The Common Core State Standards in early childhood education: summary

We hope you have enjoyed our blog forum on Common Core State Standards. There are a lot of people paying attention to this issue.

On day one, we outlined some concerns:

  • Rigorous standards may lead to reduced play and less rich activity in preschool and Kindergarten classrooms.
  • Literacy instruction may become limited to a few texts and drill-and-kill teaching.
  • The standards are complex and extensive, and there is little guidance for teachers to implement them in Kindergarten classrooms.
  • Parents don’t understand the CCSS and are concerned about what they mean for their children.
  • The Kindergarten standards for literacy are not appropriate for children that age.
  • Assessment related to reaching standards will not be developmentally appropriate, and results may be misused.
  • Alignment with K-12 standards will mean teaching methods, subjects, and assessments that are not developmentally appropriate will be pushed down to preschool levels.
  • Math standards will be too challenging for young children.

Projects set 6Our experts addressed many of these. (You can click on March and April in the sidebar to see all posts in this forum, or here for a pdf.) They noted that the standards are not a curriculum; they are standards outlining what children should be expected to know. Expectations are high, but developmentally appropriate. The standards were developed with input from early childhood experts (some of whom responded in this forum) and by early childhood teachers, among others. Some experts explained exactly how the standards are developmentally appropriate.

Commenters expressed the most concern around curriculum and assessment. Some of our experts noted that the CCSS are not a curriculum, but that there is plenty of room to help children meet the standards within a developmentally appropriate curriculum–one including play and plenty of high quality student-teacher conversational opportunities.

Commenters noted that in an ideal world, that is what would happen, but that teachers pressed to show improvements in child outcomes may feel they can only resort to training children for the test. Appropriate assessment in early education classrooms should mean that play and learning provide adequate ‘training’ though. Teachers and observers noted that in many real classrooms, expectations, teaching methods, and assessments are pushed down from higher grades.

For parents who are concerned about the CCSS, our experts pointed out that there have always been standards for learning—and wondered which of the existing standards we would not want our own children to reach?

Across all levels of concern, it seems that attention to clarity would help. Clarity for teachers about what is expected, what is developmentally appropriate–and specifically how they might implement a high quality curriculum (and use appropriate assessment to measure progress)–may help them help children meet the standards.

For administrators, clarity on what a high quality early childhood classroom looks like; appropriate ways to measure quality and success; and guidance in supporting early childhood teachers where they need it most, may help increase understanding about the CCSS and improve classroom practices.

For parents, clarity about specific expectations for their children, about what is going on in the classroom, and about how their child will be evaluated, may help to ease fears of a one-size-fits-all program, and show them how their own child’s needs can be met.

Common Core State Standards may be a useful tool to set expectations for all children, and help to assure that they meet them, but more work is needed to ensure that implementation at all levels meets expectations as well.

We hope this series has helped to clarify some of the issues for you. We’ll be gathering the posts into one pdf document soon, and we are planning to hold a webinar or two as well. Watch this space for more information, and to provide feedback on the CCSS topics of most interest to you (or please comment below).

–Kirsty Clarke Brown, Editor


  1. Donald Yarosz on

    A Taxonomy of Educational Objectives for Young Children: The Affective, Psychomotor, and Cognitive Domains?

    As noted in the introduction to the NIEER BLOG, “A recurring concern is that the Common Core State Standards were developed from the top-down… .” and, “A related issue: Some feel there was insufficient involvement of early childhood research experts in language, literacy, mathematics, and child development in the standards development process.”

    I might add that from the perspective of those familiar with the writing of goals and objectives in education, it appears, not surprisingly, that these standards are based of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the Cognitive Domain. As we explore the Common Core Standards as they relate to early learning, perhaps it is time to contemplate ways that both the affective and psychomotor domains might be better balanced with the cognitive domain in the writing of educational goals and objectives for young children. While many are familiar with Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain (Bloom,, 1956), there was also a second Handbook–Handbook II: Affective Domain (Krathwohl, et. al., 1964), and a third volume planned, but never written. However, A Taxonomy of the Psychomotor Domain (Harrow, 1972) was published, in addition to one by R.H. Dave (1970), as well as one by E.J. Simpson (1972) (see references).

    While these documents, at this point, may appear to be antiquated texts1, it has been noted that “Bloom’s Taxonomy” is one of the most cited but least read texts in all of education. It was originally intended that educators consider all domains, not just one.

    Perhaps, at least for young children, we ought to consider more balance among all three domains of learning rather than placing so much emphasis on the cognitive. It appears that the standards, as written for Kindergarten, for example, place most emphasis on the cognitive domain, with little emphasis on the affective and psychomotor domains (with a few exceptions). So, here are some questions:

    What would a new “Taxonomy of Educational Objectives for Young Children: The Affective, Psychomotor, and Cognitive Domains” look like? Would it be helpful to those writing educational objectives? What would be the implications of such a taxonomy for the way common core are written or revised at some point in the future? What would be the implications of rewritten standards for teachers of young children if they were based on a new and revised taxonomy? How might the affective and psychomotor domains best integrated with the cognitive?

    The good news is that reading through the New Jersey State Department of Education, Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards, it appears many developmental domains are well represented. These standards can provide inspiration for those working on Kindergarten Standards (as well as preschool standards) in all states. Those working on standards in their own states ought to take a close look at these.

    It appears that New Jersey leads the way in terms its comprehensive approach to the development of standards for children and what they offer teachers, as well. Hats off to those who worked so hard to develop these!

    Don Yarosz

    1 Bloom’s Taxonomy was updated in 2001. See Anderson, L.W., Krathwohl, D.R., Airasian, P.W., Cruikshank, K.A., Mayer, R.E., Pintrich, P.R., Raths, J., Wittrock, M.C. (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon.

    Bloom, B.S. (Ed.), Engelhart, M.D., Furst, E.J., Hill, W.H., & Krathwohl, D.R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay

    Dave, R.H. (1970). Psychomotor levels. In RJ. Armstrong (Ed.) Developing and writing educational objectives (pp. 33-34). Tucson AZ: Educational Innovators Press.

    Harrow, A.J. (1972). A taxonomy of the psychomotor domain. New York: David McKay Co.

    Krathwohl, D.R., Bloom, B.S., and Masia, B.B. (1964). Taxonomy of educational objectives: Handbook II: Affective domain. New York: David McKay Co.

    Simpson, E.J. (1972) The Classification of Educational Objectives in the Psychomotor Domain Washington DC: Gryphon House

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