This letter from Karen Nemeth came in response to a post by Nancy Carlsson-Paige about the detrimental impact of the Common Core Standards on the early years.

As an early childhood educator for more than 25 years and author of 5 books, including Many Languages, One Classroom and Basics of Supporting Dual Language Learners, and numerous articles on the subject, I would like to clear up some inaccuracies that have been posted here and contribute some accurate information that is called for by your topic.

The Core Curriculum State Standards were written for K-12. Several states have chosen to adopt them and some have added their own guidance for preschool. The federal government has in no way established requirements for what must be taught in preschool. Standards do not equate to a curriculum. As I often tell my audiences, standards are like ingredients, but each classroom still needs its own recipe for how to use those ingredients. A curriculum is more like a recipe. Ten people might buy the same ingredients and make ten very different cakes. If you burn your cake or put more salt than sugar into it, it will not be successful – but you can’t blame the grocery store that sold you those ingredients. Anyone who has concerns about how the core curriculum standards are affecting preschool programs is going to have to look state by state by state, and program by program, and classroom by classroom to see how they are described, recommended and then implemented. I appreciate that Sheila and Anne took that approach here.

Aligning with the standards gives states, programs and teachers something to work toward without dictating how they have to get there. New Jersey is one state that put their own developmentally appropriate spin on the standards and has provided developmentally appropriate guidance for both preschool and kindergarten

For another approach to establishing learning goals for preschool, I suggest that readers visit this site to learn more about the Office of Head Start’s School Readiness initiatives and supports:

While I agree with Nancy that early childhood educators need to be concerned about the overacademization of kindergarten and preschool classrooms, this concern has plagued us for many years and is not a new trend that appeared with the standards or RTTT. 25 years ago my first daughter started kindergarten, and when I saw the door directly onto the playground during my classroom visit, I asked how much time the children spent outdoors. The teacher told us they NEVER would go outside because their academic reading curriculum took up too much time. My mom, who was the most DAP preschool teacher I’ve ever known, also encountered pressure from parents to give her students more ‘homework’ in the 1970s.

I agree with Nancy that testing and assessment are issues of major concern in our field right now. That is a separate, and important, topic to discuss. I do believe it is possible to address the preschool skills and knowledge that lead up to what is expected in K and 1st in a hands-on, creative, project-based, child centered way. We just need to make sure we do what needs to be done to prepare preschool teachers AND the administrators who supervise and support them.

I do take exception to the odd addition of complaints about the National Association for the Education of Young Children included here by Nancy. As a member of the largest professional association for preschool educators in the country for more than 25 years, and as the daughter and mother of a member, and as a NAEYC author, speaker and volunteer, I want to make it clear that nearly 90,000 educators pay a membership fee to support this organization every year. A small handful of people who are not happy with the organization do not represent anything close to “much of that membership.” NAEYC did not write, promote, or implement the Core Curriculum State Standards and there really does not seem to be any value in complaining about one’s personal grievances in this context or of promoting an unrelated facebook page of a small local chapter. The fact is that NAEYC literally ‘wrote the book’ on developmentally appropriate practice for early childhood education and more information about that leadership can be found here:

Karen Nemeth