It may seem that learning standards should be the same for students across the country. In reality, state-level and local authorities have the power to establish expectations that are different from those in other states, which creates certain heterogeneity (Piasta, 2014). In particular, the ways of how such inter-state differences in standards emerge refer to state authorities’ ability to define the specificity of commonly recommended performance indicators, thus making standards higher or lower.
One example of the abovementioned tendency is the existence of varying state-level learning standards for the youngest students related to acquiring knowledge that will help children to read. Alphabet knowledge is crucial when it comes to the development of early literacy. Although this priority area finds reflection in the early learning standards of the majority of states, the varying degrees of specificity creates notable differences in how young learners are evaluated (Piasta, 2014). In some states, a preschooler’s performance is considered satisfactory if he or she can name at least some letters and sounds (Piasta, 2014). In other states, there are specific and limiting expectations regarding the exact number of letters that a child should differentiate between and know (Piasta, 2014). Thus, state authorities often use their perspectives on common research-based propositions to alter the content and standards in the way they see fit.
To be effective and promote proper skill and knowledge acquisition in young children, instructional and lesson planning decisions should be aligned with appropriate learning standards. Nowadays, states are different in terms of whether and how they use the Common Core State Standards proposed within the frame of the similarly-named initiative ten years ago. California is among many states that adopted those universal standards in 2010 (California Department of Education, 2019). The state-approved a thorough implementation plan two years later.
As of now, California schools use common learning standards for English language and math. When it comes to young students (grades 1-2), the learning standards contain easy-to-understand statements and goals, but it is hard to find any quantitative indicators of success (CDE, 2019). For instance, children in the first grade should be able to retell stories and understand the key messages that these stories convey. As an early childhood educator, I see the use of the CCSS as an important opportunity. As for me, the key strong point of using these standards is being able to reduce uncertainty and difficulties for new students coming from different states (Ferguson, Green, & Marchel, 2013). Another long-term advantage that I see is the ability to raise new generations of thinkers that would be capable of competing with peers from other countries. Regarding potential challenges, the lack of specificity does not contribute to the standards’ teacher-friendliness, which can create confusion during evaluations. Moreover, despite their proclaimed universal applicability, the proposed CCSS assessments are not the best choice for special needs students, which can be a challenge.
Due to modern technology, teachers can use data-driven decision-making to effectively support children’s academic progress and offer necessary changes or individual accommodations in a timely manner. Data-driven approaches to making instructional decisions are extremely attractive when it comes to reliability of conclusions, practical usability, and being able to study children’s patterns of learning and the speed of knowledge acquisition. Nevertheless, teachers, including me, may find the process of synthesizing student data challenging and difficult to implement. The credibility of data from student assessments is a critical prerequisite to making accurate data-driven decisions, but childhood assessments can sometimes be difficult to organize. Thus, one of the most critical concerns that I have in this regard is the need to make sure that all student assessments are well-aligned with students’ abilities and age-specific characteristics (Carnegie Mellon University, n.d.).
Other concerns that are worthy of notice are being able to properly use and interpret data related to students’ classroom behaviors and resolving potential conflicts between different sources of data. Apart from student assessments, information about children’s disruptive behaviors can also facilitate effective data-driven decisions (McAfee, Leong, & Bodrova, 2016). My concern related to this aspect of data synthesis is the degree to which I am able to identify the instances of poor classroom behavior that have to deal with children’s unobvious health issues. Next, as any teacher, I engage in communication with students’ families and notice that parent-reported information about children’s abilities and behaviors is sometimes disconnected from the results of observations and assessments, which indicates the need for additional evaluations prior to the stage of data synthesis.
In case of concerns or questions related to making data-driven educational decisions, classroom teachers should get professional support in a prompt manner to avoid restricting children’s access to high-quality educational services. To start with, if decision-making concerns are specifically related to data gaps, it can be reasonable to get support from relevant subject matter specialists. Such specialists include speech-language pathologists, child psychologists, pediatricians, pediatric nurses, and so on (McAfee et al., 2016). Apart from that, in case of questions regarding how to use learning standards in data-driven decision-making, it is possible to contact school administrators and local departments of education to get additional information and guidelines. Alternatively, in some cases, classroom teachers can benefit from contacting the representatives of professional associations of educators or accessing their products and practical recommendations. In the context of early childhood education, these authoritative organizations may include the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the National Head Start Association, or the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. With that in mind, there are multiple potential sources of support.
Carnegie Mellon University. (n.d.). Why should assessments, learning objectives, and instructional strategies be aligned?
Ferguson, C. J., Green, S. K., & Marchel, C. A. (2013). Teacher-made assessments show children’s growth. Young Children, 28-37.
McAfee, O. D., Leong, D. J., & Bodrova, E. (2016). Assessing and guiding young children’s development and learning (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Piasta, S. B. (2014). Moving to assessment-guided differentiated instruction to support young children’s alphabet knowledge. The Reading Teacher, 68(3), 202-211.
California Department of Education. (2019). Common Core State Standards.