Early Learning and Development Standards

The 2013 Rhode Island Early Learning and Development Standards are intended to provide guidance to families, teachers, and administrators on what children should know and be able to do as they enter kindergarten.

They are intended to be inclusive of all children - English language learners, children with special health care needs, children with disabilities, and children who are typically developing - recognizing that all children may meet the Early Learning and Development Standards. The standards were approved for use by the Rhode Island Board of Education on May 23, 2013.

For additional information on the Rhode Island Early Learning and Development Standards (RIELDS) please:


 

It has recently come to our attention that there was an error on one page in the printed and electronic copies of the RI Early Learning and Development Standards document. On page 25, Learning Goal SE: 3.a. should read “Children develop the ability to express and regulate their own emotions” instead of “Children develop the confidence to complete an action successfully or independently” which is repeated from Learning Goal SE: 2.b. A replacement page can be found in the “Documents” section below. We ask that everyone replace the incorrect page with the new, revised page.

The 2013 Rhode Island Early Learning and Development Standards extend Rhode Island’s 2003 early learning standards, which were originally created by the state’s Early Childhood Task Force. The 2003 standards were based on the then-latest research on child development and learning, and they provided clear and comprehensive guidance to families, teachers, and administrators on what children should know and be able to do by the time they enter kindergarten. The 2003 standards were of exceptionally high quality and thus provided the foundation for the revisions.

Since 2003, the field of early learning has seen dramatic advances. For example, the National Early Literacy Panel (2008) and National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2008) have published groundbreaking reports that summarize the scientific literature on the development of literacy and mathematical skills in very young children. The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University has also stimulated advancements in the field by articulating the key components of executive functioning—a set of skills that lay the foundation for adaptive, goal-directed thinking and behavior that enable children to override more automatic or impulsive actions and reactions. At the same time, Head Start and Early Head Start have adopted new national standards (2007), and most states have endorsed the K–12 Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics. Rhode Island’s revised early learning and development standards incorporate principles from these scientific advances and national-level indicators.

In 2011, Rhode Island was one of nine states to be awarded a federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant, which provided the state with the resources to revise its early learning standards. The Rhode Island Department of Education and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services worked collaboratively with national experts, Rhode Island’s higher education community, and Rhode Island’s early childhood stakeholders to articulate this new set of early learning and development standards that meet or exceed nationally recognized criteria and that are uniquely adapted for the children and families in the state.

These standards extend educational expectations to infants and toddlers, and they are integrated with preschool early learning standards to create a seamless birth-to-60-month continuum. The standards are set forth with the following important considerations, which are relevant to all early learners:
  • Early learning occurs within the context of nurturing relationships; it is only through consistent and secure early relationships that children feel safe enough to explore their environments and learn.
  • Play—especially with adults and with other children—is a key element for early learning and a primary vehicle through which young children begin to understand themselves in relation to others and to orient themselves to the world and to the delight of learning. Strictly defined, it is any freely sought activity that is pleasing to the “player.” It can be physical (bouncing up and down or riding a tricycle), imaginative (playing “peek-a-boo” or “dress-up”), creative (building with blocks or drawing pictures), social (acting out a dramatic episode), or mental (daydreaming). And it can be any combination of these. Paradoxically, play is the most important work of childhood.
  • Early learning is integrated across all areas of development; and while specific domains of learning are identified, each area of learning is influenced by progress in others. As well, each child may progress at different rates in each of the domains. Finally, while learning is sequential—starting simple (concrete) and becoming more complex (abstract)—development unfolds in fits and starts.
  • Early learning is rooted in culture and supported by the family.

The Early Learning Standards should be used to:

  • Guide early educators in the development of curriculum
  • Inform families about learning milestones
  • Provide a framework for implementing high-quality early childhood programs
  • Promote optimal early learning trajectories into kindergarten

The Early Learning Standards are not intended to be used to:

  • To be used as a specific teaching practice
  • To be used as a checklist of competencies
  • To be used as a stand-alone curriculum or program
The Rhode Island Early Learning and Development Standards are organized into domains, components, learning goals and indicators. The nine domains are as follows:
  • Physical Health and Motor Development
  • Social and Emotional Development
  • Language Development
  • Literacy
  • Cognitive Development
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Creative Arts
Components are specific areas within a domain. For example, the domain of physical health and motor development is divided into three components: health and safety practices, gross motor development, and fine motor development.

Learning Goals state the general competencies, behaviors, knowledge and skills that children develop in increasing degrees with increasing sophistication as they grow. For example, the gross motor development component includes two learning goals:
a) Children develop large muscle control, strength, and coordination
b) Children develop traveling skills

Indicators establish the specific developmental benchmark for the competencies, behaviors, knowledge and skills that most children possess or exhibit at a particular age. Seen altogether, the indicators depict the progression of development over time.

The Standards outline a birth-to-60 month continuum, with six developmental benchmarks:
9 months
18 months
24 months
36 months
48 months
60 months

The Nine Domains of the Early Learning and Development Standards

The Standards represent expectations for young children’s learning and continual growth in all areas: intellectual, physical, and emotional. Research confirms that successful approaches to supporting early learning are based on knowledge of the whole child. As a result, the revised early learning and development standards feature one notable change from the 2003 standards: play is embedded throughout the learning document rather than being treated as a specific standard.

The emphasis in this domain is on physical health and motor development as an integral part of children’s overall well-being. The healthy development of young children is directly related to practicing healthy behaviors, strengthening large and small muscles, and developing strength and coordination. As their gross and fine motor skills develop, children experience new opportunities to explore and investigate the world around them. Conversely, physical health problems can impede a child’s development and are associated with poor outcomes. As such, physical development is critical for development and learning in all other domains. The components within this domain address health and safety practices, gross motor development, and fine motor development.

Children with physical disabilities may demonstrate alternate ways of meeting gross and fine motor goals; for example, by pedaling an adaptive tricycle, navigating a wheelchair, or feeding themselves with a specialized spoon. Children with cognitive disabilities also meet these same goals in a different way, often at a different pace, with a different degree of accomplishment, and in a different order than typically developing children. When observing how children demonstrate what they know and can do, teachers must consider appropriate adaptations and modifications, as necessary. Principles of universal design for learning (UDL) offer the least restrictive and most inclusive approach to developing environments and curricula that best support the physical health and motor development of all children.
Social and emotional development encompasses young children’s evolving capacity to form close and positive adult and peer relationships; to actively explore and act on the environment in the process of learning about the world around them; and to experience, regulate and express a full range of positive and negative emotions in socially and culturally appropriate ways. These skills, developed in early childhood, are essential for lifelong learning and success. A child’s temperament (traits that are biologically based and that remain consistent over time) plays a significant role in every child’s development and should be carefully considered when determining when and how a child should meet social and emotional learning goals. Healthy social and emotional development depends on consistent, positive interactions with educators and other familiar adults who appreciate each child’s individual temperament. This appreciation is central to promoting positive self-esteem, confidence, and trust in relationships. The components within this domain address children’s relationships with others- adults and other children- their sense of personal identity and self-confidence, and their ability to regulate emotions and behavior.

Children with disabilities may demonstrate alternate ways of meeting social and emotional goals; for example, children with visual impairments may never make eye contact but rather demonstrate their interest in and need for human contact in other ways (through acute listening and touch); and children with cognitive disabilities may initiate play at a different pace and with a different degree of articulation and accomplishment. In general, the presence of a disability may cause a child to demonstrate alternate ways of meeting social and emotional goals. However, the goals for all children are the same, even though the path and the pace toward realizing the goals may be different. When observing how children respond in relationship, teachers must consider appropriate adaptations and modifications, as necessary. Principles of universal design for learning (UDL) offer the least restrictive and most inclusive approach to developing environments and curricula that best support the social and emotional development of all children.
The development of children’s early language skills is critically important for their future academic success. Language development indicators reflect a child’s ability to understand increasingly complex language (receptive language skills), a child’s increasing proficiency when expressing ideas (expressive language skills), and a child’s growing understanding of and ability to follow appropriate social and conversational rules. The components within this domain address receptive and expressive language, pragmatics, and English language development specific dual language learners.

As a growing number of children live in households where the primary spoken language is not English, this domain also addresses the language development of dual language learners. Unlike most of the other progressions in this document, however, specific age thresholds do not define the indicators for English language development (or for development in any other language). Children who become dual language learners are exposed to their second language for the first time at different ages. As a result, one child may start the process of developing second-language skills at birth and another child may start at four, making the age thresholds inappropriate. So instead of using age, The Standards use research-based stages to outline a child’s progress in English language development. It is important to note that there is no set time for how long it will take a given child to progress through these stages. Progress depends upon the unique characteristics of the child, his or her exposure to English in the home and other environments, the child’s motivation to learn English, and other factors.

Children with disabilities may demonstrate alternate ways of meeting the goals of language development. If a child is deaf or hard of hearing, for example, that child may demonstrate progress through gestures, symbols, pictures, augmentative and alternative communication devices, and/or signs as well as through spoken words. Children with cognitive disabilities may also demonstrate alternate ways of meeting the same goals, often meeting them at a different pace, with a different degree of accomplishment, and in a different order than typically developing children. When observing how children demonstrate what they know and can do, the full spectrum of communication options—including the use of American Sign Language and other low- and high-technology augmentative/assistive communication systems—should be considered. However, the goals for all children are the same, even though the path and the pace toward realizing the goals may be different. Principles of universal design for learning (UDL) offer the least restrictive and most inclusive approach to developing environments and curricula that best support the language development of all children.
Development in the domain of literacy serves as a foundation for reading and writing acquisition. The development of early literacy skills is critically important for children’s future academic and personal success. Yet children enter kindergarten varying considerably in these skills; and it is difficult for a child who starts behind to close the gap once he or she enters school (National Early Literacy Panel, 2008). The components within this domain address phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, print awareness, text comprehension and interests, and emergent writing.

As a growing number of children live in households where the primary spoken language is not English, this domain also addresses the literacy development of dual language learners. However, specific age thresholds do not define the indicators for literacy development in English, unlike most of the other developmental progressions. Children who become dual language learners are exposed to English (in this country) for the first time at different ages. As a result, one child may start the process of developing English literacy skills very early in life and another child not until age four, making the age thresholds inappropriate. So instead of using age, The Standards use research-based stages to outline a child’s progress in literacy development. It is important to note that there is no set time for how long it will take a given child to progress through these stages. Progress depends upon the unique characteristics of the child, his or her exposure to English in the home and other environments, the child’s motivation to learn English, and other factors.

Children with disabilities may demonstrate alternate ways of meeting the goals of literacy development. For example, a child with a visual impairment will demonstrate a relationship to books and tactile experiences that is significantly different from that of children who can see. As well, children with a cognitive impairment may reach many of these same goals, but at a different pace, with a different degree of accomplishment, and in a different order than typically developing children. However, the goals for all children are the same, even though the path and the pace toward realizing the goals may be different. Principles of universal design for learning (UDL) offer the least restrictive and most inclusive approach to developing environments and curricula that best support the literacy development of all children.
Development in the domain of cognition involves the process by which young children grow and change in their abilities to pay attention to and think about the world around them. Infants and young children rely on their senses and relationships with others; exploring objects and materials in different ways and interacting with adults both contribute to children’s cognitive development. Everyday experiences and interactions provide opportunities for young children to learn and solve problems, differentiate between familiar and unfamiliar people, attend to things they find interesting even when distractions are present, and understand how their actions affect others. Research in child development has highlighted specific aspects of cognitive development that are particularly relevant for success in school and beyond. These aspects fall under a set of cognitive skills called executive function like an “air traffic control system,” helping a child manage and respond to the vast body of the information and experiences he or she is exposed to daily. The components within this domain address logic and reasoning skills, memory and working memory, attention and inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility.

Children with disabilities may demonstrate alternate ways of meeting the goals of cognitive development. In particular, children with a cognitive impairment may reach many of these same goals, but at a different pace, with a different degree of accomplishment, and in a different order than typically developing children. However, the goals for all children are the same, even though the path and the pace toward realizing the goals may be different. Principles of universal design for learning (UDL) offer the least restrictive and most inclusive approach to developing environments and curricula that best support the cognitive development of all children.
The development of mathematical knowledge and skills contributes to children’s ability to make sense of the world and to solve problems they encounter in their everyday lives. Knowledge of basic math concepts and the skill to use math operations to solve problems are fundamental aspects of school readiness and are predictive of later success in school and in life. The components within this domain address number sense and quantity; number relationships and operations; classification and patterning; measurement, comparison, and ordering; and geometry and spatial sense.

Children with disabilities may demonstrate alternate ways of meeting the goals of mathematics development. In particular, children with cognitive impairments may reach many of these same goals, but at a different pace, with a different degree of accomplishment, and in a different order than typically developing children. However, the goals for all children are the same, even though the path and the pace toward realizing the goals may be different. Principles of universal design for learning (UDL) offer the least restrictive and most inclusive approach to developing environments and curricula that best serve the mathematics development of all children.
Children are scientists from the moment they are born, using their senses to observe and gain knowledge about the world around them. As they grow older, they become increasingly more adept at using their observations to make predictions and to plan investigations in order to solve problems and answer questions. These skills are important aspects of school readiness as they provide a process for children to ask and answer their own questions by absorbing and making sense of information. The components within this domain addresses a child’s ability to use scientific methods- observing, planning for investigations, collecting and analyzing data, and communicating information- as well as indicators of a child’s content knowledge of the natural and physical world.

Children with disabilities may demonstrate alternate ways of meeting the goals of science development. Children with visual impairments, for example, will explore and understand a flower in a way that is different from that of a child who can see; and children with a cognitive impairment may reach many of these same goals, but at a different pace, with a different degree of accomplishment, and in a different order than typically developing children. However, the goals for all children are the same, even though the path and the pace toward realizing the goals may be different. Principles of universal design for learning (UDL) offer the least restrictive and most inclusive approach to developing environments and curricula that best support the science development of all children.
The area of social studies involves children’s ability to understand how they relate to their family and community, their understanding of social norms, and their ability to recognize and respect similarities and difference in people. In addition to helping children develop an understanding of time (past, present, and future) and place (geography), these skills are important because they also help children place themselves within a broader context of the world around them and to think beyond the walls of their home and early childhood classroom. The components within this domain address children’s understanding of self, family, and community as well as basic geography and a sense of past, present, and future.

Children with disabilities may demonstrate alternate ways of meeting the goals of social studies development. In particular, children with a cognitive impairment may reach many of these same goals, but at a different pace, with a different degree of accomplishment, and in a different order than typically developing children. However, the goals for all children are the same, even though the path and the pace toward realizing the goals may be different. Principles of universal design for learning (UDL) offer the least restrictive and most inclusive approach to developing environments and curricula that best support the social studies development all children.
The arts provide children with a vehicle and organizing framework to express ideas and feelings. Music, movement, drama, and visual arts stimulate children to use words, manipulate tools and media, and solve problems in ways that simultaneously convey meaning and are aesthetically pleasing. As such, participation in the creative arts is an excellent way for young children to learn and use creative skills in other domains. The component within this domain addresses a child’s willingness to experiment with and participate in the creative arts.

Children with disabilities may demonstrate alternate ways of meeting the goals of creative arts development. Children, who cannot speak, for example, will focus on activities that are rhythmic rather than vocal, and children with hearing impairments will be able to respond to music by feeling the vibrations in the air. Children with cognitive disabilities also may reach many of these same goals, but at a different pace, with a different degree of accomplishment, and in a different order than typically developing children. However, the goals for all children are the same, even though the path and the pace toward realizing the goals may be different. Principles of universal design for learning (UDL) offer the least restrictive and most inclusive approach to developing environments and curricula that best support participation in creative arts for all children.

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