Common Core State Standards Often Get it Wrong Says Geselle Inst on Child Development

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Common Core State Standards often get it wrong when it comes to how children are expected to learn, and how they actually develop says Geselle Inst. an advocacy and child develeopment/best practices policy group.

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Gesell Institute of Child Development is calling for best practice for the Common Core State Standards or for any set of learning standards – which means applying the principles of child development when teaching young children. All early childhood programs birth to age eight—be it publicly funded, private, Head Start, childcare, prestigious prep schools, religiously oriented schools and centers, Moms and Pops programs, and even home-schoolers—need to accept and embrace that standards are important in planning programs and curricula to prepare children for their role in a global society. However, the ideologies behind standards for young children are to a certain degree different than for older children.

Standards for young children are more like ‘guidelines’ or an outline of how a child will develop the given set of skills and behaviors. They are not lock-step, rigid benchmarks to be achieved by all children in the time frame assigned to the standard. Dr. Arnold Gesell, known as the Father of Child Development, was the first to document that all children pass through the same stages of development, but that each child has his/her own rate and pace. For example, some babies start to walk at 9 months; others do not walk until 15 months. Both early walkers and later walkers are well with the range of normal. Likewise, some children will learn to read at, or even before, age 4 years and others not until age 7 years. Both early readers and later readers are well within the normal range. Furthermore, just as early walkers are not better walkers than their later-walking peers; early readers have no advantage over later readers at the end of third grade. Early readers are not smarter than later readers, as some later readers surpass early readers and become merit scholars and cum laude graduates at major universities.

This first principle of child development, children grow and develop at their own pace, should be applied to the Common Core Standards. Some children will not reach the K standards until Grade 1 or even Grade 2. Likewise some children will reach the Grade 2 standards in Kindergarten. This is normal. Each child is unique. Children should not be punished, chastised, or belittled during these early years if they don’t meet some standards according to the time frame. It is not that the child “can’t” learn it, it is rather “not yet.” Child development cannot be mandated to happen in a certain year. However, all children can be exposed to the skills and behaviors found in the Common Core Standards at their grade level in a developmentally appropriate way—which leads to the second principle for best practice.

The second principle of child development that should be applied to the Common Core Standards is that children learn best when taught in a developmentally appropriate way. There is much research and neuro-science to prove this fact. Understanding how young children learn is crucial for implementing this principle. Young children, birth to age 8, learn best through all their senses which includes interactions with real world objects and people. New knowledge is built upon old knowledge; so knowing where a child is on the path of development helps teachers help the child. For example, numeracy is best learned when young children can manipulate objects in front of them and see concretely that 10 items can be grouped in multiple ways: 5+5, 2+8, 1+9, etc. PreK children are usually capable of understanding up to three to five objects. They are not ready to move on until they master 5. Kindergarten children should be able to master 10 objects, but then again, not all children (refer to principle one above). Teachers of young children need to understand this principle of child development, as do supervisors and administrators.

Gesell Institute of Child Development strongly believes that the principles of child development must be used in all decision making about young children. In fact, the Institute recently conducted a national demographically diverse study of child ages 3-6 years of age and found that children today are developing in much the same way as they always have since Dr. Gesell first started collecting data 100 years ago. This comes as no surprise to most early childhood professionals. Children are not developing faster and getting smarter sooner due to computers, educational television, and specialized learning games (look at our test scores to prove this point).
Children cannot be pushed to develop faster and sooner, yet many schools are promoting a “push-down” curriculum today making Kindergartens across the county look more like first grade. Child development must be respected to ensure that children are ready for their role as adults in the 21st global society; and this best practice approach to the Common Core Standards is the only way to ensure that the goals will be reached.


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