Kentuckys Early Childhood Standards Revised 2021

Kentuckys early childhood standards revised 2021

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Kentucky’s Early Childhood Standards
Revised 2021
Kentucky Early Childhood Standards Introduction
Purpose of the Standards
Have you ever heard someone ask, “what are children supposed to learn before they go to
kindergarten?” Maybe you have wondered that yourself. These Kentucky Early Childhood
Standards help answer the question of what young children should learn—they describe the
knowledge, skills, and dispositions that Kentucky hopes children will gain during the years
before kindergarten. Put another way, the Early Childhood Standards help educators provide
experiences for children that prepare them to meet Kentucky’s definition of school readiness:
School readiness means each child enters school ready to engage in and benefit from early
learning experiences that best promote the child’s success

The purpose of the Early Childhood Standards is, therefore, to provide educators with a guide
to preparing children for success in school, starting in infancy through four-year-olds. They
outline a range of developmental abilities typical for young children—expectations for the skills
and knowledge children typically demonstrate at each age. The Early Childhood Standards do
NOT, however, describe everything that is important for children to learn or that children may
demonstrate. They are a guide for what educators should focus on for all children, with room
for individualizing based on a child’s unique skills and abilities

Who should use the Early Childhood Standards? The Early Childhood Standards describe goals
for all children’s development and learning, no matter what program they may be served in

The document is a resource for educators in child care, family child care homes, Head Start,
pre-kindergarten programs, part-day informal programs, and any other setting where children
spend time. They are also a
useful resource for specialists
who work with children in a
A note about terminology used in this document: Adults in
the field of early care and education play a variety of roles variety of roles, such as home
in children’s lives, including caregiver, teacher, family visitors, early interventionists,
support specialist, and interventionist. All of these roles speech/language pathologists,
are critical to the growth and development of young and other professionals. The
children. For purposes of this document, the term Early Childhood Standards are
“educator” is used in this introduction and encompasses shared goals for children’s
anyone working with young children, no matter what learning, no matter where they
program, title or role they have. Within the standards and are served or who is supporting
indicators, a variety of titles are used for adults who work their development

with children

How should the Early Childhood Standards be used? The Early Childhood Standards are a guide
for planning learning experiences and for monitoring children’s progress as they develop and
learn. They can be used to:
● Learn about age-appropriate expectations for skills children typically demonstrate at
different ages

● See typical “next steps” for how children make progress in the skills and set learning
goals and plan learning experiences for children

● Gauge whether children are “on track” in terms of what is typical for their age and if
they are making progress toward their learning goals

● Guide decisions about selecting a curriculum and/or assessments, as the curricula
and assessments used in early childhood settings should address the areas of
development and learning that are included in the Early Childhood Standards

As important as these uses of the Early Childhood Standards are, it’s also important to keep in
mind there are some ways the Early Childhood Standards should NOT be used. For instance, the
Early Childhood Standards should not be used as a checklist or assessment to make decisions
about children’s program placement or entry into kindergarten. They are a guide for planning,
but not an assessment tool. To fully understand a child’s development and make decisions
about their placements, educators should use an assessment process designed for that

Using the Early Childhood Standards to Promote Equity for All Children
The Early Childhood Standards are a guide to use with all children, no matter what language
they speak, what disabilities they may have, or what family circumstances they are growing up
in. All children should have opportunities to learn the skills described in the Early Childhood
Standards. There can, however, be differences in how children demonstrate the skills described
in the Early Childhood Standards. A child’s individual temperament, socio-economic status,
relationships with family members, and the community/culture in which they live shape their
growth and learning. Therefore, educators should expect to see differences in how children
make progress on the skills described in the Early Childhood Standards

Because educators typically work with children from different backgrounds and with different
abilities, they must intentionally take steps to make sure they are using the Early Childhood
Standards to promote equity for all children—that they are using the Early Childhood Standards
as a guide for learning experiences and to promote progress for each child in a way that best
suits each individual child. Educators must check themselves for biases that may get in the way
of using the Early Childhood Standards equitably. A bias is an attitude or a view that can lead an
educator to consciously or unconsciously favor certain children or have different expectations
for one child compared with other children. These biases might lead an educator to have lower
or higher expectations for the progress a child might make on the Early Childhood Standards
just based on their characteristics rather than their developmental level, or to inadvertently
over- or under-emphasize one domain of learning. Educators must intentionally check
themselves to look for their biases and make sure they are not letting stereotypes about
children shape how they are using the Early Childhood Standards rather than their own
experiences with individual children

Considering biases and working to individualize
A bias is an attitude or a view that can lead when using the Early Childhood Standards is
an educator to consciously or important for all children, but the process is
unconsciously favor certain children or particularly important when working with
have different expectations for one child children with disabilities and children from
compared with other children. Educators cultural and language backgrounds that are
must consistently check their attitudes, different from an educator’s own background

judgements, and interactions to make sure The following guidance provides advice for
that they are using the Early Childhood working with these specific groups of children

Standards equitably with all children

How can the Early Childhood Standards be used with Children with Disabilities?
Although the Early Childhood Standards are the same for all children, it is important to
remember that children with disabilities may demonstrate their skills and learning in different
ways from typically developing children. Educators may need to make accommodations that
help children with disabilities demonstrate what they know and are able to do. For example,
children with limited verbal skills may demonstrate their knowledge and skills using gestures,
pictures, or sign language. Modifications to materials may be needed as well. Children who
have delays in motor development may need tabs added to the pages of book or grips added to
markers or spoons to demonstrate their capabilities

Children with disabilities may also make progress at different rates from other children. They
may be slower to demonstrate progress in some domains rather than others and may have very
strong skills in one domain but need additional support to make progress in another domain. It
may be helpful to look at the Standards, Benchmarks and Developmental Continuum for a
younger age level when working with a child with disabilities, as it may be better suited to the
child’s developmental level. Educators may also need to observe children with disabilities more
closely to notice their progress and may need to use different strategies to help them
demonstrate their capabilities

How can the Early Childhood Standards be used with Children from Diverse Language and
Cultural Backgrounds? Kentucky is home to an increasingly ethnically diverse group of children
and the number of children and families who speak a language other than English has also
increased. Therefore, educators may have increasing opportunities to work with children and
families who have a different cultural background and speak a language that is different from
their own. This document refers to these children as “Dual Language Learners” because they
are learning their native language and also learning to understand and speak English. Educators
should use the Early Childhood Standards as a guide for what Dual Language Learners should
know and be able to do, just like children whose home language is English. However, the
educator may need to be more intentional when planning learning experiences to address the
standards and benchmarks. It may also be necessary to be more observant when gauging if a
child has mastered a skill or benchmark described in the Early Childhood Standards, in order to
make sure the child understands the concept addressed and has the maximum opportunity to
demonstrate the skills. For instance, when supporting a Dual Language Learner to make
progress on the Health/Mental Wellness Benchmark that addresses children’s ability to
participate successfully in groups, the educator may want to intentionally group children who
speak the same home language together to observe the extent to which the children are able to
play together and to make friends. Grouping children who speak the same language together
gives more opportunity for the children to demonstrate the skills described in the Early
Childhood Standards

In addition, educators should keep in mind that Dual Language Learners demonstrate their
learning in a variety of ways, remembering that children can demonstrate their capabilities on
many of the Developmental Continuum items in their home language or in English, and through
other means such as gestures, pictures and/or using objects to show what they have learned

Finally, families and communities have different expectations for what children are expected to
learn and how they demonstrate their knowledge. For example, children from some
communities are most comfortable watching what the teacher and other children are doing,
while other children jump into activities and are eager to show adults what they have learned

These differences can be based on the child’s experiences in their home and community, and
do not necessarily mean that one child has learned more than another. Cultural differences
such as these are important to keep in mind when considering how individual children are
making progress on the Early Childhood Standards because children demonstrate what they
have learned in different ways. Observing carefully and talking with family members can help
educators understand children's unique characteristics and plan appropriate learning
experiences, as well as monitor progress on the Early Childhood Standards Developmental
Continuum, while respecting and building on the children’s cultural and individual differences

The DLL Appendix provides more in-depth information about the process of learning multiple
languages and how educators can use the Early Childhood Standards with Dual Language

Using the Standards with Curricula and Assessments
Educators may wonder whether they need to use the Early Childhood Standards if they are
already using early childhood curricula and assessments. The answer is, “yes!” the Early
Childhood Standards are a useful resource in addition to curricula and assessments. In fact, all
three of these resources—Early Childhood Standards, curricula, and assessments—are needed
to effectively prepare children for success in school. Here’s how they are related and how they
are used together:
● Early Childhood Standards define what we expect children to learn at each of the
age levels;
● A curriculum provides educators with guidance on how to teach the skills and
concepts that are included in the Early Childhood Standards;
● The assessment process helps educators gauge if children have learned what is

So, all three are necessary components of the teaching process. Educators should begin by
looking at the Early Childhood Standards to see what children should be learning at a particular
age, and then use the curriculum for guidance on how to teach the concepts. After
implementing learning experiences based on the curriculum, an educator uses an assessment
process to help them understand what children know and if they have learned what is
expected. Comparing assessment results with the Developmental Continuum in the Early
Childhood Standards can be helpful to see if the child has demonstrated the intended skills and
knowledge. If so, the Early Childhood Standards can provide insights into what skills to target
next. If the child has not demonstrated the target Developmental Continuum item(s), the
curriculum can help with planning additional learning experiences to address the same skill. The
Early Childhood Standards, a curriculum and assessments are used in a cycle that is shown in
the graphic below

Planning/Instruction Cycle
Educators use all three components in this cycle to support children in learning the skills and
knowledge needed for success in kindergarten. For the cycle to work well, however, all three
components must be aligned, or address children’s learning and development consistently. This
means that educators need to use curricula and assessments that are aligned with the Early
Childhood Standards. The Early Childhood Standards do not, however, tell you which
curriculum, activities, or materials to select; they do help with decisions about curricula and
assessments. Once you have a good understanding of the skills and knowledge from the Early
Childhood Standards that are important for the age you teach, you can look for a curriculum
and assessments that will help you help children develop the skills described in the
Developmental Continuum

Using the Early Childhood Standards with Families
Families are children’s first and most important teachers, and it is very important that they are
included in supporting their child’s development and learning. Although the Early Childhood
Standards are designed for educators, it may be helpful to share portions of the Early Childhood
Standards with families, or to provide them with resources that are consistent with the Early
Childhood Standards. Educators can use the document to help families understand how
children develop and what skills and knowledge they are working on with a specific child. The
Early Childhood Standards can also be used generally to give parents an idea of age-appropriate
expectations for children’s learning and development as they seek to also support their child’s
readiness for success in school

Organization of Document
Kentucky’s Early Childhood Standards is organized into several sections, each of which is
described here. The standards cover developmental domains for children birth to three-years of
age and three-and four-year olds. The domains for each age group are listed in the text box
below. Each of the domains is an important area of children’s development and contributes to
children’s readiness for success in school. Although important aspects of children’s learning are
described separately in the domains, they are really integrated together in a child’s
development. A child’s progress in one domain will be closely related to their progress in
another domain. For instance, a child’s development of communication skills impacts what they
learn and how they demonstrate their skills in all of the other domains. Therefore, it’s
important to keep in mind that learning experiences and assessments of children’s
development should address multiple areas of learning together, not as separate, discrete skills

Birth to 3 3 and 4
Domains for Birth to Three Years
● Approaches to Learning
● Creative Expression
● Communication
● Motor Development
● Social Emotional Development
● Cognitive
Domains for Three- and Four-Year-Olds
● Approaches to Learning
● Creative Arts
● Language and Early Literacy
● Physical Education
● Health/Mental Wellness
● Mathematics
● Science
● Social Studies
● Technology viii
Each domain is then organized into Standards, Benchmarks, and a Developmental Continuum,
with Example Behaviors to illustrate each Developmental Continuum item. Each of these
components of the Early Childhood Standards is described below

Standard: A general statement that represents the information, skills, and/or characteristics
that a child should demonstrate at the end of the age span covered

Benchmark: A concept or skill that is a subset of what is addressed within the standard. Put
another way, Benchmarks collectively describe the specific skills, knowledge or characteristics
included within a standard. Benchmarks are not listed in any specific order, either in
importance or in a developmental order

Developmental Continuum: A predictable but not rigid sequence of accomplishments which
describe the progressive levels of performance in the order in which they emerge in most
children, based on current research. Developmental Continuum items describe how skills
related to a Benchmark typically emerge or progress

Example Behaviors: Observable “samples” of what children might do as they demonstrate
accomplishments at each level of the Developmental Continuum, but not a definitive list of how
a child might demonstrate a specific accomplishment or an exhaustive inventory

The Developmental Continuum and Example Behaviors help educators identify skills most likely
to occur next in the continuum and provide examples of what skills or knowledge a child might
demonstrate at specific ages. These illustrations are useful to adults as they seek to understand
and plan learning experiences to facilitate children’s development

The following graphic illustrates what is included and where the different components of the
Early Childhood Standards are located within the Standards sections

The diagrams below show the alignment of the Early Childhood Standards to the domains of the
Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework and the Kentucky Academic Standards for
Kindergarten. These alignment charts can also be found in the Appendix of the Early Childhood

Kentucky’s Early Childhood Standards are designed to be a resource for educators in many
different settings and roles. They outline the skills and knowledge Kentucky feels are important
for children to learn prior to kindergarten and, when used in conjunction with curricula and
assessments, can guide educators on how to support children’s readiness for success in school

What follows are the Standards, Benchmarks, Developmental Continua, and Examples for the
Birth to Three-Year Olds. After this section, the Standards, Benchmarks, Developmental
Continua and Examples for Three- and Four-Year-Olds are provided

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2019). Advancing equity in early
childhood education. NAEYC. Available at
Reid, J., Scott-Little, C., & Kagan, L. (2019). Diverse children, uniform standards: Using Early
Learning and Development Standards in multicultural classrooms. Young Children, 74(5)

Reid, J.L., Kagan, S.L., & Scott-Little, C. (2017). New understandings of cultural diversity and the
implications for early childhood policy, pedagogy, and practice. Early Child Development and
Care. DOI: 10.1080/03004430.2017.1359582
KY ECS Independent Content Reviewers
Joseph Appleton
Independent Early Childhood Consultant
Retired Consultant, NC Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Early Learning
Susie Clark
Independent Early Childhood Consultant
Former ECE Specialist, ICF International
Mimi Howard
Policy and Systems Advisor, School Readiness Consulting
Jennie Hyde, PhD
Adjunct Instructor, North Carolina State University
School Psychologist, Wake County Schools
Katina Kearney-Edwards, PhD
Principal Associate, School Readiness Consulting
Stephanie Little, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition, Health, and Human Performance, Meredith College
Danielle Madrazo, EdD
Chair, Director of Teacher Education, and Associate Professor, School of Social Sciences and Education,
North Carolina Wesleyan College
Greta Morris
CLASS Reviewer, Danya International Inc
Patsy Pierce, PhD
Instructor, Child Development Program, Meredith College
Kathy Reschke, PhD
Senior Content Specialist, Professional Development and Workforce Innovations, ZERO TO THREE
Helen Watkins
Independent Early Childhood Consultant
Former ECE/Infant-Toddler Specialist, ICF International

About their placements, educators should use an assessment process designed for that purpose. Using the Early Childhood Standards to Promote Equity for All Children The Early Childhood …

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