Photo: Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

Back in July, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the Common Core State Standards contingent on augmenting them later in the year. The time for “Common Core Plus” has arrived, and among the items up for consideration are pre-kindergarten standards that align with the K-12 standards. At a time when educators and policymakers across the country increasingly recognize the importance of linking what happens in early education settings with the primary grades and beyond, this promises to be a critical component of the move to the Common Core.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has published draft pre-k standards for both English Language Arts and math and is accepting comments until December 1. For input, take the online survey. Both the Board of Early Education and Care and the ESE board are expected to vote on Common Core Plus at their December meetings on standards designed for 4- and 5-year-olds in programs the year before they enter kindergarten.

The introduction to the English standards provides a good description of how young children learn. “In this age group, foundations of reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language development are formed out of children’s conversations, informal dramatics, learning songs and poems, and experiences with real objects, as well as listening to and ‘reading’ books on a variety of subjects,” the introduction states. “The standards can be promoted through play and exploration activities, talking about the picture books, and embedded in almost all daily activities. They should not be limited to ‘reading time.’…  The standards should be considered guideposts to facilitate young children’s understanding of the world of language and literature, writers and illustrators, books and libraries.”

The draft pre-k standards were developed by an early childhood advisory panel  — that included staff from ESE and the Department of Early Education and Care, early childhood educators from public and non-public preschools, universities, Strategies for Children and other organizations – and unanimously supported by a larger K-12 educator panel. The standards are based on the existing Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, first published in 1995, which include pre-k, as well as EEC’s 2003 Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences, ESE’s 2008 Kindergarten Learning Experiences, working drafts for new state standards and the Common Core.

“The panel recommended the addition of 52 pre-K standards in English language arts,” ESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester wrote in a memo last month. “These standards focus on responding to literature and informational text read aloud, pre-reading and writing skills, speaking and listening, and language development. They are designed to build the foundation for the 67 kindergarten standards in the Common Core English language arts document. In mathematics, the panel recommended the addition of 13 pre-K standards in the areas of counting and cardinality, operations and algebraic thinking, measurement and data, and geometry. These will serve as the foundation for the 24 kindergarten mathematics standards in the Common Core.”

The state’s meetings on the proposed pre-k standards continue until November 19, with sessions scheduled tomorrow (November 8) in Quincy, November 17 in Hyannis and November 19 in Lawrence. Tomorrow and Wednesday’s sessions in Worcester are full.