From birth, children are curious and motivated to learn.
As they grow and learn, their brains change dramatically, especially during the first three years of life. These changes are influenced by genetics and environmental experiences (including relationships and physical conditions) as children develop in realms of thinking, speaking, behaving, and reasoning. (Kupcha-Szrom, 2011; Center on the Developing Child, 2012) By interacting with their world, young children make discoveries, figure out how things work, try out new behaviors, learn social rules, and solve problems. High-quality early learning and relationships enhance their development in every way: social, cognitive, linguistic, artistic, and physical. When they actively explore environments and materials, children build concept knowledge and thinking skills. When they are able to develop nurturing and supportive relationships with caregivers (their parent or other primary caregiver, adult family members, and other familiar adults), childcare providers, and teachers,* they are also laying a solid foundation for learning. (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004) Early development across all domains secures this foundation for a child’s later success in school and in life. (Maine Department of Education, 2005)
Early learning standards articulate shared expectations for what young children should know and be able to do. Further, they provide a common language for measuring progress toward achieving specific learning goals. (Kendall, 2003; Kagan & Scott-Little, 2004) Charting a Course for Success in the Ocean State: Rhode Island’s Early Learning and Development Standards (hereafter, The Standards) outlines early learning expectations at key benchmarks, from birth to 60 months of age.
While presented in a stand-alone document, these standards should not be considered in isolation. They comprise one key element of the state’s early learning system has and have been strategically designed to work in conjunction with other parts of the system—assessment, curriculum, professional development, program standards, and workforce competencies. The Standards are designed to promote high-quality care and education for the state’s youngest children, including those at risk for entering kindergarten without adequate foundations for success. In this way, the document serves as a valuable resource to the entire early care and education community.
* A child’s teacher is anyone invested and involved in the child’s learning: parents, caregivers, therapists, and doctors, as well as preschool and school teachers