Exploring Pre-K Age 4 Learning Standards

People in this Video:

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki, Principal Research Project Manager, Early Childhood Research and Assessment Center, ETS.
Carly Slutzky, Senior Research Associate, Early Childhood Research and Assessment Center, ETS.
Michael T. Nettles, Senior Vice President and Edmund W. Gordon Chair of the Policy Evaluation and Research Center, ETS.
Judy Walker, Early Learning Branch Chief, Division of Early Childhood Development, Maryland State Department of Education.
Steven Hicks, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education

Transcript Body

On-screen: [ETS. Exploring Pre-K Age 4 Learning Standards and Their Role in Early Childhood Education: Research and Policy Implications, By Andrea DeBruin-Parecki and Carly Slutzky. ETS Research Report No. RR-16-14.].

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - Welcome. I don't usually like to be stuck behind a podium. My voice isn't very strong and I'm afraid you won't be able to hear me. I'd like to say, it's wonderful that all of you are here. This report has been a long time coming and we're very proud of it. A few of our caveats. I'd want to say please keep in mind that the data reported in this report was based on the time at which we did the analysis. Some states have indeed updated their standards since we last reported. I want to make that clear because Judy reminded me about that earlier.

The first thing we want to talk about is what our pre-K age four learning standards so that we all have a definition as we move forward. We look at these standards as an outline of the expectations for what children should know and be able to do across multiple domains at kindergarten entry.

We had a lot of goals for our research study and we tried to fit them here for you all on one slide. The main goal was to describe the current state pre-K age four learning standards across the nation by examining the history and development, similarities and differences in standards documents, pre-K kindergarten standards alignment, availability of standards-based resources for teachers, the impact of standards on teachers' instruction, issues of equity related to standards, and then we want to consider the implications of all of our findings and suggest possible policy recommendations based on them.

I don't know about you, but I generally like to know where people are going in these presentations, so I decided to make you a roadmap. Here's where we're going. We're going to start by introducing the methodology, purpose and history, variability, standards-based supports and professional development, standards alignment, how early learning standards address ELL and children with special needs populations, the value of possible national pre-K age four learning standards. Then we'll conclude and provide some very general policy recommendations to consider. Now Carly is going to talk to you about the methodology.

On-screen: [Roadmap of Presentation, Start.

  1. Introduction to Research;
  2. Study Methodology;
  3. Purpose/History of Early Learning Standards;
  4. Variability in Early Learning Standards Organization;
  5. Standards-based supports and professional development for teachers;
  6. Standards Alignment;
  7. How early learning standards address ELL and Children with Special Needs populations;
  8. Value of National Pre-K Age 4 Learning Standards;
  9. Conclusions;
  10. Policy Recommendations to consider.].

Carly Slutzky - Hi, and welcome again. I'm going to present to you an overview of our study methodology. To begin, we had four data sources that were gathered in phases. Phase one we started with a national online survey. After the survey some of the individuals who participated in the survey joined us for some focus groups, and then we conducted some in-person or phone interviews, and then the last phase was locating and analyzing available pre-K age four learning standards documents. After we looked at some of the documents, we followed up by looking at related websites.

This is a visual that shows you again what our data sources are. I'm not used to standing at a podium. We started with the online survey. Fifty-three were completed. We gathered five geographically diverse focus groups with 21 total participants. We completed 25 interviews and then, again, with the document we found 54. We sought to look for all 56; the five territories, D.C., and the 50 states but we were able to get 54.

An overview about our sample recruitment. It was really important that we searched for individuals with deep knowledge of standards in their state, territory, or D.C. We conducted phone screening to make sure that the individuals that we contacted had the appropriate qualifications, experience, knowledge, and that's when we requested their participation in the survey. The focus group and interview participants represented a subsample of the original online survey respondents, and in some cases when the online survey respondent was not available to participate in phase two and three, they recommended someone that was a good stand-in for them and we also screened those individuals.

Here's an overview of the analysis. We used both quantitative and qualitative techniques to analyze our data. We had a lot of data. We had close and open-ended survey questions, focus group and interview transcripts, and then the available pre-K age four standards documents. If anyone's not as familiar with research, open-ended survey questions and focus group and interview transcripts is what we consider qualitative data.

For our qualitative analyses we conducted thematic analysis using the constant comparative method. In a nutshell, this is two independent coders examining each question, the data for each question, and multiple rounds of coding and review occurred so we could reach final agreement on the themes and supporting texts in those transcripts to support our themes.

On-screen: [Constant Comparative Method. (Glaser, 1965)]

Carly Slutzky - With respect to the standards documents, we used a multi-phase approach and we analyzed various aspects of the documents. Titles, organization, areas of content and learning, enriching content for teachers, and content for teaching special ed and English language learner populations. For this data, when we found indicators, we quantified what we found with response frequencies.

This is an overview of our sample. Again, I just wanted to reiterate that we had a specific purpose in mind when we were recruiting our sample. We wanted to find the individuals who were best able to respond to our questions about standards in their respective state, territory, or D.C. Our survey sample was predominantly female Caucasian. They were highly educated, most were licensed teachers, and many reported 16 or more years in early childhood. Our focus groups and interview subsamples reflected the online survey sample, as they were similar in those characteristics. Andy's going to come up.

On-screen: [

Study Sample Demographics

  Survey (n = 53) Focus Groups (n = 21) Interviews (n = 25)
Female 90% 100% 88%
Caucasian 94% 100% 96%
Advanced degree 87% 96% 88%
Licensed teacher 77% 76% 88%
16 or more years in Early Childhood 85% 86% 84%


Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - Now I'm going to try to tell you—and I think I went one slide too fast; I'm so sorry—something about the purpose of early learning standards. They serve a whole lot of different purposes for children and educators. Some are viewed as positive and others are not.

On-screen: [

What is the Purpose of Early Learning Standards?

(Bowman, 2006; Gronlund, 2014; Kagain, 2012; NAEYC, 2015; Takanashi & Kauerz, 2008)]

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - We asked the question on our survey, what's the purpose of early learning standards. Our thematic analysis revealed the following six things. They provide expectations for skills and knowledge needed to be prepared for kindergarten; they establish an educational continuum across age; they promote school readiness; they guide teaching, planning, and professional development; they promote a shared vision and common language; and they serve as a resource for multiple stakeholders, such as families. We found that our findings aligned with past research and common views about these purposes.

Here's more about the history. In 1999 only ten states reported having some form of pre-K learning standards. By 2006 this number, including D.C., rose to 49.

On-screen: [(Scott-Little et al., 2003; Scott-Little et al., 2007)]

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - This increase was attributed to a focus on accountability, the No Child Left Behind Act, the 2002 Good Start Grow Smart initiative, which pushed for establishing what they called voluntary pre-K language literacy guidelines that aligned with K-12 standards. Then, changing perspectives toward pre-K and young children's ability to learn.

On-screen: [(National Research Council, 2001)]

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - This is just a graph of the question that was on our survey: "What year were pre-K age four literacy standards documents originally developed?" As you can see, the peak is right around the Good Start Grow Smart time. Then we asked people, how often have pre-K age four literacy standards been revised? You can see the majority of states only revised them one time.

On-screen: [Graph titled What year were Pre-K Age 4 Literacy Standards Documents Originally Developed?
x-axis: years 1995 to 2013.
y-axis: percentage up to 25%.
1995: 2%
1996: 2%
1999 - 2002: 4%
2003: 25% (Spike may be a response to the 2002 Good Start, Grow, Smart Initiative)
2004 – 2005: 9%
2006: 15%
2007: 4%
2008: 6%
2009: 2%
2010 , 2012 – 2013: 4%]

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - Then we asked people, how often have pre-K age four literacy standards been revised? You can see the majority of states only revised them one time.

On-screen: [Bar graph titled How Often Have the Pre-K Age 4 Literacy Standards Been Revised?

Never Revised: 17%
1 Revision: 53%
2 Revisions: 22%
3 – 4 Revisions: 8%]

Carly Slutzky - Now I'm going to provide an overview and some of our findings that relate to examining the available standards documents, and again we found 54, as well as qualitative analysis. What do we know about the variability across pre-K standards documents? There's limited past research on this topic, and it's focused on the variation in standards organization. What I mean by that is the terminology used to label the different elements or levels within the standards, as well as the number of levels within which standards content was organized.

Past research also shows us that no two state's standards are exactly the same, and also that the content varies in the complexity of its organization. We mean in the number of levels. They have been organized in three to five levels, and most often with four levels. In addition to the differences in the number of levels, the terminology is also different. Different concepts and terms have been found to be used to label the various elements within standards.

On-screen: [(Bracken & Crawford, 2009; Neuman & Roskos, 2005)]

Carly Slutzky - For the 54 available standards documents. This is one of our graphs that summarizes what we found in our own analysis regarding the number of levels. You see that the majority of available standards have either three or four levels.

On-screen: [Bar graph titled Variability Across Standards Documents.
2 Levels: 5%
3 Levels: 41%
4 Levels: 50%
5 Levels: 4%]

Carly Slutzky - Then, this graph shows what we found about the terminology. We were really curious to know what were the different terms used to label each of the different levels. At level five, which is all the way on the right we only had one term—there was only two states that had five levels, but you can see that for level three 20 different terms were used at that level. There was a lot of variation in terminology.

On-screen: [Bar graph titled Variability Across Standards Documents.

y-axis: Number of Level Labels.
Level 1: 12
Level 2: 15
Level 3: 20
Level 4: 11
Level 5: 1]

Carly Slutzky - Then, we wanted to provide an example, so we have four states and a territory together. You can see here that they vary not only by the number of levels, but also by the terms used. We highlighted in yellow the word "indicator." Arizona uses the term "indicator" to label level four. For Idaho, they label level five with the term "indicator." Then on the far right, Virgin Islands uses the same term but to label level three.

On-screen: [Table titled Examples of Variation in Pre-K Age 4 Literacy Standards Organization and Terminology.

  Arizona Arkansas Idaho Pennsylvania Virgin Islands
Level 1 Standard Strand Domain Learning area Domain
Level 2 Strand Benchmark Sub domain Standard area Component
Level 3 Concept   Goal statement Standard Indicator (highlighted)
Level 4 Indicator (highlighted)   Developmental growth Core and competency  
Level 5     Indicator (highlighted)    


Carly Slutzky - Next I'm going to move on to talk about one of our other topics. We were interested in finding out about standards in relation to teaching, and what supports or resources were available to help teachers use standards. What do we know? Over time standards documents—actually this about content. We also, in addition to looking at organization, we looked at variability in what content was covered in the standards. What do we know about this? Over time standards documents have increasingly included content in multiple developmental domains and subject areas beyond math, and language, and literacy. There's been an uneven focus; a focus more so on cognitive skills. There's been some concerns that the standards content has not reflected the early childhood research literature.

On-screen: [

Carly Slutzky - I just wanted to reiterate that for our analysis looking at the content that was included, that we only did a broad analysis of whether the content for a certain domain was included, but this wouldn't be considered an in-depth content analysis.

This slide shows what we found for the 54 available documents. All 54 include language and literacy, math, social-emotional development and physical development. The green box shows that the large majority of the available standards cover approaches to learning, science, social studies and creative arts, and then cognitive development and technology were only covered in around 40% of the documents that we looked at.

Some additional variability that we examined in those documents was, what are the documents called? We found that across just those 54 documents, 24 unique titles were used. The most common was early learning standards, and this was used for only 14 of the 54 documents. Then again, 23 documents have a title shared by no more than two states.

Now I'm going to talk about standards and teachers. It looks like I got a little ahead of myself. Again, we're looking at what supports and resources are available to help teachers use the standards. What do we know? Early childhood educators are a very diverse group, varying in their education level, child development knowledge, as well as their teaching experience. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work for everyone.

On-screen: [(NAEYC, 2009; NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2002)]

Carly Slutzky - Incorporating standards into practice can be daunting for teachers and challenging without having standards-based resources and professional development.

On-screen: [(DellaMattera, 2010)]

Carly Slutzky - I just wanted to remind you that we did analysis of both standards documents and we analyzed responses from our interview data to find out what's available for teachers. This slide shows what we found out about enriching content. What we mean by enriching content are teaching strategies that are related to the standards, as well as examples of children meeting that standard. We found that the large majority of available documents do have both teaching strategies and child examples, but there's still some states that at the time hadn't had them developed yet.

On-screen: [Bar graph titled Availability of Enriching Content.
Teaching Strategies Available: 69%
Teaching Strategies Not Available: 31%
Child Examples Available: 54%
Child Examples Not Available: 46%]

Carly Slutzky - For our qualitative analysis this is what we found from one of our interview questions. The question is at the top: What is important when administrators and teachers receive training around standards content and associated teaching? The three main themes that emerge from our analysis are here. It's important that everyone is trained; it's important that training be ongoing and dynamic; and it's important that various types of training are available.

Then this is an additional interview question about the same topic. We asked: What are the impacts of early learning standards on instruction? The themes that emerged were: Standards promote intentional instruction; standards can lead to negative teaching practices associated with assessment; and then, standards drive targeted professional development for teachers and other early childhood professionals.

This is a great quote we found from our data that reflects our analysis. "You can hand teachers the standards documents with all these indicators, but until they have the proper training to understand how to use the material, it's pretty pointless if they don't understand what they're trying to accomplish: how to embed these standards into their daily lessons and activities, how to use assessment to see if they're actually teaching the standards appropriately, and that the children are actually learning from the lessons they plan."

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - I want to just add something about the enriching content that you should know, and that is that, some standards documents do not have that as an integral part, so we were careful to examine all the websites to be sure that they didn't have them as a separate document. In some cases it was part of the actual standards document; in other cases it was a supplementary document that could be found on the website associated with the standards. I wanted to make that clear.

Then, I wanted to go back just for a moment. When Carly was saying standards can lead to negative teaching practices associated with assessment, to make that just a little clearer to you. What we mean by that is if teachers are focused just on particular standards, perhaps just literacy and math, they focus their teaching on helping children to pass the assessments that are coupled with that and they tend to ignore other standards. That's what that meant. I just wanted to give you a little clarification there.

I want to talk a little bit about addressing diversity as part of early learning standards. I want to start by saying that we did not ask direct questions about diversity. However, it came up consistently throughout our conversations with people, so we went back and did a little bit of work afterward. As far back as 2002 there was concern that early learning standards were not looking at variations in community, cultural, linguistic differences for children and that standards had to pay more attention to these different areas.

On-screen: [Addressing Diversity as Part of Early Learning Standards.

The content of effective early learning standards, and expectations for children's mastery of the standards, must accommodate the variations – community, cultural, linguistic, and individual – that best support positive outcomes. To do so, early learning standards must encompass the widest possible range of children's life situations and experiences, including disabilities. (NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2002)]

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - As recently as 2010 we had a quote that said, "Not taking these and other characteristics into account can clearly disadvantage some populations being held to standards written broadly for all children."

On-screen: [(DellaMaterra, 2010)]

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - In 2007, just to give you some perspective, most states acknowledged the value of accommodations for individual differences; however, only seven states addressed disability issues specifically, and only eight addressed ELL.

On-screen: [(Scott-Little et al., 2007)]

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - Current data taken from the report is going to update this for you. As I said, we did this following the report. What this map shows you is the number of states that have supports for ELL students. The yellow states representing no support whatsoever. To make this a little clearer for you—and I wrote it out big so I could read it—56% of states do not have indicators or strategies. That's 30 states. Twenty percent of states have both indicators and strategies, and 4% of states have indicators only—excuse me, 7%, four states. Nine states have strategies only. I hope that gives you some perspective of what's going on now. This was recently done, so it's pretty updated.

This is the same for special needs children. This map is even more disturbing when you look at all the yellow. That shows you there are no indicators or strategies at all for children with special needs and there's only one state, the state of Wisconsin, that has strategies and indicators both. In this case 41 states have neither, 10 states have strategies only, 2 states have indicators only, and as I said, 1 state has them both. We have a lot of work to do in this area.

Carly Slutzky - I'm going to provide an overview of one of our other important areas. We focused on standards alignment. What do we know about standards alignment? Aligning pre-K standards content with standards for older or younger children is an example of vertical alignment, and this was a focus in our work. Standard alignment helps ensure that children have learning experiences that build on previous years and focus on upcoming ones. This helps to reflect a developmental continuum.

On-screen: [(National Governors Association, 2012)]

Carly Slutzky - Past research also shows us that standards alignment is a difficult process. It's inconsistent, states don't conduct the same type of alignment process, and it's also not well-understood. Some examples of standards alignment are matching developing pre-K standards content, so as they're writing these pre-K standards, to already developed kindergarten standards. Creating crosswalks to assess similarities. They might have the two documents side-by-side and assess where they might line up. Then third, writing standards content for multiple age groups at the same time, which might result in a document that has zero to five standards.

This is one of our focus group questions. Why might it be important to align pre-K age four literacy standards to kindergarten standards? For example, aligning with the kindergarten English language arts common core state standards, and four themes emerged from this analysis. This alignment allows for developmentally-appropriate practice and resources; this helps to create a developmental continuum; this helps establish clear expectations for educators, children, and families; and helps to build bridges across grades.

Then I have another great quote from our data on alignment. "We have alignment with our standards from birth through grade three … and it's a point of reference for communication among early childhood teachers, kindergarten teachers, and administrators. Let's talk to each other. Let's communicate and let's have the same language."

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - I want to talk to you now about national standards for pre-K. Right now there's a debate by early childhood leaders, researchers, policy groups, and others across the country about whether we need national standards of the pre-K age four level. To date this has not been addressed at all through empirical research, just conversation. The Head Start Early Learning Outcomes framework, which was recently released, most closely reflects national standards for birth to age five at this time, being that it's used all across the country. Equity is a major concern as varying early learning standards across the country can lead to varying expectations for children as they enter kindergarten.

On-screen: [(Bracken & Crawford, 2009; DeBruin et al., 2015)]

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - We asked our focus groups and our interviews why they thought it might be important for us to have national pre-K age four literacy standards at the time we were focused on literacy. The very first theme that came across from everybody was they felt that it would foster equity. The second was consistency in language and expectations. The third was shared resources, funding, and collaboration; people would be able to talk to each other because they would be talking about the same thing. It would drive teaching and professional development in a positive way.

This quote is one of my favorites from the entire research project that we did. This woman said, "It's an issue of equity, as almost a civil rights issue, that children across the country deserve to have the protection of standards that are neither beyond what you would expect of a child of that age, nor too easy so that they all have equal opportunity and that standards are the first common denominator. It really is almost a civil rights issue, an issue of fairness."

My job now is to conclude and to provide you with a few possible policy recommendations to consider. The conclusions inform us that there's still an enormous amount of variation in the documents. This has persisted over time. It makes it difficult to communicate among early childhood educators, administrators. Difficult to collaborate. Standardization of language and organization could allow for more effective interstate discussion and overall improvement in standards documents. There's tremendous variability in how states choose to align their pre-K age four learning standards. How standards are aligned can impact the instructional practice and inform professional development. Most often alignment occurs in academic areas, particularly when they're aligning with the kindergarten common core, which in kindergarten is only mathematics and language and literacy.

When taking a whole-child perspective it's really important to align the standards beyond academics to include the whole child. Adopting standards can promote intentional teaching and approved teaching through engaging standards-targeted professional development. It's really important to develop a variety of tools and resources to assist teachers with standards-based instruction at all educational levels. This means we need to get it to them in person, online—any way that they can get it that's convenient and that they can learn. Negative effects such as teaching to the test can occur if teachers, as I said earlier, are focused on only the standards that get tested. Again, this can lead to ignoring the whole child in other domains.

There's a growing national discussion about national standards, what it means for children to be prepared for kindergarten. The big question is, how is it beneficial for early learning guidelines to be consistent? Will consistent guidelines in similar domain content promote more equity for children across states? Should a formal inquiry into this idea be started?

Here's some policy recommendations to consider. Again, they reflect what I just said. Consider the use of similar organization and terminology in early learning standards documents to allow for clearer communication and comparisons across states; encourage alignment across domains beyond language and literacy and mathematics; add separate indicators and detailed strategies within the standards documents to assist teachers with instruction for ELL populations and for children with special needs. Design research-based agreed-upon content for each standards domain to allow for the evaluation of the content quality of current pre-K age four learning standards across the country and territories. Finally, plan an effective and consistent joint professional development for early childhood education teachers to promote understanding of the development continuum and how to design developmentally appropriate standards-based instruction.

Carly and I are currently working on another report on kindergarten readiness which we hope to have out hopefully by the end of the year. That will build on this standards report and we hope you'll stick with us and follow us into that next adventure. Thank you very much. [Applause.]

Female Speaker 1 - Now we're going to take some Q&A just about the report. We are going to have a longer Q&A session after our panel discussion, but if you identify yourselves, say who you are, your organization, and your question. Anybody?

Male Speaker 1 - I think these are pedestrian questions, but I'm interested in the language. I know what age four is and I know what pre-K is. I'm not sure I know what pre-K age four is.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - I don't think anything is pedestrian. I think every question is a good one. Pre-K age four simply means preschool children that are at the age of four, so the year before they enter kindergarten. Preschool could be defined all the way down to the first day a child steps into a school as preschool. That's all that means.

Male Speaker 1 - Thank you. The second one and the other one is, some of the—in the appendix you mentioned what states call their standards. Some call them learning, some call them developmental, some call them both. You made the decision to call them "learning." Maybe you can explain that.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - We made that decision early on based on what we were looking at in the research. Most typically in research articles they're referred to as early learning standards, so we just did—that's what we did. We didn't base it on the analysis; we based it on what we were reading in the research.

Barbara Stein - Hi. I'm Barbara Stein from the Partnership for 21st Century Learning. Hi, how are you? I have a question. I don't know if it's a question of substance or of terminology.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - Everything is a good question.

Barbara Stein - For us at P21 in a somewhat simplistic way talk about the four Cs of collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and creativity. I was wondering, in looking at these standards, did you see those concepts embedded in them? I don't know if you were consciously looking for them, but to what extent did you believe that they were part of the standards in terms of being embedded in the content standards, etc.?

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - I have to first respond by saying we did not do an in-depth analysis of the content of standards. But in talking with the people that we did during our interviews and our focus groups, I would definitely say collaboration came up quite a bit. Creativity. Maybe Judy can answer that one better. What were the other ones? I'm so sorry.

Barbara Stein - Critical thinking.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - Critical thinking. I didn't see that as much as I would like to in an overall look. Communication came up in language and literacy. There's typically a sub-domain that has to do with communication. I don't know if that was helpful to you.

Female Speaker 2 - My name is [?] from the World Bank. I have a couple questions. The first one is the ELL sample. You have 94% are Caucasian, but given the population in the U.S. actually Hispanic, and also African American, also Asian. Whether this will affect your content or the results of your survey. The second question. You compared always the standards with several states. One is the Virgin Islands. There's only three levels, because I think there was some culture effect because it's the Caribbean. Probably that was the other islands in the Caribbean, we'll use that. In that case, are you going to change that? The second question is, the majority of the presentation focuses on literacy, and probably at the end of the presentation they mentioned mathematics. Is that an extra pre-K mathematics or numeracy, it's not as important as literacy?

Carly Slutzky - I'll speak to the last question first. We mentioned in our report that we had to choose one of the domains to focus on, and literacy is in all the standards. We didn't choose language and literacy to neglect any of the other domains—that's Andrea's area—and we decided that we would focus on language and literacy to do our analysis of the standards documents. There wasn't any other reason, really, to neglect mathematics.

Then, to speak to your first question, we conducted an informational study and we completely understand the diversity in the country. These individuals who were in the best position to provide this knowledge for us; and we really had them work hard. Some of them had to look back, because we did ask about their original standards developed in their state or territory, and they were in the best position to not only provide us with information about the current standards, but then also past versions of the standards and understand what is actually happening in their state in terms of what they look like, implementation. We had a specific target in mind when we were looking for our sample, and it wasn't to neglect or to not have diversity in our sample. It was just that the characteristics of our individuals who participated in this survey and then the other phases, they happened to have these characteristics. In the future, if we were to do additional work, maybe we can consider asking other sets of individuals, but this was really for the specific purpose of this question and this research. What was the second question again?

Female Speaker 2 - It's the Virgin Islands.

Carly Slutzky - I believe that the current document—it might have been 2010. I really feel; we asked them about their development process and we really found that there was a lot of similarities. We had some open-ended questions on our survey, and we talked to them about this in interviews and focus groups. They described what their process was like, and in a lot of cases they had the same process. I don't really think that there was any specific factor that led to Virgin Islands only having three levels.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - There are other states that have three levels.

Carly Slutzky - Yeah, so there wasn't a specific type of state, area, geographical destination. They just happened to have different levels at the time that we analyzed them.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - I was just going to say that the Virgin Islands is pretty savvy because they've been involved with Head Start for quite a long time. She explained their entire way of how they did their standards, and it was very similar to how the other states in the United States did them. They in no way represent the Caribbean. They're just one island that's territory that we were talking to. We only looked at United States territories. Puerto Rico was in the middle of doing theirs, so it was difficult at the time, if I remember. Who else? Two of them did not, right? American Samoa did not respond and Northern Marianna Islands did not respond. We were only looking specifically at U.S. territories. It will be interesting to find out if other countries have standards like this, but that isn't what we were doing. I'm sorry.

Female Speaker 1 - We're going to do three more questions. One, two, three and then.

Judy Harrison - I'm Judy Harrison and I'm contracting with Council for Exceptional Children but I don't want to present myself as representing them or speaking for them. Getting back to this lack of diversity. I think it really was striking to me to see the lack of diversity in the respondents, and then to see that with the lack of attention to diversity in the standards throughout the state, not only for cultural and ethnic diversity, but for attention to special needs. I can't help but wonder, hearing you say that that's the respondents that were drawn on who apparently have that expertise; that to me says that we're not recruiting enough culturally diverse, ethnically diverse experts to enter the field of education. It's not a surprise that we then don't see it reflected in the work that's done to develop standards if that group is not represented with expertise. I challenge all of us to really—I think we were all struck by that—to really think about that in terms of recruiting educators into the field of education who will then rise up to setting curriculum standards and educational standards. Not quite a question. Sorry.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - No, it's fine. I agree.

Barbara Lovitts - Hi. Barbara Lovitts, Ready to Learn program at Corporation for Public Broadcasting. You found that about 40% of the documents, you mentioned technology standards. I was wondering if you might be able to scratch below that and give impressions of what you found with respect for technology and media standards for kids or for the teachers who are using technology in instruction.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - As I said, we unfortunately did not do an in-depth content analysis, so I cannot answer that question. What I can do is, in an email, let you know which states have those and you could look at them. They would be in the links in the back of the report, but I could identify which ones and you could link and look at them.

Jill Lambert - I can talk loud.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - Okay, we can hear you.

Jill Lambert - Jill Lambert. I work with Westcott. First, I want to thank you guys for this report and for this presentation. It's really useful information. I went over the report and it's very helpful, so thank you again for that. I had a question about the focus groups in particular. I looked briefly at some of the questions that were listed here and I wondered to what extent you got responses. In particular, there was a lot of them that were like, why might they be important. To what extent were the respondents saying, these really are important for us. This is something that we're working toward, not just responding to your question. Related to that, there's been a pushback against standards like Common Core, and this and that, across states, and to what degree did your respondents talk about that, that maybe they think standards are important but it's not something that they're going to be able to get to happen in their state's context.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - Are you talking about national standards or just standards in general?

Jill Lambert – Both. The questions kind of seem to be getting that respond wanted to know.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - We particularly asked them why might so that we could give them an out if they didn't think so. In other words, instead of saying "why are they," we said, "why might" so that if they didn't feel they might, they could say that more easily. We struggled with that wording a little bit because we didn't want to set them up for "we think it's important, don't you think it's important?" That kind of thing.

I think that in the conversations that we had in these focus groups that people were very honest and said a lot of things that we have in transcripts that are not necessarily appearing in the report. We also promised anonymity—a hard word for me. I can't pass those around. I think that, in general, the feeling that we got, and even in analyzing the data, was that people really liked the idea of having some kind of a national standard. What they didn't like was, if we had these national standards, so we agreed on domains, we agreed on sub-domains, we even might agree on other areas and things, but they still wanted the ability to be able to write the part of the standards that would reflect the way they wanted it instructed. Their own strategies; their own way of implementing those standards.

I think that anybody who's thinking of Common Core—I don't want to get into all the common core stuff, but basically Common Core is just a set of standards and it's how you implement them that's what's really important. It's the same with pre-K standards. There's sets of standards, if they were more standardized we would have more equity if people were implementing them in effective and developmentally appropriate ways. Does that answer at all? I don't know.

Jill Lambert - It does to some degree. I guess I was just wondering if you got a sense from them to what extent they felt that could even be something that would be possible within their standards.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - Oh, okay. I think that, that would take a national forum for them to be able to decide. I think, again, any time you say "national standards," "Common Core," or whatever, it's very political. I think that it would take something on a national level for people to come together to decide whether or not it's feasible. I can't say that. I could say I could take ten of my state leaders that I work with and put them in a room and come out and say, yes, it's feasible. We're ready to go. Then I could take ten others that say, I'm all for it but I don't think my state government is going to support us in this. It's a difficult subject, and I'm sure I'm probably not answering it as well, but it was a very hard subject because of what's going on with Common Core right now. People are worried it's a push-down, and that isn't what we're suggesting.

Michael T. Nettles - Let's give Andrea and Carly another hand. [Applause.] Thank you for your presentation. As Liz says, we've got to take a break, but before we do I want to acknowledge two people here. Everybody here was a distinguished guest, but the chairman of our board is here, Michela English. Michela is the CEO for Fight for Children. Thank you very much for being here. I didn't want to recognize before this, because I didn't want you to throw softballs up here to Andrea and Carly, so thank you for being here.

Libby Doggett is here, I think. No? Maybe not. Steven is here, so Steven Hicks and Judith Walker will come back and form the panel to give us some formal reactions. This has been a very difficult set of activities. If you were to think about conducting assessments of children in preschool, which we were already doing in some places in the country, one place to begin is by asking the question about what the states are expecting children to know and be able to do at that age, and how are they communicating and then how are they conveying it. That's one way to look at this, and Jerry raised a question about age four.

You know now the Common Core state standards go down to kindergarten. The state assessments go to third grade. They haven't gone down to kindergarten, really, yet. If we're going to have standards for kindergarten, it's a natural question to raise about how we expect kindergarteners to arrive at kindergarten ready to learn. That's another justification for taking a look at the standards the states are producing. The good news is that they're actually doing it and that's one of the good news stories out of all this. Andrea and Carly have identified some ways that they might do it even better and with more uniformity.

The final comment I'll make is on the diversity issue. Carly and Andrea went to the states and they asked the most authoritative person in the Departments of Education and the staffs. That's why you get some of the gender representation and the race/ethnic representation that you have, because these are the people who are the leaders in the state. In a sense, they are representative of who's doing the leadership roles in the Departments of Education in the country. That's not a criticism; that's just a fact and sort of supportive of why they are reporting that kind of representation.

I will make one final comment. When Andrea started this and we decided to do this study it was going to be math and literacy standards, because I personally—with all biases on the table—have this vision of us one day producing the right kind of assessment that's going to help preschoolers. Andrea's got the best ideas in the company about that and we're listening to her. We started out by thinking about math and literacy and one day, I can remember it, when Andrea said, "This is a huge job." I encouraged her to go with the area of her greatest expertise, which is literacy. If we'd gone further into mathematics we would have needed an Andrea who has that kind of background in mathematics. We will get there one day, but that's why we made that decision to pursue the literacy and I'm really proud of what we've been able to accomplish so far.

[Break taken]

Michael T. Nettles - I'm going to turn this over to Andrea, who will moderate this panel, but before I do, I want to acknowledge and thanks to our colleagues at ETS in the Washington office. Liz Kingsley put all of this program together. I want to thank you very much for all that you do. Thank you. Nancy Segal couldn't be here today. Nancy's out in California on duty, government relations duty out there. Liz and Nancy worked very well with us, and we really appreciate all that they do to put these forums together and other things, as well. With that, without further comment I'm going to ask Andrea to start.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - We are going to present to you our distinguished panel here. We're going to answer some questions about the standards for you. On my immediate left, Judy Walker, from the state of Maryland. If you look in your packet you'll find their bios. To her immediate left, Steven Hicks, from right here in Washington D.C. If you look in, again, your package you'll find their bios. I don't have it in front of me or I would, too. You can certainly say more about yourselves if you want to. Would like a minute to do that?

Steven Hicks - Good afternoon. It's really exciting to see so many people that are interested from across different sectors to come out today. Thank you so much. I'm sure you really do deserve a reward for finding your way up here through all the construction, so thank you for being here.

My name is Steven Hicks. I was a preschool and kindergarten teacher in Los Angeles, and I had the opportunity to come as a fellow to the Department of Education back in 2008. I was in the last part of the Bush Administration and then began in the Obama Administration, and then had the opportunity to come and stay. The fellowship really offers the department the chance to hear from practitioners, which I think is incredibly valuable. They can hear the perspective of how these laws and the policies that they implement affect families, and students, and, of course, teachers and principals. Thanks for having us here.

Judith Walker - Hi. My name is Judy Walker. I'm the Early Learning Branch Chief at the State of Maryland—our state Department of Education. We have a division of early childhood which in Maryland we're fortunate that, that encompasses our Office of Child Care, as well as all of our early childhood initiatives. I just want to thank you for giving us the opportunity. We've been involved in a lot of the Race to the Top projects, so in some of our follow-up questions we'll be able to give you some firsthand experience with what it's like to revise standards. I did tell Andrea at the beginning when I saw the report, I wholeheartedly agree with their recommendations and what they found in there. Unfortunately, we were in the process of a lot of revisions of our standards, so I wish they had been able to capture some of that in the information. I'm sure there are other states in that same situation.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - Absolutely. It might be easier if we just passed that around than worry about this.

Steven Hicks - Okay. That works.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - All right. I will be asking the questions and they'll be answering them. We tried really hard to give you both the state and the federal perspective here. We're just going to start out with a very general question, asking them what their overall reaction was to the report.

Judith Walker - I gave you a piece of that just at the end. Again, the issues that were brought up were issues that we have grappled with. The recommendations are certainly things in our work. We've been working on an assessment system with multi-states, so I perfectly understand the issues with trying to work with other states who have a different set of standards, or the organization is different. I do think at the end of the day, though, when we work together we find that the content itself, we are mostly in agreement with. At least the states that we've worked with. I think it's more in the language and how it's set up sometimes that looks different.

Steven Hicks - We really appreciate this from the department's perspective, and this broad overview of the state landscape of where standards are. The department doesn't endorse or create standards for states. Rather, we encourage them to create their own standards that are across multiple domains that are culturally, linguistically, and developmentally appropriate. I really appreciate this broad overview and highlighting areas where there are these next steps.

Some of those in particular that spoke out to me was this look at how the standards do or do not address children with disabilities. The department came out with a very strong policy statement with the Department of Health and Human Services on inclusion classrooms in early childhood settings, even birth to third grade. I think this is a really critical area of need and development where we need to look further.

Also, how you brought up the lack of attention to English learners, knowing that so many of our children in our early childhood programs particularly are English learners and how those standards really need to address our needs.

The last thing I just want to mention about that in reflecting on this report is, thinking about our teachers and our administrators and the need to ensure that institutions of higher education are talking about the standards, the expectations for young children, and connecting them with the kind of training that our teachers need to have. Also, how that fits in with their professional development once they're in practice and ensuring that there's alignment with K-12, but also joint professional development so that preschool teachers and kindergarten teachers are having opportunities to talk about the centers together, the expectations for children, and the kind of appropriate instruction that will lead to children meeting those standards so that they're fully prepared to be successful when they enter kindergarten.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - Thank you. We're going to proceed in pairs of questions. One addressed to Judy, one to Steven, and vice versa. The first question is addressed to Judy. Judy, please describe the advantage of neighboring states having similar early learning standards.

Judith Walker - From Maryland's perspective, we're an example of a state; we have four additional states bordering us and the District of Columbia. To some degree, you do have questions about teachers who transfer from one area to another, and coming into a new state or a new system, being able to work with a different set of standards, a different set of expectations. We do have, especially in the Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, a lot of families that move back and forth and switch from one program to another and have similar questions of, what are you expecting in your state for my child to know or be able to do as they come into kindergarten.

I think where I see it more apparent, the differences sometimes in standards, is the professional development we share. Because we are in close proximity to other states and we often may be attend professional development conferences or workshops together, that's in the conversations with the teachers in the sessions you start hearing, wow, we don't do it that way in my state; or we don't expect that. I think there are more a-has for them when they hear what's expected that's different in a different state or jurisdiction than theirs. That's where having more common language paired with common standards would help teachers talk about things in the same way, and perhaps help build their learning and professional development opportunities.

The other example I can give you for Maryland is out of our Race to the Top funds that we received. One of our big projects was developing a new assessment system, Ready for Kindergarten, and part of that grant allowed us to do it as a consortium with other states. We began with Ohio. We now have Connecticut and Tennessee joining us. We also have a handful of other states who are in the discussion with us or interested.

In order to create that assessment we had to come up with common language standards that we would agree to so that our partner, WestEd, who developed the assessment items from those standards. That was a process where I could really understand this report because we very painstakingly took many, many hours and days to sit down and talk about what is it we want to measure? Which standards are important to us? Then when we actually sat down and pulled our documents together and had to do that alignment. That's where you saw the different structures in the organization come into play. "Oh, you call that a standard; we call that an indicator." "That's a descriptor." It took a lot of talking.

I think at the end of the day we all valued the same content, but how we got to it—it took a lot of work to be able to do that and come to agreement. With this assessment project, any new state that wants to join our consortium as we were developing it—and we still have one more version, a version 2.0 that's supposed to come out in 2017—they have to go through that process of looking at their standards and aligning them to what we had decided should be in the assessment. For them, whether or not they decide to use the same assessment means, do our standards align into the standards that are part of that assessment project. It does take more work to create projects like that when you have to go through that standards alignment process.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - The next question is addressed to Steven. How important is it for children's success in kindergarten that each state, territory, or D.C. have high quality, comprehensive early learning standards?

Steven Hicks - Thanks, Andy, for that question. Thank you and Carly for this really great report. I really appreciate this resource. It's critically important. Teachers in the classroom need to know what to do in their classroom. They're using a variety of curricula. They're using a variety of approaches. When I was a teacher I used a ratio approach. Other teachers might use standard curricula the district might have purchased, or other curricula that their center is using and is mandated. Or they may be creating their own curricula in many cases. What keeps them grounded are these early learning standards.

It's important that they're not only used throughout the state, but that they're used across settings. Whether a child is in a Head Start program, a state preschool program, a program funded through Title I at the elementary school, or a faith-based or private provider, that all those children are held to the same high quality early learning standards. What your report doesn't do is actually look deep into those standards and I think that kind of the next step and see are those the standards that are important about what children should know and be able to do. I can imagine if we looked at each individual state's standards, they're probably at a variety of places on that continuum as far as how reliable they are, whether they've been validated, whether they really are connected to better outcomes for children and success later in school and in life.

Teachers really do need to have something to ground them. They need to know that it's not just about teaching—I'm glad Michael's out of the room. It's just about teaching math and literacy, but it really is across those multiple domains. Approaches to learning, physical health and wellbeing, social and emotional development, along with the cognitive domains of math, and science, and social studies, and also language and literacy. It really is a whole-child approach and it's not just a "nice-to" if you get around to teaching things that develop or approaches to learning, or executive functioning skills. It's not something that you just add on. It really is part of how you prepare children for success.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - As a follow-up to that, back to you. In recent years how has the federal government played a role in increasing attention to early learning standards and their role in early childhood education?

Steven Hicks - It's exciting to have my good friend and colleague Judy here, because she's one of our state grantees, as she mentioned, with the Early Learning Challenge grant. It's been terrific to be able to partner with now 32 states, if we look at the Early Learning Challenges grants and the preschool development grants for which we administer jointly with our partners at the Department of Health and Human Services. I think what we've been able to do is really stand up and take a position at the department. The Department of Health and Human Services has long had, as you pointed out, the outcomes framework for Head Start. Those have evolved over the last seven and a half years as well, which is delightful.

You have these multiple domains laid out in the outcomes framework, and I think many states have used that as some of their guidance as they created their own standards. It's more of a framework as is in the title, so it doesn't really go in depth on a lot of individual standards. At the department we've really taken a position in this administration where the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, to begin with, in 2009 he was the first education secretary to speak at the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the NAEYC conference; and really stood up and said that we need to stop this false dichotomy about social and emotional development, cognitive domains, and cognitive development and we really need to know that every child needs all of this.

Secretary King has really taken up that mantle and talked about the needs of the whole child. The really great thing that I've seen over the last seven and a half years in this administration is, this push up from really good early childhood pedagogy to influence the early elementary grades and even middle school. We just recently had a competition for districts to implement these mindset skills for middle school, which is that approaches to learning, those executive functioning skills, and perseverance, and grid, and persistence, and self-regulation. I think it's really great that finally we're looking at more of a continuum of learning, and hoping that as states look at their college and career-ready standards that they will go beyond math and beyond literacy and reading and really think about how does physical health and wellbeing, approaches to learning, social and emotional development help our students as they go into middle school and as they go into high school. What effect does that have on their success to graduate, and also to be successful to enter and complete college?

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - To Judy. What advice do you have for states that want to ensure that their early learning standards are of high quality, meaning well-written and research-based?

Judith Walker - I'd like to think about for me personally my beginning. I was a kindergarten teacher back in the day before I became an elementary principal and now here at Maryland's State Department. Many years ago when I was back in the classroom and at times was asked to sit on curriculum writing teams or committees, we relied heavily then less on research. We didn't have access to experts except for those maybe we had read about. We relied more on our experience. What do you think a child should know or be able to do, and we would write things coming from a classroom teacher's perspective? Over time we realized that there's a lot of subjectivity to that. There are different philosophies on what's developmentally appropriate and what you think should be happening in the classroom.

Contrasting that to today, when we were working on this assessment project, before we started that we knew going into this project we needed to revise our standards again. We've just been coming through and still are kind of coming through a period of time where a lot of national organizations have been creating or revising their own standards. While Maryland had used the common core to help develop our state standards, and in Maryland we call them the pre-K through grade 12 college and career-ready standards in Maryland, so we have been incorporating pre-K into our state standards for several years.

We had agreement with what was already available through Common Core for our language and literacy standards and our math standards. We worked with that, but at the same time we wanted to update our science standards, and the next generation science standards were just coming out so we had to wait to work with that. Then the C3 standards for social studies were just coming out. We just finished having someone work, who was a part of the national fine arts standards group, and that person's been helping to revise our fine arts standards. We're in a period of time where everyone is re-looking at standards and revising them, and I think that gives states the opportunity while that's happening to then look at what would you like the pre-K four standards to look like in your state.

As we've been doing this and in our assessment project we have a technical advisory committee, national experts who had advised us as we were going through this process of what we should be considering for the standards that we wanted to use for assessment. I learned a lot, and I still learn a lot talking to them and hearing what they have to say in each of their specialized content areas about what's important for children to know and to be able to do. We only could take advantage of that because of the funding through the Early Learning Challenge grant. Getting experts in is costly. For every state to repeat that process and try to come up with funding to be able to bring in the experts that you need, so it's not like it was back in the old days of teacher's opinion or thoughts on what's important to be in the standards. To be able to share resources. To have more a multi-state or a national perspective on that would be certainly more effective than having every state try to go through that process alone.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - I'm bouncing right back to you. How does your state address issues related to diversity, as you define it, in your early learning standards?

Judith Walker - This is a question, and looking at your report, it gave us pause already as we've been developing our revision to standards. While we have one set of standards that we're working with for all children and all teachers to be aware of, we often approach students with disabilities, with special needs through accommodations or adaptations that we build into our documents that we share with teachers. We still have a ways to go to make that the best it can be so teachers understand what that means. We use the universal design for learning as we've been building our standards documents and our assessments, but often teachers even in giving our new assessment weren't sure how far they could go with that. What does that mean to be able to provide an accommodation to a child so they had access to what's being asked of them in these assessments.

Maryland's fairly newer in terms of the diversity with ethnicity and races in the state, but it's certainly in some of our jurisdictions is really an issue they're grappling with, is how to provide that equal access to children who are language learners and what that looks like. A great example for us was, last summer we are part of the WIDA consortium, so we asked, invited WIDA to come meet with us and meet with some of our teachers to vet our items that we have in our assessment and tell us, are the directions, the prompts, the pictures, everything that we're using; the vocabulary. Does that make that item accessible to as many children as possible, even if English is not their first language?

The advice that they were giving, they did a little professional development, a little mini session for the teachers who were part of this content and bias group. At the end of those three hours these teachers were like, "Wow, I didn't know that much about early language acquisition. If I had known this, I'm definitely going to be doing something different in my classroom next year that will help more children. I just didn't understand that. I never got that background." I think that's an important thing to work into all of our standards work is to think about how to give that information to the teachers so they understand how to approach these standards to make them as accessible for all children as we can.

WIDA is a national consortium. I think most states belong to WIDA. It used to be—WIDA stood for Wisconsin, Indiana, Delaware, and I forget who the A state was. It was a consortium of states that really were looking at English language learners and coming up with resources and materials. They developed an assessment that many states use that helps define proficiency levels for students as they're learning English. There's so many states now and their consortium WIDA really doesn't stand for that anymore.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - On to Steven. Early learning standards vary across the states, territories, and D.C. How does this variation affect educational equity for young children?

Steven Hicks - I think it affects it a lot. Equity has been a huge concern of Secretary King. You've probably heard him speak about it a lot. The President has spoken about how it should not matter the ZIP code in which a child is born as to their school and life trajectory, and what that success might lead to. It's critical that every state have really high quality standards from, really, birth to 12. I know this report is focusing on the year before kindergarten, four-year-olds, but of course I think a little over half the states have standards for infants and toddlers. I think that's another area where we really need to look at, standards or milestones for infants and toddlers so that those teachers, those caregivers, also understand the development.

I think it's also critical that teachers across the continuum, really from birth to grade 12, have an understanding of child development and learning. You really need to know where the child is coming from and where the child is going to know what it is that you as the teacher or the para-educator need to do to support that child. Also for parents. Parents need to know what the expectations are for children at different levels along the educational pipeline. Of course, those need to vary based on child development, because not all children develop the same. There are certain milestones. There are certain expectations that need to be held for all children.

My friend Lynn Kagan has done a lot of work in this area. In particular, she looked at the math standards. There's one state that might have three different elements discussed around the math standards, while another state may have 25. There's huge variance across the states in the continuum. We need to make sure that all children are being held to the same kind of expectations, and teachers know about what that is, so that a child in Nebraska, a child in New York, a child in Ohio or Florida, they're all getting the same kind of preparation so that they can be successful when they enter kindergarten. Those learning gaps start early. When children aren't successful as they enter kindergarten, when they start to fall behind, often times they will never catch up.

My boss, Libby Doggett, who unfortunately couldn't be here today, she is in New York right now at the launch of the 2015 NIEER Yearbook, which looks across states at the quality, the access of state preschool programs. While the good news is that quality for programs has improved across states and access has increased a little bit, particularly thanks to New York City and Mayor de Blasio and other mayors' and governors' strong work in investing in early childhood education, access has increased. Sadly, still four in ten children that attend state preschool programs in this country attend them in three of the lowest quality states—Texas, California, and Florida—where the standards just really aren't high enough to prepare children for success later on. We have a lot of work to do in this area, and it really is a central and foundational equity issue.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - Back to Judy. How does Maryland emphasize early learning standards as part of the state's mission to focus on early childhood education?

Judith Walker - As part of our Maryland Early Learning Framework, as we're calling it, the initial component of that is the early learning standards. Those standards drive, as I've said, our assessment project. We assess from our standards, so we need to determine and have those as up-to-date and as meaningful as possible to be able to have a good assessment system.

Again, overlapping with that is the curriculum. In the past Maryland's process for curriculum for pre-K consisted of vetting publisher's programs. They would submit those, we would go through a process of looking at them with a set of criteria, and one of those important criteria was, did it align to our state standards. I can tell you from the last go-round that we had, two years ago, that was very inconsistent. We would find some standards in place very strongly, others not. Math, if it was a heavily literacy-based program, then math was not found in a way that it should have been. Social-emotional might get referenced. Science a little bit. It was all over the place.

When we had to come up with at least some programs that we could say fairly confidently that were aligned to our standards, so that the teachers out in the programs that are using this curriculum could say, I'm teaching the standards. It was hard to come up with those recommendations two years ago. I think a lot of new work is going into updating curriculums, but most teachers, especially out in our community-based programs, they rely on the curriculum. They don't have the wherewithal to do standards alignment. They're certainly going to struggle with having to have a standards document that they're going to refer to, and the curriculum guide that they're going to use to do their lesson planning. They want to be able to know confidently, this curriculum program does meet those standards and I'm teaching the appropriate thing.

One of the things we finally decided to do was we have established a new early childhood center with the University of Maryland here in the state, and they're starting this summer on writing a curriculum for us. It will be based on the standards, and that will be available whether it's public school pre-K or it's community-based programs, everyone will have access to the same curriculum. It goes back to the standards. We're all working from the same set of standards, talking the same language in the same assessment system, in the same set of curriculum. I think that's an important consideration to think about. It has been for us is making sure everything's aligned back to those standards.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - Thank you. I do have more questions for them, but since we're running out of time I thought I might ask if you have any questions first.

Erica Lee - Thanks. My name's Erica Lee. I actually work with Steven at the Education Department, so my question is not for Steven. Judy, I was wondering whether you could speak to which types of preschool settings that have to use the standards. Then, which ones just choose to use them because they like them? If you could speak to that.

Judith Walker - We have a quality rating improvement system, EXCELS in Maryland. At a certain level they are required to use curriculum that's aligned to the standards. That's how we address that with them. We certainly have been doing a lot of work with trying to make our standards available. We just published a guide to pedagogy last year, and in that half of the guide, the back half we call an appendix, but it's the early learning standards. We've been trying to disseminate that and have as many organizations, Head Start, working with it in our state. Our higher ed institutions working with it in their teacher preparation programs so that we're all, again, talking the same language.

Female Speaker 3 - Just following up on that question. The standards are for teachers and for organized programs, but we know that a high percentage of preschool-aged children, lower income kids with disabilities and ELL kids are not in organized daycare. How do we ensure that they're getting some type of pre-kindergarten exposure to things that we would call standards to prepare them for kindergarten if they're not in an organized setting?

Judith Walker - I think it's a combination of the work that we were doing with making those standards commonly understood and shared amongst all the different programs that are out there. We use those same standards to embed in our family engagement efforts. One of the things we've been doing the past few years are called learning parties. A lot of places across the state do those in the public libraries. They invite families to come in with their children. Those activities, those learning parties, are based on our standards so that we're just continuing to build that common understanding of what it is we expect children to be able to do. I didn't mention that part of our assessment system—when I was talking about the kindergarten piece, but there is an early learning assessment component to it that we're just rolling out this spring and summer that has a formative assessment that are learning progressions that are built on those standards. That's also available for people to use and to build that understanding of developmentally, where does that start building up to those kindergarten standards.

Dionne Dobbins - Hi, good afternoon. I'm Dionne Dobbins with Child Care Aware of America. I just wanted to say first of all, I'm very pleased to hear how the state of Maryland has incorporated—that your department has childcare and education. I'm assuming that everybody talks to each other. One of things that I think would be of interest to me is to hear how childcare and other types of providers were involved in the development of the early learning standards as well as the assessment tools that have come out. Were they at the table when these things were developed?

Judith Walker - We developed them using the research and the experts. They didn't create the standards. It's come out of what the national organizations and the experts are telling us. They have been at the table as far as meeting with us to be a part of the process, to vet the products, to give us feedback. We've had many pilots and field tests and cognitive interviews out in the field with children in classrooms. We've utilized a lot of feedback from the field to help inform what that final assessment tool looks like. They have been involved in that way.

I think right now our challenge is the professional development and to make that accessible to everyone. We have built in with our assessment system, we have a professional development online system that's part of that. There are modules that have been developed and we continue to develop new ones all the time that everyone has access to so that they can be a part of the same professional development. With our professional development grant funding that we've been building our network of preschools out in community programs that are working with our public schools programs. Especially this past year, we've really put an effort in asking school systems to include the community-based programs in the professional development they offer. A lot of our school systems are doing really a nice job of inviting the teachers in the programs to come in. When we do staff development in our school, you're invited. We want to hear about what we're going to, can all be a part. I think the more they're together and learn from each other, it really will help build a better understanding of the standards that are involved.

Female Speaker 3 - Those same kids are going to go to the same schools.

Judith Walker - Right. Absolutely.

Maria - I'm Maria [?] from the Embassy of Spain. I have a question. I heard that Maryland, for example, is developing dual language programs as early as kinder, pre-K. I would like to know more about the strategies that are taken for English language learners. Above all related to their mother tongue. Do you have any idea what is done across the country? Thank you.

What I mean is the general practices. I read that you were working in Los Angeles. I was there, too, for a few years. I know thankfully I wanted to know more at that stage pre-K.

Steven Hicks - At the department we cannot really endorse any kind of approach or curricula for instruction, but we do have our Office of English Language Acquisition that has put out a toolkit talking about the importance of developing home language. Of course, there are many models that are being used throughout the country and in different settings, depending upon staff capacity. Sometimes you can have a dual language learner approach like an immersion class in preschool and kindergarten, but you might not have the staffing that allows for that when they go to first grade. Then you have it again when they go to second grade. I think this brings up a huge gap that we have in our teacher preparation programs and the need for more teachers to speak a second language, particularly if they're working in communities where the dominant language or the home language is a certain language other than English.

We are trying to look across at what states are doing. There are states such as Illinois, for example, that are having certain requirements for all preschool teachers to have either knowledge or training in addressing the needs of second language learners, English learners, or being bilingual. I think different states are at different places, but not even every state I learned, which I was shocked, because in California when a child enters preschool you need to assess them for their language ability right away. Not every state does that. They're in all different places and I think there's less than ten states that actually assess children when they enter preschool, even though they're receiving a lot of the same funding at the federal level and at the state level as K-12.

One interesting addition that the NIEER Yearbook has done is they've tried to take a look at policies and practices addressing the needs of dual language learners in response to the state specialists' requests in all the different states about how we need to do better to serve our English learners. If you look at the NIEER Yearbook you'll see a landscape that came out today. A landscape across the states about policies to address dual language learners. Whether teachers are required to have specific instruction in their professional development training or in their credentials, if they're teaching preschool, or their certifications or licensure around meeting the needs of dual language learners. Frankly, the states are really all over the place. Probably even it varies greatly district to district and school to school.

Andrea DeBruin-Parecki - I want to thank everybody for coming. Thank you so much. Thanks to our panelists, Judy and Steven. I hope you all have a lovely day. Thank you. [Applause.]

End of Exploring Pre-K Age 4 Learning Standards video.

Video duration: 01:35:01.