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2013 Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards

Illinois Early Learning & Development Standards
Guiding Principles

Early learning and development are multidimensional. Developmental domains are highly interrelated.
Development in one domain influences development in other domains. For example, a child’s language skills affect his or her ability to engage in social interactions. Therefore, developmental domains cannot be considered in isolation from each other. The dynamic interaction of all areas of development must be considered. Standards and preschool benchmarks listed for each domain could also be cited in different domains.

Young children are capable and competent.
All children are potentially capable of positive developmental outcomes. Regardless of children’s backgrounds and experiences, teachers are intentional in matching goals and experiences to children’s learning and development and in providing challenging experiences to promote each child’s progress and interest. There should be high expectations for all young children so that teachers help them to reach their fullest potential.

Children are individuals who develop at different rates.
Each child is unique. Each grows and develops skills and competencies at his or her own pace. Teachers get to know each child well and differentiate their curricular planning to recognize the rate of development for each child in each domain. Some children may have an identified developmental delay or disability that may require teachers to adapt the expectations set out in the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards and to make accommodations in experiences. Goals set for children who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) reflect these adaptations and accommodations so that individual children can be supported as they work toward particular preschool benchmarks.

Children will exhibit a range of skills and competencies in any domain of development.
All children within an age group should not be expected to arrive at each preschool benchmark at the same time or to show mastery to the same degree. Children may show strengths in some domains and be more challenged in others. Teachers recognize each child’s individuality and plan curricular strategies that support the child as a learner by building on his or her strengths and providing sca€olding and support in more challenging areas. There is no expectation that every child will master every preschool benchmark. Teachers work with children to meet them where they are and help them continue to make small steps of progress toward each preschool benchmark. There also is recognition that some children may go beyond mastery of the preschool expectations. Teachers plan for challenging experiences for these children to help them continue to grow, develop, and learn.

Knowledge of how children grow and develop—together with expectations that are consistent with growth patterns—are essential to develop, implement, and maximize the benefits of educational experiences for children.
The Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards provide reasonable expectations for preschool children (ages 3 to 5). They give teachers a common language—defining what they can expect preschool children to know and be able to do within the context of child growth and development. With this knowledge, teachers can make sound decisions about appropriate curriculum for the group and for individual children.

Young children learn through active exploration of their environment in child-initiated and teacher-initiated activities.
Early childhood teachers recognize that children’s play is a highly supportive context for development and learning. The early childhood environment should provide opportunities for children to explore materials, engage in activities, and interact with peers and adults to construct understanding of the world around them. There should, therefore, be a balance of child-initiated and teacher-initiated activities to maximize learning. Teachers act as guides and facilitators most of the time, carefully planning the environment and helping children explore and play in productive, meaningful ways. They incorporate the preschool benchmarks into all play areas, daily routines, and teacher-led activities.

Families are the primary caregivers and educators of young children. Teachers communicate in a variety of ongoing ways with families to inform them of programmatic goals, experiences that are best provided for preschool children, and expectations for their performance by the end of the preschool years. Teachers and families work collaboratively to ensure that children are provided optimal learning experiences.

Adapted from Preschool Curriculum Framework and Benchmarks for Children in Preschool Programs (1999).

Additional Resources

Visit the Additional Resources page for IELDS Resources.

Tools for Teachers

Links to resources for the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards created by the Early Childhood Center of Professional Development in Arlington Heights.

IELDS Webinar

This webinar provides a short overview of the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards. It also provides a tour of the resources available on the Illinois Early Learning Project website that can support the use of the early learning standards in practice and at home.

Print Version

llinois Early Learning and Development Standards for Preschool (ages 3 to kindergarten enrollment age)


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The content of the IEL Web site does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education; nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education.