New standards for what a four-year-old should know

New standards for what a four-year-old should know

(Miss.) The Mississippi Department of Education is circulating draft curriculum standard governing what four-year-old children should know and be able to do, including on a social and emotional basis.

Although schools in the state are not required to provide pre-K services—legislation that would have mandated it died last session in committee—a growing number of districts are making the program available as evidence to its critical role continues to mount.

“The publication of the guide marks the completion of Mississippi’s work to create a seamless set of standards that are aligned from birth through the 12th grade,” said state schools chief Carey Wright in a statement. “Mississippi’s early learning community will soon be able to implement a common set of developmentally appropriate milestones for infants and toddlers, as well as learning standards for 3-and 4-year-old children.”

A recent study from Duke University found that students participating in a state-funded early education program scored higher on math and literacy tests in grades three through five than students who didn’t.

They also found that participants were less likely to be retained anytime through grade five as well as less likely to require special education services.

The Legislature has since 2013 provided state grants to a limited number of districts wanting to serve early learners, funding that was increased to $4 million in the 2016-17 budget, according to a survey from the Education Commission of the States.

That same commission report found that just six states—Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming—did not provide some funds for pre-K programs.

Overall, state funding of pre-K programs increased by $480 million since 2015-16.

The proposed early learning standards, which the department is seeking public comments through the end of this week, includes a long list of academic and developmental goals.

Four-year-olds should exhibit curiosity and interest in learning words in print, for instance. They should be able to develop new vocabulary from stories that had been read to them. With prompting, they should be able to identify the front of a book, the back cover and the title page.

A major section is devoted to social and emotional development. With this element, Mississippi joins 40 other states that have established similar policies.

There is an emphasis on building good relationships both with adults as well as other children. Four-year-olds should feel confident in using names and be capable of working in groups.

There should be a willingness to accept assignments, such as clean-up duties. Equally important, young students should be willing to compromise when confronted with dilemma over sharing.

Other social-emotional standards:

  • Demonstrate trust in self. Make positive statements about self, use assertive voice to express self, and accept responsibility for own actions (e.g., say, “I can …”, “I will …”, “I did …”).
  • Develop personal preferences. Express independence, interest, and curiosity (e.g., say, “I can …”, “I choose …” “I want …”). Select and complete tasks (e.g., finish a puzzle or drawing).
  • Show flexibility, inventiveness, and interest in solving problems. Make alternative choices (e.g., move to another area when a center is full). Persist and problem solve when working on a task (e.g., work on a puzzle; rebuild a tower of blocks that has fallen).
  • Know personal information. Describe self using several basic characteristics (e.g., gender, age, hair color, eye color). Refer to self by first and last name. Know parents’/guardians’ names. Recognize and adapt expressions, behaviors, and actions.
  • Show impulse control with body and actions. Control own body in space (e.g., move safely through room without harm to self or others). Follow procedures or routines (e.g., come to circle time when the teacher begins to sing).
  • Manage emotions. With prompting and support, progress from being upset to being calm (e.g., breathe deeply to regain self-control).