programs


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Possible Use VII

National Monitoring

  • Collect national data on performance of children to tell how the nation’s children as a whole are doing

    • Don’t need data on all children

    • Don’t need all items – can matrix sample

    • Don’t need it annually


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VIII. Standards in Action: What do Teachers and Parents Think?


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Pilot Project on Standards-Driven Instruction

  • Part of the Head Start Improvement Efforts

  • Selected eight demonstration efforts to be implemented and evaluated

  • Teachers College was awarded one of the grants and worked with teachers and parents in several communities to implement a new approach to classroom instruction


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Pilot Project on Standards-Driven Instruction

  • Teachers received lots of support

  • Teachers conducted child assessments

  • Teachers used the data from the child assessments to plan their programs

  • Teachers reassessed the children periodically

  • Teachers adjusted their classrooms to accommodate children’s learning needs, AND

    ALL THE WHILE, THE CHILDREN PLAYED


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Pilot Project on Standards-Driven Instruction

Results: Teacher Practices

  • Teachers are better able to connect observation data to specific developmental tasks, and use this data to improve curriculum, teaching practices, and communication to parents

    • Before: “This child has no interest in science and math areas.”

    • After: “I have to plan different activities and experiences to draw his interest to these areas. “


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Pilot Project on Standards-Driven Instruction

Results: Teacher Practices

  • Teachers better understand the developmental domains, focus more on the whole child to meet their individual needs

    • Before: A teacher’s key focus was on a child’s social-emotional, challenging behaviors.

    • After: The teacher can now recognize the child’s many “can do” abilities in all developmental domains.


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Pilot Project on Standards-Driven Instruction

Results: Teacher Practices

  • Project provided validation as professionals

    • “The classroom became a community with purpose. The project made us have purpose - know ‘why’ we're doing it.”

    • “It helped us learn how to run a better classroom. How to communicate better. How to work with the individual child better.”


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Pilot Project on Standards-Driven Instruction

Results: Teacher Practices

  • Assessments gave teachers new ways to help children learn

    • “From observing we find out what the child knows, and what can be completed and accomplished by the child. From the anecdotal notes we find out what the child has learned, what they need, and how we can help the child.”

    • “We can see where the child is, and where they need help, where without the assessments we might have overlooked something. It shows us things we may not have thought of. It shows us what way we can go. It gives us better insight into the things.”


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Pilot Project on Standards-Driven Instruction

Results: Child School Readiness

  • Children are demonstrating significantly greater gains in several areas, including:

  • Letter Knowledge (letter naming and identification)

  • Dictation (early writing skills)

  • Sustained Attention (staying on task)

Note: Results are based on t-tests of change scores. Reported differences in gains are significant at p<.05.


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IX. Concluding Thoughts


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Concluding Thoughts

  • You have a right to be concerned about standards – they represent a different way of doing things

  • The present push is to use them in the wrong way and to make them too narrow

  • By understanding standards, their potential, and how to link them to play, we can:

    • Improve quality of our teaching

    • Improve outcomes for kids

    • Improve parents’ understanding of early childhood

    • Improve policy makers’ understanding of our work and its importance


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Concluding Thoughts

  • Done well, and we CAN do it well, standards and play are the best combination for ECE

    It’s not an either/or; it’s a BOTH


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