Taking a Stance in Complicated Situations

As Early Childhood Educators we are constantly faced with ethical dilemmas. We have to find a balance between what we believe is right and what is being required of us. Consider the following scenario: Eduardo, age six, has just been assigned to Rachel¿s class. Eduardo acts out, hits other children, and screams when he doesn¿t get his own way. In a team meeting, Rachel asks for ideas on how to help guide Eduardo¿s behavior. One of Rachel¿s colleagues suggests that when he hits another child, she should ¿ just give him a good whack on the bottom, and he¿ll soon get the message not to hit others.¿ Rachel needs to decide how to handle disagreeing with a colleague over the best course of action to follow when dealing with a child¿s behavior problem. She could suggest immediately that giving children ¿ a good whack¿ is developmentally and culturally inappropriate, or she could talk after the meeting and share her views that she doesn¿t think physical punishment is a way to guide children¿s behavior, or she could report her colleague to the central administration, or pursue another course of action. In a one to two page paper with proper APA format and citations, respond to the questions listed below. Concisely state: a) What is your stance on parents using corporal punishment? b) What role do you think teachers need to play in monitoring each other? c) How much disruption should a teacher and classroom tolerate before disruptive children are removed from the classroom/school?
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Position Statement
Developmentally Appropriate Practice
in Early Childhood Programs Serving
Children from Birth through Age 8
Adopted 2009
A position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children
The purpose of this position statement is to promote excellence in early childhood education by
providing a framework for best practice. Grounded
both in the research on child development and
learning and in the knowledge base regarding
educational effectiveness, the framework outlines
practice that promotes young children?s optimal
learning and development. Since its first adoption
in 1986, this framework has been known as developmentally appropriate practice.1
The profession?s responsibility to promote
quality in the care and education of young children
compels us to revisit regularly the validity and currency of our core knowledge and positions, such
as this one on issues of practice. Does the position
need modification in light of a changed context? Is
there new knowledge to inform the statement? Are
there aspects of the existing statement that have
given rise to misunderstandings and misconceptions that need correcting?
Over the several years spent in developing
this revision, NAEYC invited the comment of early
childhood educators with experience and expertise from infancy to the primary grades, including
a late 2006 convening of respected leaders in the
field. The result of this broad gathering of views is
this updated position statement, which addresses
the current context and the relevant knowledge
base for developmentally appropriate practice and
seeks to convey the nature of such practice clearly
and usefully.
This statement is intended to complement
NAEYC?s other position statements on practice,
which include Early Learning Standards and Early
Childhood Curriculum, Assessment, and Program
Evaluation, as well as the Code of Ethical Conduct
and NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards and
Accreditation Criteria.2
Note­: Throughout this statement, the terms teacher, practitioner,
and educator are variously used to refer to those working in the
early childhood field. The word teacher is always intended to
refer to any adult responsible for the direct care and education
of a group of children in any early childhood setting. Included are
not only classroom teachers but also infant/toddler caregivers,
family child care providers, and specialists in other disciplines
who fulfill the role of teacher. In more instances, the term practitioners is intended to also include a program?s administrators.
Educators is intended to also include college and university
faculty and other teacher trainers.
Copyright © 2009 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children
2
Critical issues in the current context
Since the 1996 version of this position statement,
the landscape of early childhood education in the
United States has changed significantly and a number of issues have grown in importance. Shortage
of good care for children in the highly vulnerable
infant and toddler years has become critical.3 Issues
of home language and culture, second language
learning, and school culture have increased with
the steady growth in the number of immigrant families and children in our population.4 In addition, far
more children with special needs (including those
with disabilities, those at risk for disabilities, and
those with challenging behaviors) participate in typical early childhood settings today than in the past.5
As for teachers, the nation continues to struggle
to develop and maintain a qualified teaching force.6
This difficulty is especially acute in the underfunded early childhood arena, especially the child
care sector, which is losing well prepared teaching
staff and administrators at an alarming rate.7
Looking forward, demographic trends predict
a modest growth in the number of young children
in the population, significant increases in the
demand for early care and education, dramatic
increases in children?s cultural and linguistic diversity, and unless conditions change, a greater share
of children living in poverty. Among these, the
biggest single child-specific demographic change
in the United States over the next 20 years is predicted to be an increase in children whose home
language is not English.8
Also significant is that policy makers and the
public are far more aware of the importance of
the early childhood years in shaping children?s
futures. Based on this widespread recognition and
the context of early childhood education today, it
was decided this statement would highlight three
challenges: reducing learning gaps and increasing
the achievement of all children; creating improved,
better connected education for preschool and
elementary children; and recognizing teacher
knowledge and decision making as vital to educational effectiveness.
Reducing learning gaps and increasing
the achievement of all children
All families, educators, and the larger society
hope that children will achieve in school and go
on to lead satisfying and productive lives. But
that optimistic future is not equally likely for all of
the nation?s schoolchildren. Most disturbing, lowincome and African American and Hispanic students lag significantly behind their peers on standardized comparisons of academic achievement
throughout the school years, and they experience
more difficulties while in the school setting.9
Behind these disparities in school-related
performance lie dramatic differences in children?s
early experiences and access to good programs
and schools. Often there is also a mismatch
between the ?school? culture and children?s cultural backgrounds.10 A prime difference in children?s early experience is in their exposure to
language, which is fundamental in literacy development and indeed in all areas of thinking and
learning. On average, children growing up in lowincome families have dramatically less rich experience with language in their homes than do middleclass children:11 They hear far fewer words and are
engaged in fewer extended conversations. By 36
months of age, substantial socioeconomic disparities already exist in vocabulary knowledge,12 to
name one area.
Children from families living in poverty or in
households in which parent education is low typically enter school with lower levels of foundational
skills, such as those in language, reading, and
mathematics.13 On starting kindergarten, children
in the lowest socioeconomic group have average
cognitive scores that are 60 percent below those
of the most affluent group. Explained largely by
socioeconomic differences among ethnic groups,
average math achievement is 21 percent lower for
African American children than for white children
and 19 percent lower for Hispanic children than
for non-Hispanic white children.14 Moreover, due to
deep-seated equity issues present in communities
and schools, such early achievement gaps tend to
increase rather than diminish over time.15
Concerns over the persistence of achievement gaps between subgroups are part of a larger
concern about lagging student achievement in the
United States and its impact on American economic competitiveness in an increasingly global
economy. In comparisons with students of other
industrialized countries, for example, America?s
students have not consistently fared well on tests
of educational achievement.16
Copyright © 2009 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children
3
It is these worries that drive the powerful
?standards/accountability? movement. Among the
movement?s most far-reaching actions has been
the 2001 passing of No Child Left Behind (NCLB),
which made it national policy to hold schools
accountable for eliminating the persistent gaps in
achievement between different groups of children.
With the aim of ensuring educational equity, the
law requires the reporting of scores disaggregated
by student group; that is, reported separately for
the economically disadvantaged, major racial and
ethnic minorities, special education recipients,
and English language learners.17 By requiring the
reporting of achievement by student group and
requiring all groups to make achievement gains
annually, NCLB seeks to make schools accountable
for teaching all their students effectively.
Whether NCLB and similar ?accountability?
mandates can deliver that result is hotly debated,
and many critics argue that the mandates have
unintended negative consequences for children,
teachers, and schools, including narrowing the
curriculum and testing too much and in the wrong
ways. Yet the majority of Americans support the
movement?s stated goals,18 among them that all
children should be achieving at high levels.19 This
public support?for the goals, if not the methods?
can be viewed as a demand that educators do
something to improve student achievement and
close the gaps that all agree are damaging many
children?s future prospects and wasting their
potential.
Learning standards and accountability policies
have impinged directly on public education from
grade K and up, and they are of growing relevance
to preschool education, as well. As of 2007, more
than three-quarters of the states had some sort
of early learning standards?that is, standards for
the years before kindergarten?and the remaining
states had begun developing them.20 Head Start
has put in place a ?child outcomes framework,?
which identifies learning expectations in eight
domains.21 National reports and public policy statements have supported the creation of standardsbased curriculum as part of a broader effort to
build children?s school readiness by improving
teaching and learning in the early years.22 For its
part, NAEYC has position statements defining the
features of high-quality early learning standards,
curriculum, and assessment.23
So we must close existing learning gaps and
enable all children to succeed at higher levels?but
how? While this question is not a new one, in the
current context it is the focus of increased attention. As later outlined in ?Applying New Knowledge
to Critical Issues,? accumulating evidence and
innovations in practice now provide guidance as
to the knowledge and abilities that teachers must
work especially hard to foster in young children, as
well as information on how teachers can do so.
Creating improved, better connected
education for preschool and elementary
children
For many years, preschool education and elementary education?each with its own funding
sources, infrastructure, values, and traditions?
have remained largely separate. In fact, the education establishment typically has not thought of
preschool as a full-fledged part of American public
education. Among the chief reasons for this view
is that preschool is neither universally funded by
the public nor mandatory.24 Moreover, preschool
programs exist within a patchwork quilt of sponsorship and delivery systems and widely varying
teacher credentials. Many programs came into
being primarily to offer child care for parents who
worked. In recent years, however, preschool?s educational purpose and potential have been increasingly recognized, and this recognition contributes
to the blurring of the preschool-elementary boundary. The two spheres now have substantial reasons
to strive for greater continuity and collaboration.
One impetus is that mandated accountability
requirements, particularly third grade testing,
exert pressures on schools and teachers at K?2,25
who in turn look to teachers of younger children to
help prepare students to demonstrate the required
proficiencies later. A related factor is the growth of
state-funded prekindergarten, located in schools
or other community settings, which collectively
serves more than a million 3- and 4-year-olds.
Millions more children are in Head Start programs
and child care programs that meet state prekindergarten requirements and receive state preK
dollars. Head Start, serving more than 900,000
children nationwide, is now required to coordinate
with the public schools at the state level.26 Title I
dollars support preschool education and services
for some 300,000 children. Nationally, about 35
Copyright © 2009 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children
4
percent of all 4-year-olds are in publicly supported
prekindergarten programs.27
For its part, the world of early care and education stands to gain in some respects from a
closer relationship with the K?12 system. Given
the shortage of affordable, high-quality programs
for children under 5 and the low compensation
for those staff, advocates see potential benefits to
having more 4-year-olds, and perhaps even 3-yearolds, receive services in publicly funded schooling.
Proponents also hope that a closer relationship
between early-years education and the elementary
grades would lead to enhanced alignment and each
sphere?s learning from the other,28 thus resulting
in greater continuity and coherence across the
preK?3 span.
At the same time, however, preschool educators have some fears about the prospect of the
K?12 system absorbing or radically reshaping
education for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds, especially
at a time when pressures in public schooling are
intense and often run counter to the needs of
young children. Many early childhood educators
are already quite concerned about the current
climate of increased high-stakes testing adversely
affecting children in grades K?3, and they fear
extension of these effects to even younger children. Even learning standards, though generally
supported in principle in the early childhood
world,29 are sometimes questioned in practice
because they can have negative effects.
Early learning standards are still relatively
new, having been mandated by Good Start, Grow
Smart in 2002 for the domains of language, literacy,
and mathematics. While some states have taken a
fairly comprehensive approach across the domains
of learning and development, others focus heavily
on the mandated areas, particularly literacy. When
state standards are not comprehensive, the curriculum driven by those standards is less likely to be
so, and any alignment will likely address only those
few curriculum areas identified in the standards.
Such narrowing of curriculum scope is one
shortcoming that can characterize a set of standards; there can be other deficiencies, too. To be
most beneficial for children, standards need to be
not only comprehensive but also address what is
important for children to know and be able to do;
be aligned across developmental stages and age/
grade levels; and be consistent with how children
develop and learn. Unfortunately, many state stan-
dards focus on superficial learning objectives, at
times underestimating young children?s competence and at other times requiring understandings
and tasks that young children cannot really grasp
until they are older.30 There is also growing concern that most assessments of children?s knowledge are exclusively in English, thereby missing
important knowledge a child may have but cannot
express in English.31
Alignment is desirable, indeed critical, for
standards to be effective. Yet effective alignment
consists of more than simplifying for a younger
age group the standards appropriate for older
children. Rather than relying on such downward
mapping, developers of early learning standards
should base them on what we know from research
and practice about children from a variety of
backgrounds at a given stage/age and about the
processes, sequences, variations, and long-term
consequences of early learning and development.32
As for state-to-state alignment, the current situation is chaotic. Although discussion about establishing some kind of national standards framework
is gaining momentum, there is no common set of
standards at present. Consequently, publishers
competing in the marketplace try to develop curriculum and textbooks that address the standards
of all the states. Then teachers feel compelled to
cover this large array of topics, teaching each only
briefly and often superficially. When such curriculum and materials are in use, children move
through the grades encountering a given topic in
grade after grade?but only shallowly each time?
rather than getting depth and focus on a smaller
number of key learning goals and being able to
master these before moving on.33
Standards overload is overwhelming to teachers and children alike and can lead to potentially
problematic teaching practices. At the preschool
and K?3 levels particularly, practices of concern
include excessive lecturing to the whole group,
fragmented teaching of discrete objectives, and
insistence that teachers follow rigid, tightly paced
schedules. There is also concern that schools are
curtailing valuable experiences such as problem
solving, rich play, collaboration with peers, opportunities for emotional and social development,
outdoor/physical activity, and the arts. In the
high-pressure classroom, children are less likely
to develop a love of learning and a sense of their
own competence and ability to make choices, and
Copyright © 2009 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children
5
they miss much of the joy and expansive learning
of childhood.34
Educators across the whole preschool-primary
spectrum have perspectives and strengths to bring
to a closer collaboration and ongoing dialogue. The
point of bringing the two worlds together is not for
children to learn primary grade skills at an earlier
age; it is for their teachers to take the first steps
together to ensure that young children develop and
learn, to be able to acquire such skills and understandings as they progress in school.
The growing knowledge base can shed light on
what an exchanging of best practices might look
like,35 as noted later in ?Applying New Knowledge
to Critical Issues.? Through increased communication and collaboration, both worlds can learn
much that can contribute to improving the educational experiences of all young children and to
making those experiences more coherent.
Recognizing teacher knowledge and
decision making as vital to educational
effectiveness
The standards/accountability movement has led
to states and other stakeholders spelling out what
children should know and be able to do at various grade levels. Swift improvement in student
achievement across all student subgroups has
been demanded. Under that mandate, many policy
makers and administrators understandably gravitate toward tools and strategies intended to expedite the education enterprise, including ?teacher
proofing? curriculum, lessons, and schedules. As
a result, in some states and districts, teachers in
publicly funded early childhood settings report
that they are allowed far less scope in classroom
decision making than they were in the past,36 in
some cases getting little to no say in the selection
of curriculum and assessments or even in their use
of classroom time.
How much directing and scaffolding of teachers? work is helpful, and how much teacher autonomy is necessary to provide the best teaching and
learning for children? The answer undoubtedly
varies with differences among administrators and
teachers themselves and the contexts in which
they work.
A great many school administrators (elementary principals, superintendents, district staff) lack
a background in early childhood education, and
their limited knowledge of young children?s development and learning means they are not always
aware of what is and is not good practice with children at that age. Teachers who have studied how
young children learn and develop and effective
ways of teaching them are more likely to have this
specialized knowledge. Moreover, it is the tea …
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