Maryland Department of Education Early Childhood Development
Maryland’s Department of Education Early Childhood Development Program focuses on young children’s academic development from Pre-K to Grade 2. The framework includes Maryland’s Early Learning Standards, Family Engagement and Ready 4 Kindergarten (R4K) policies. The Maryland Early Learning Standards targets three areas critical to the success: healthy beginnings; domains of development and learning and college and career ready standards. R4K takes the foundation laid in the early learning standards to determine the Kindergarten Ready Assessments (KRA) and the Early Learning Assessments (ELA) geared to ages 36-72 months. Just last year Maryland added a third assessment to R4K identified as Developmental Screening. “To move every student forward, a deeper understanding of what promotes and impedes progress is necessary”, (Maryland State Department of Education, 2015).
Maryland requires early childhood programs to develop lesson and assessments for seven domain areas during the pre-K development years. They include social, physical, language and literacy, mathematics, science, social studies and art. Social development includes emotional, self-regulation and ability to learn. Physical development observes the use and advancement of motor skills as they relate to communication, coordination and movement. The remaining domains tie directly into Common Core standards and Maryland’s own College and Career Ready Standards. Mastery of language and literacy, the ability to read, write and understand language, plays into a child’s ability to apply these skills into learning mathematics, science, about one’s self identity and how that factors in the society and world they engage with; and lastly, the arts builds an understanding of dance, music and theater which represents different cultures. Each of these components, along with the tools and resources identified to instruct flexible lesson plans developed to acquire such knowledge and skillsets, comprise the assessments (KRA and ELA) identified by the state of Maryland.
Maryland educators incorporate the following tools, resources and ideologies as part of their complete assessments. Developmental screening gauges growth of social and physical skills often providing opportunities for intervention resources when applicable. Assessments, both formal and informal, are ongoing processes of gathering information which records the progress of each child. For Maryland, the Early Childhood Comprehensive Assessment System (EC-CAS) is the formal system that links all of the monitoring, screening and measurement requirements utilized for the formative assessment and KRA. The KRA specifically looks at a child’s developments through the 60-66 month period. KRA assessments are based on performance tasks and observations of children in play, group and/or individual instructions for each skillset and domain identified. As children transition closer to kindergarten (ages 3-5) the inclusion of ELA becomes more prominent. Formative assessments, conducted within a child’s natural learning environment over a period of time, determines the child’s strengths and challenges faced as they learn a multitude of skillsets over the combined domains. The goal of Maryland educators is to ensure each child is provided the rights tools and instruction to reach their full potential. To continue providing quality programs, ongoing evaluations of assessments based on teacher development, instruction, and curriculum have been established to assist in the regular assessment of children’s development and academic progress.
These measurements must comply with federal mandated policies, guidelines and regulations. Maryland looks to the US Department of Education, NAEYC and NBPTS for guidance in the development of their guidelines and regulations. The ideology of the national organizations supporting children and their educational development is that every child is afforded the opportunity of academic growth in every state, with common guidelines and practices in unison without having to start over or be left behind. As NAEYC (2003) states education is a shared responsibility that should provide “effective early learning standards and program standards, and a set of core principles and values”, (p 2). Curriculums and their assessments should be reliable, accountable as well as developmentally age appropriate and current to trends and issues facing our society today. In reviewing the guidelines of NAEYC and Maryland’s early childhood programs, Maryland’s policies align closely in using coordinated systems, building a framework in which educators and support staff works closely with families on individualized learning goals and objectives. The state of Maryland recognizes the need for ongoing assessments and developmental screening early to provide the necessary resources that children need to thrive.
Teaching standards vary by each state. The assessment of how children develop and acquire knowledge should standard based on the following criteria’s: assessments should be based on a multitude of data collected from observations, portfolios, formal and information instruction, curriculums and testing. The process should be evidence-based, reliable, equitable, unbiased and accountable. The assessments should encompass all areas of childhood development; meaning assessments should be age appropriate. In accordance to these standards and guidelines reported by NBPTS, Maryland mandates each directive in their early childhood program assessments in the instruction of their preschool students to prepare them for kindergarten and beyond. Review of state and national guidelines support literature in which experts (Pyle & DeLuca, 2013) agree that teachers beliefs and evidence plays a tremendous role in how they approach the collection and deliverance of their assessments. Pyle and DeLuca (2013) assert that “there is a need to provide empirical support for kindergarten teachers’ assessment integration and to explore how teachers’ practices align with their curricular orientations”, (p 373).
Entering this profession with limited teaching experience, I have more questions than thoughts on improvement to assessments. Based on my research and personal experience I do raise these three questions. Do we invest enough resources to professional development of early childhood educators in identifying early warning indicators for children that need individualized education plans (e.g. speech therapy, behavioral issues)? Some experts argue about how much worth we place on prekindergarten and kindergarten assessments as we redefine Common Core standards and testing. The District of Columbia recently voted and changed certifications requiring all preschool educators to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Do you feel other states should follow thereby giving more credibility and accountability to making assessments required for children to start their primary education on sound footing? A recent surveyed by Goldstein, McCoach & HuiHui (2017) warns lack of preservice and professional development can be detrimental to early childhood assessment ratings. A recent finding published by Education Week (2016) reported that more than forty percent of the nation’s public schools used individualized instruction (class assignments) as part of their assessment decision to delay kindergarten entry based on the entry assessments performed at the beginning of the school year. Should administrators and teachers be allowed to also factor in spring assessments, along with a child’s social and behavioral development in determining if a child is kindergarten ready?
C.A.S., (2016). How Kindergarten Entry Assessments Are Used in Public Schools and How They Correlate with Spring Assessments. Education Wek, 36(10), 5.
Electronic Learning Community (ELC) (2011). Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA). John Hopkins University School of Education. Retrieved from https://pd.kready.org/105956
Electronic Learning Community (ELC) (2011). R4K: Maryland’s Early Childhood Comprehensive Assessment System. John Hopkins University School of Education. Retrieved from https://pd.kready.org/105953
Goldstein, J. j;, McCoach, D.B., & HuiHui, Y. (2017). The predictive validity of kindergarten readiness judgments: Lessons from one state. Journal of Educational Research, 110(1), 50-60.
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (2003). Early childhood curriculum, assessment, and program evaluation. Retrieved from https://naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/CAPEexpabd.pdf
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). (2012). Early childhood generalist standards (3rd ed.). Retrieved from http://boardcertifiedteachers.org/sites/default/files-EC-GEN.pdf
Pyle, A., a., & DeLuca, C. (2013). Assessment in the Kindergarten Classroom: An Empirical Study of Teachers’ Assessment Approaches. Early Childhood Education Journal, 41(5), 373-380.
Supporting Every Learner: Maryland’s Guide to Early Childhood Pedagogy Birth to Age 8. Maryland State Department of Education (2015). Retrieved from http://earlychildhood.marylandpublicschools.org/system/files/filedepot/3/pedagogyguide-learningstandards_042015_1.pdf