Explore the Theme - Excellence for Every Child: Standards Without Standardization
This is an exciting time in the field of early childhood education as attention is focused as never before on the importance of high-quality early learning opportunities and their connection to success in k-12 education. In an era of heightened accountability, policymakers, program administrators, advocates, and professional preparation and ongoing professional development providers continue to navigate the connections between accountability for the system, while simultaneously ensuring each child’s experience optimizes his/her learning potential. There is cause for optimism that both ideals can be advanced and fine-tuned simultaneously. With a strong foundation through early learning and content standards, program standards, and professional preparation standards, there is an opportunity to inform instructional practices for every child and undergird administration and management practices across a variety of sectors. This foundation also provides an opportunity to improve teacher effectiveness in higher education programs and accreditation systems, state policy development, community-based in-service programs, and program improvement planning.
The push for standards and accountability also present challenges. The stakes are high, and it is incumbent upon the early childhood field to engage in a meaningful dialogue to ensure:
- Standards result in developmentally appropriate practices for young children.
- Instructional strategies are based on what is known about child development, each child as an individual, and the social and cultural context in which each child lives.
- Standards support sound management and reflective supervision that are specific to each program’s and community’s characteristics and meet the guidelines of accountability.
- Professional preparation and ongoing professional development address the “expertise lattice” inherent in our field.
- Families are engaged in meaningful ways to support progress.
- The quest for accountability doesn’t replace creativity and ingenuity.
The 2014 Institute theme focuses on the use of standards in a way that does not lead to inappropriate standardization of practices, i.e., a “cookie-cutter approach” to program implementation. The Institute’s plenary and one- and two-hour sessions will offer opportunities to address the use of standards as the foundation that leads to excellence for every child—with and without disabilities, in homes in which English is the primary language as well as dual language learners, in rural and urban communities, and so on.
In addition to theme-related sessions, the Institute also covers topics such as professional development systems, program administration, linguistic and cultural diversity. Sessions address early childhood education content areas and domains, including general cognition and executive functioning, language and literacy, math, science, the arts, and social, emotional, and physical development.