Student outcomes continue to be a topic of much attention as the United States attempts to refocus its educational system to one that is effective and accountable. The unifying activity of this emphasis on student achievement has been the common core state standards (corestandards.org), which contain curriculum targets for students in grades K–12 in language arts and mathematics. These core standards were developed through an initiative that was inclusive of many stakeholders and coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Almost all the U.S. states and territories have adopted these knowledge and skill standards to guide the learning of their students from kindergarten until graduation, and beyond, as the common core ultimately seek to prepare students for college and career readiness.
The standards also address students with disabilities and acknowledge the individual needs of such students as specified through the requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Act (IDEA) and a student's Individualized Education Program. The section titled “Application to Students with Disabilities” contains additional helpful information on how to adapt the standards using instructional supports such as universal design, instructional accommodations, and assistive technology services and devices.
The documents that describe and contain the core standards also state that the standards were not designed to dictate how teachers should teach. While the standards contain outcome expectations for students in grade K–12, they do not contain any guidance or requirements for teaching methodology, nor do they specify the materials that teachers should use. As an example, the use of play is highlighted as a valuable activity that could help students meet a standard.
These two areas: (1) accommodations for students with disabilities and (2) the use of age-appropriate learning activities should be a welcomed assurance to readers of Infants & Young Children (IYC). This is especially important as the field of early childhood intervention adopts the use of outcome standards for children participating in publicly funded programs such as those under IDEA, Head Start, or state-funded early care and development programs. Indeed, many states are currently revising their preschool and infant/toddler benchmarks to align with the beginning point of the common core standards at kindergarten, and the recently awarded Early Learning Challenge grants have required states that have adopted the common core to address how children will be ready to meet the new standards.
Of the 35 applications for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grants, nine states received awards: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington. Congratulations to these states as they prepare to meet such goals as aligning and raising standards for their early learning and development programs and raising standards for teacher qualifications and performance. Not unique to these awardees is the challenge to remember the needs of very young children and their parents as we establish learning targets to better prepare our children to achieve in school. We must determine standards that reflect all we know about the science of learning, brain development, self-regulation, social and emotional connections, resilience, and mastery motivation within the frame of individual child and family needs. State early childhood standards must recognize and reflect the critical and dynamic period of growth and development that occurs between the ages of birth to 5 years. Most importantly, early childhood standards must be designed to be implemented within a developmentally appropriate framework that will allow teachers to be creative and flexible when meeting diverse learning needs and achieving student outcomes. Hopefully, knowledge and reason will prevail and the alignment of early childhood standards to the common core will reflect what we know about infants and young children and not be about a downward extension of academic targets to earlier years in a child's life.
Our first article focuses on an area of interest to many in the field. Professional development is a variable in early childhood intervention that has been overlooked as a necessary component to child and family outcomes. There are many strategies through which to provide learning opportunities to practitioners providing service to infants and young children receiving early intervention. The article by Christopher Watson and Shelly Gatti provides us information about the use of reflective supervision as one strategy. The article describes a pilot project that focused on the provision of reflective supervision by a mental health consultant to two early intervention teams. The process of the consultation is described as its effect on staff skills and the provision of services to early intervention participants in the early intervention program. Finally, recommendations for future research are provided.
Our second article by Amy Casey, Robin McWilliam, and Jessica Sims describes a study that examined child engagement in classrooms through the examination of engagement within a group of preschool children with disabilities. The three variables were incidental teaching, developmental quotient, and peer interactions with a group of preschool children with disabilities. Sixty-one young children were observed and assessed on the Engagement Quality and Incidental Teaching for Improved Education (E-Qual-ITIE) during classroom activities. Findings suggested that all variables were related to overall engagement, with incidental teaching the strongest predictor of children's sophisticated engagement. The authors conclude with implications for both further research and early childhood intervention practices.
Lisa Lynn and her colleagues provide an article about a study they conducted with a group of 30 very low-birth-weight infants. The children were then assessed at age 2 to measure their ability to self-regulate. The children were compared with a sample of 36 full-term toddlers. All self-regulatory tasks were found to be related to a child's cognitive and language abilities, and these abilities predicted performance in the inhibition task. Differences were noted, however, in delayed gratification, favoring the full-term
children. The authors conclude with recommendations for further research with this population of very low-birth-weight infants to better predict developmental and learning concerns as these children age. In addition, the authors provide recommendations to enhance a child's higher order learning through the facilitation of self-regulatory behavior.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been very active in recommending that all young children be screened for development and behavior. They have proposed an algorithm for identifying children in need of further referral for evaluation. Brandy Roane, Rachel Valleley, and Keith Allen have examined whether physicians would utilize the algorithm more appropriately if a given positive screen score with a vignette of a child's behaviors compared with only a vignette without a screen score. The screening tool used was the Ages & Stages Questionnaire (ASQ). The results demonstrated that the presence of an ASQ screen score with a vignette about a child resulted in more appropriate physician referrals than those vignettes that did not have an accompanying score. The findings imply that if a formal screen such as the ASQ is used by physicians on their patients, their ability to implement the AAP child screen recommendations will be enhanced.
Our last article by Audette Sylvestre and colleagues examines the contribution of developmental and background variables to delay in both expressive and receptive languages in a group of French-speaking toddlers. These variables were examined in relation to a child's developmental status in language. Findings suggested that parental education and parental stress affected a child's comprehension of language but not language production. Expressive language and vocabulary were affected by a child's biological trajectory. Implications for further research into these relationships are discussed.
I wish to thank our authors for contributing to IYC and also our hardworking editorial board members. I am very pleased that, in this issue, we have international submissions, submissions from new authors, and a submission from the AUCD network.
Happy Spring to all.
—Mary Beth Bruder, PhD