Kindergarten Readiness Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What are the Benchmarks?
A voluntary set of standards that reflect expectations for children's performance and behavior. They will help everyone who cares for young children better understand what they can expect to see as children develop. The Benchmarks include simple play and learning activities that adults can use to enhance children's development and support school readiness.
2. Who will use the Benchmarks?
We hope that everyone who cares for young children in the state will eventually know about the Benchmarks and choose to use them to prepare children for school. Parents might use the Benchmarks as a guide for their own child's development or as a tool to evaluate the curriculum at their child care or preschool. Child care providers and pre-school teachers will consult the Benchmarks when developing their programs. Kindergarten teachers should use the Benchmarks to guide their expectations for the students entering their classes. We hope that the universities and community colleges that train parents, teachers and providers will incorporate benchmarks into their course of study.
3. Why need Benchmarks?
There is no common understanding of what it means to be ready for school. Parents, child care providers, and kindergarten teachers all want their children to be ready for school but our state does not have a definition of that term. It is important that we have a common set of expectations. Schools should have a uniform and realistic expectation of what kids will know and be able to do when they enter Kindergarten. Parents and care providers should know what will be expected at school.
4. How were the Benchmarks developed?
This is a joint project between Governor Gary Locke and Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson. The effort has been led by a core team of state agency representatives who work in field of early learning and elementary school education. Development of the Benchmarks has been guided by a 30 member advisory panel of content experts from across all sectors of child development and education spectrum. The project has contracted with Dr. Sharon Lynn Kagan and an internationally recognized team of experts from the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia University to write the actual Benchmarks.
5. What will happen with Benchmarks now?
The Benchmarks are voluntary. They will only be used if the larger community recognizes them as a useful tool. This review draft will be shared with stakeholder groups across the state for comment and input over the next four months. The input will be collected and a final set of Benchmarks will be issued next spring.
6. How will Benchmarks be used?
Again, the Benchmarks are voluntary-they are not a mandatory preschool curriculum, or a kindergarten entrance test- they are meant to be a tool to support parents and other adults who are interested in school readiness.
7. Don't we already have standards and expectations for children?
Yes, the Head Start and state preschool program (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program --ECEAP) have program standards and child outcome goals. The school system has the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) which are the basis for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). OSPI is in the process of developing Grade Level Expectations for every grade that build to the overall EALRs. The problem is that all of these program standards have been developed without regard for one another. Education in our state should be a continuum. The Benchmarks align early childhood expectations with the Kindergarten and first grade GLES.