historyThis document extends Rhode Island’s 2003 early learning standards, which were originally created by the state’s Early Childhood Task Force.

The 2003 standards were based on the then-latest research on child development and learning, and they provided clear and comprehensive guidance to families, teachers, and administrators on what children should know and be able to do by the time they enter kindergarten. The 2003 standards were of exceptionally high quality and thus provided the foundation for the revisions.

Since 2003, the field of early learning has seen dramatic advances. For example, the National Early Literacy Panel (2008) and National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2008) have published groundbreaking reports that summarize the scientific literature on the development of literacy and mathematical skills in very young children. The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University has also stimulated advancements in the field by articulating the key components of executive functioning—a set of skills that lay the foundation for adaptive, goal-directed thinking and behavior that enable children to override more automatic or impulsive actions and reactions. At the same time, Head Start and Early Head Start have adopted new national standards (2007), and most states have endorsed the K–12 Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics. Rhode Island’s revised early learning and development standards incorporate principles from these scientific advances and national-level indicators.

In 2011, Rhode Island was one of nine states to be awarded a federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant, which provided the state with the resources to revise its early learning standards. The Rhode Island Department of Education and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services worked collaboratively with national experts, Rhode Island’s higher education community, and Rhode Island’s early childhood stakeholders to articulate this new set of early learning and development standards that meet or exceed nationally recognized criteria and that are uniquely adapted for the children and families in the state.

These standards extend educational expectations to infants and toddlers, and they are integrated with preschool early learning standards to create a seamless birth-to-60-month continuum. The infant and toddler standards are set forth with the following important considerations, which are relevant to all early learners:

  • Early learning occurs within the context of nurturing relationships; it is only through consistent and secure early relationships that children feel safe enough to explore their environments and learn. Play—especially with adults and with other children—is a key element for early learning and a primary vehicle through which young children begin to understand themselves in relation to others and to orient themselves to the world and to the delight of learning. Strictly defined, it is any freely sought activity that is pleasing to the “player.” It can be physical (bouncing up and down or riding a tricycle), imaginative (playing “peek-a-boo” or “dress-up”), creative (building with blocks or drawing pictures), social (acting out a dramatic episode), or mental (daydreaming). And it can be any combination of these. Paradoxically, play is the most important work of childhood.
  • Early learning is integrated across all areas of development; and while specific domains of learning are identified, each area of learning is influenced by progress in others. As well, each child may progress at different rates in each of the domains. Finally, while learning is sequential—starting simple (concrete) and becoming more complex (abstract)—development unfolds in fits and starts.
  • Early learning is rooted in culture and supported by the family.