Policies and Regulations for Early Childhood Education

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


Fostering Positive Classroom Environments

Many educators and researchers consider the classroom environment as the third teacher, an additional resource for children to engage critical thinking and enhance their learning experiences.  Creating a creative classroom environment can be extremely effective in early childhood education programs.  In Cortes (2013) dissertation she discusses how teachers’ design of a classroom environment can be an effective tool in literacy instruction.

Research determined that children can spend more than 10,000 hours in early childcare programs before beginning their primary education.  Classroom environments should inspire children to explore and learn in an environment that is comfortable, safe and fun.  Using a case study design with participant observations interviews and literature reviews, Cortes selects a university laboratory preschool to conduct her study.  The literature review for the study is divided into four sections: child development laboratory schools, cognitive and development design methods and tools, and preschool design knowledge.

Adding to her breadth of knowledge, Cortes selects Cutler et al. (2012) research on laboratory schools utilized as places of inquiry.  Laboratory schools provide avenues and environments for researchers in education to collaborate with educators and students using the Reggio approach to education.  McBride & Hicks (1999) study on teacher training and research examines the relationship between teachers, researchers, parents and other community officials working in collaboration on child development in early childhood education.

Cortes utilizes another study of McBride with other collaborators as they research new models and approaches to early childhood education and development in the 21st century.  Another critical review that Cortes bases her study on is Rinaldi’s (2006) discussion on Reggio Emilia approach to learning in early childhood education.

  Reggio Emilia methodologies of documenting, observing and interpretation of children’s responses to classroom activities is considered to be one of the more prominent assessment tools, as well as training tools for teachers, used in early childhood programs.  Fostering nurturing environments for children to thrive emotionally, socially and intellectually requires several of the resources and tools that Cortes identifies and evaluates in her dissertation. “By combining many different elements in the classroom there is a sense of “rich normality” that allows a great variety of activities and learning experiences to take place”, (p 15.)

The inclusion of Guy et al. (2012) research on literacy environments supports Cortes argument that classrooms are living environments that add to the learning experiences of children in early childhood education.  Cortes states “The design of a classroom that promotes free-play activities by providing literacy props has been found to positively affect the interest that children show in including literacy behaviors while they play”, (p 25).


Cortes, C. (2013). Designing literacy rich classroom environments for young children: A study of teachers’ design processes and tools (Order No. 1546891). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1460288065). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/docview/1460288065?accountid=14872

Cutler, K., Bersani, C., Hutchins, P., Browne, M., Lash, M., Kroeger, J., Brokmeier, S., Venhuizer, L., & Black, F. (2012). Laboratory schools as places of inquiry: A collaboration journey for two laboratory schools. [Electronic version]. Early Education and Development & Development, 23(2), 242-258. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/104092 89

Guo, Y., L.M. Justice, J.N. Kaderavek, and A. McGinty. The literacy environment of preschool classrooms: Contributions to children’s emergent literacy growth. [Electronic version]. Journal of Research in Reading. 35.3 (2012): 308-327. Retrieved February 20, 2013, from http:// dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9817.2010.01467.x

McBride, B. A., & Hicks, T. (1999). Teacher training and research: does it make a difference in lab school program quality? [Electronic version]. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 20(1), 19-27. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://dx.doi. org/10.1080/0163638990200105.2012.647609

McBride, B. A., Groves, M., Barbour, N., Horm, D., Stremmel, A., Lash, M., Bersani, C., Ratekin. C., Moran, J., Elicker, J., & Touissaint, S. (2012). Child development laboratory schools as generators of knowledge in early education: new models and approaches. [Electronic version]. Early Education & Development,23(2), 153-164. Retrieved October 25, 2012, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2012.651068

Rinaldi, C. (2006). In dialogue with Reggio Emilia. listening, researching and learning. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.


Welcome to my blog.  I’ve spent more than half of my adult career working in telecommunications.  Before completing my undergraduate degree in Communication Studies, I had an “aha” moment which pointed me towards getting additional knowledge and degrees in Early Childhood Education.  My goal is to put this knowledge to use in a second career as an advocate for children and educators.  My passion is to work with educators and researchers in bridging the gap in childhood literacy.

I’m still evolving

July 2013

Perseverance. Believing. Everyday there is a lesson to learn and I’ve learned quite a few. I started this journey towards obtaining my master’s last fall. The beginning of 2013 had me questioning my choice. Was I pursuing the right dream or had I simply pushed too hard? So in March, I withdrew from my classes and took a deep breath. When I came up for air, I found my purpose was still intact but simply took another direction. It’s July and I’m feeling renewed. I’m still on the road to obtaining my master’s in education. Only now my focus is Early Childhood Studies. I believe in the proverb of “it takes a village to raise a child”. I can’t wait to get started and be able to share my journey with you.

June 2016

July 2013 was my first personal blog entry as I entered the Master’s Program at Walden University.  Last June I completed my studies and am actually walking in a few weeks. What a journey it’s been so far.  There’s a little bit more gray in my hair, yet I continue to press forward in my goal to make a difference in the lives of our youngest generation.  As I continue my educational journey, I’ve found that advocating  is becoming a passion.  Working with children on reading and literacy issues is a joy.  I continue to work with a local before/aftercare program in developing reading and language platforms.  I am a firm believer that the earlier children can find and apply their voice, the better success they have at school and in life.

I’m fascinated by how the pieces connect.  The importance of prenatal care.  How brain research helps us understand cognitive, behavioral and socio-emotional development.  The more information I learn, the more engrossed and engaged I become.  This journey is far from over.  Drop in from time and time and share what I learn.

My Journey Continues

“Opportunities to make change”

For the life of an educator, these words ring at the core of our being.  It is what makes us continue to promote new ideas, research and explore new possibilities.  When I started this journey three years ago, my mind was an open sponge.  Today I find that my sponge has enlarged abundantly.  The beauty of education is that as long as you have an open mind, you continue to learn, to process, adapt and make change.

The assignment that resonated the most with me this term was the discussion on attachment.  From birth, we learn.  Edelman (2016) commented in a recent child watch column how from the time we are born we are “wired” to interact with people.  Good, bad or indifferent it’s these attachments that we make that allows us to grow and adapt to each circumstance of our lives.  Experiences can make us resilient and strong, and others can leave us feeling insecure, unwanted and emotionally detached.  Repeated emotional trauma as studies report find “that children who combine a behaviorally inhibited temperament with an insecure attachment status display the highest levels of anxiety disorders symptoms”, (Muris et al., 2011, p 158).

How we respond as parents and educators can make a world of difference to a child who needs reassurance.  A colleague of mine, Kim Edwards brought up one of the most critical components that we can provide the children that we encounter; that is that the backdrop or story of a child is critical in how they learn.  As Edwards (2016) stated poignantly “When people hear a story that they can relate to they are more likely to empathize with the story and act upon it”.

Early childhood development lays the foundation or the blueprint of how children flourish mentally, physically and emotionally.  They absorb and learn so much before they begin the first grade.  The seeds we plant has to grow strong roots in order for them to navigate through life.  As I continue to pursue my studies in the field, I still feel strongly that working in the early childhood education field I can make a difference.  In my love for reading, I want to continue to challenge children to read and love the sound of their voice, on paper and out loud in their own words.  For children to communicate and be vocal early in life sets the stage for exploration and learning.

As educators we can help promote that opportunity by becoming their advocate.  We can help deter physical and emotional abuse if we allow ourselves to be open to listen and show we care.  We can show a child a world full of wonderment that they want to be excited about.  We have to take those opportunities to teach when and where we see them.  That’s my dream.  It has become my goal.

Last week when I was recording my advocacy piece on resilience, my husband listened quietly from the hall.  When I finished he told me that I had to find a way to use my voice on this journey towards my new career.  So, I hope you continue to follow my blog.  Starting next month, I’m committing to incorporating a podcast every month regarding a current issue in early childhood education on my page.  I look forward to any comments you all have to offer.



Edelman, M. W. (2016).  Mother’s Day Call to Action.  Retrieved from  http://cdf.childrensdefense.org/site/MessageViewer?dlv_id=46320&em_id=45471.0

Edwards, K. (2016).  Child Development and Learning: Attachment.  Retrieved from http://kimedwardssite.wordpress.com

Laureate Education (Producer). (2015m). Vision of the field of early childhood [Audio file]. Baltimore, MD: Author

Muris, P., Brakel, A., Arntz, A., & Schouten, E. (2011). Behavioral Inhibition as a Risk Factor for the Development of Childhood Anxiety Disorders: A Longitudinal Study. Journal Of Child & Family Studies, 20(2), 157-170.



Brain Development and Early Childhood Education


As an advocate for early childhood education, the following would be disseminated as a brief to the Maryland State Assembly in support funding additional research in study brain development specifically as it relates to the development of young children.


“Early brain development is for the long-term” (Mustard & Rowcliffe, 2009, p 150)


From conception until the day we die, our brains process every thought and interaction we have. Recent brain and educational research (Begley, 1997; Families and Work Institute, 1996; Gonzalez-Mena & Eyer, 2007; Jensen, 2005; Shore, 2003; Wittmer & Petersen, 2006) clearly shows these neural pathways can be made richer and stronger through appropriate early care and challenging experiences that take place in carefully designed, nourishing environments.”, (Rike, Taylor & Moberly, 2008, p 23).  Wasserman (2007) states that “the 21st century has brought about many new technological advances that help to pinpoint specific areas of the brain that have difficulty and need to be improved to aid the education of the children within our classrooms”. (p 415).

For a child the human brain develops more than ninety percent (Rees, Booth & Jones, 2016) before their sixth birthday. According to Lebedeva (2015) the framework of the brain relies on four systems: regulation, sensory, executive and relevance.  Regulation controls our appetite, sleep, our stress levels and recovery system and without it we are unable to learn or process any information (Lebedeva, 2015).  Regulation is dominantly observed during the infant stage of early childhood.  “One dominant theory is the Mutual Regulation Model (Tronick & Beeghly, 2011), where it is the co-regulation of both the care provider and the infant (or child) that creates the brain patterns conducive to learning”, (Lebedeva, 2015, p 23).

During the first three years, particularly year three, relevance in brain development is where emotions, along with sensations begin to create memories and find intentions. Using the sensory system children begin to place senses in how they relate to relevance.  As early childcare educators, observations of this growth is evident as children experience new experiences.  Lastly, the executive system in brain development as Lebedeva (2015) reports is real time processing of intellect and emotions.  During preschool years children begin to correlate how emotions work with critical thinking and which are appropriate or inappropriate behavior.  Early childhood care providers can help children navigate through these feelings and place merit on their purpose.

“When providers are supported in seeing behaviors in the context of these systems, they are better able to understand that all behaviors have meaning, and are influenced by a child’s earliest relationships”, (Lebedeva, 2015, p 24).  “Universally-targeted educational programmes which encourage learning in a way that is supported by the available literature on brain development have the potential to be beneficial for children’s learning”, (Rees, Booth & Jones, 2016, p 13).  Early education programs can show and demonstrate “strong evidence of the flexibility of the children’s brains as they pursued never-ending possibilities for exploring and learning with the materials”, (Curtis, 2014, p 26).

In conclusion Rike, Taylor and Moberly (2015) state the job of early childhood educators the best and why knowledge of brain development is important to our field: “we build brains”.  Without research and study of brain development in young children, we cannot effectively utilize tools and resources they need to successfully grow.



Curtis, D. (2014). Seeing children find endless possibilities. Exchange (19460406), (215), 24-27.

Lebedeva, G. (2015). Building brains one relationship at a time. Exchange (19460406), (226), 21-25.

Mustard, J. F., & Rowcliffe, P. (2009). The long reach of early childhood. Our Schools / Our Selves, 18(3), 149-158.

Rees, P., Booth, R., & Jones, A. (2016). The emergence of neuroscientific evidence on brain plasticity: Implications for educational practice. Educational & Child Psychology, 33(1), 8-19.

Rike, C. J., Izumi-Taylor, S., & Moberly, D. (2008). We grow brains!  Exchange (19460406), (181), 22-26

Wasserman, L. (2007). The correlation between brain development, language acquisition, and cognition. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(6), 415-418