​Kentucky Early Childhood Standards Introduction​

Have you ever heard someone ask, “what are children supposed to learn before they go to kindergarten?” Maybe you have wondered that yourself. These Kentucky Early Childhood Standards help answer the question of what young children should learn—they describe the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that Kentucky hopes children will gain during the years before ​kindergarten. Put another way, the Early Childhood Standards help educators provide experiences for children that prepare them to meet Kentucky’s definition of school readiness:

School readiness means each child enters school ready to engage in and benefit from early learning experiences that best promote the child’s success.

The purpose of the Early Childhood Standards is, therefore, to provide educators with a guide to preparing children for success in school, starting in infancy through four-year-olds. They outline a range of developmental abilities typical for young children—expectations for the skills and knowledge children typically demonstrate at each age. The Early Childhood Standards do NOT, however, describe everything that is important for children to learn or that children may demonstrate. They are a guide for what educators should focus on for all children, with room for individualizing based on a child’s unique skills and abilities. 

Who should use the Early Childhood Standards? 

The Early Childhood Standards describe goals for all children’s development and learning, no matter what program they may be served in. The document is a resource for educators in childcare, family childcare homes, Head Start, pre-kindergarten programs, part-day informal programs, and any other setting where children spend time. They are also a useful resource for specialists who work with children in a variety of roles, such as home visitors, early interventionists, speech/language pathologists, and other professionals. The Early Childhood Standards are shared goals for children’s learning, no matter where they are served or who is supporting their development.

A note about terminology used in this document:  Adults in the field of early care and education play a variety of roles in children’s lives, including caregiver, teacher, family support specialist, and interventionist. All of these roles are critical to the growth and development of young children. For purposes of this document, the term “educator” is used in this introduction and encompasses anyone working with young children, no matter what program, title or role they have. Within the standards and indicators, a variety of titles are used for adults who work with children.

How should the Early Childhood Standards be used? 

The Early Childhood Standards are a guide for planning learning experiences and for monitoring children’s progress as they develop and learn. They can be used to:

  • Learn about age-appropriate expectations for skills children typically demonstrate at different ages.
  • See typical “next steps” for how children make progress in the skills, and set learning goals and plan learning experiences for children.
  • Gauge whether children are “on track” in terms of what is typical for their age and if they are making progress toward their learning goals. 
  • Guide decisions about selecting a curriculum and/or assessments, as the curricula and assessments used in early childhood settings should address the areas of development and learning that are included in the Early Childhood Standards. 

As important as these uses of the Early Childhood Standards are, it’s also important to keep in mind there are some ways the Early Childhood Standards should NOT be used. For instance, the Early Childhood Standards should not be used as a checklist or assessment to make decisions about children’s program placement or entry into kindergarten. They are a guide for planning, but not an assessment tool. To fully understand a child’s development and make decisions about their placements, educators should use an assessment process designed for that purpose.