Standards of Experience

Around the country states and school districts are working hard to adopt standards of achievement and outcomes by which to evaluate their programs. Illinois is in the complex process of developing and revising early learning and development standards for its preschool programs that will address the benefits of programs to children from 3 years old to kindergarten.

When I observe and reflect on the complexities of providing good quality programs for the preschoolers in our state, it occurs to me that we should be primarily concerned about the nature of the experiences they are having in these programs rather than just about “outcomes” and “outputs.”

In fact, I suggest that it is more appropriate to think about “standards of experiences” for young children rather than outcome standards. As I thought about what might be some important experiences for every child in a program to have frequently, or much of the time (not every single minute), I came up with the following list. Keep in mind that this is an incomplete list.

  • Being intellectually engaged and absorbed.
  • Being intellectually challenged.
  • Being engaged in extended interactions (for example, conversations, discussions, exchanges of views, arguments, participation in planning).
  • Being involved in sustained investigations of aspects of their environment and in experiences worthy of their interest, knowledge, and understanding.
  • Taking the initiative in a range of activities and accepting responsibility for what is accomplished.
  • Feeling satisfied by overcoming obstacles and setbacks and solving problems.
  • Having confidence in their intellectual powers and questions.
  • Helping others to discover things and to understand them better.
  • Making suggestions to others and expressing appreciation of others’ efforts and accomplishments.
  • Applying their developing literacy and numeracy skills in purposeful ways.
  • Feeling that they belong to a group of their peers.
  • And so forth!

Perhaps this list is a bit long. But it was the result of just reflecting on much of what I had (and had not) observed in a wide range of programs for young children around our country—and around the world.

I strongly recommend that you meet with your colleagues and with parents and generate your own list of answers to the question: What experiences do we want all of our children to have much of the time in our daily early childhood programs?

Lilian Katz Lilian Katz

Lilian G. Katz, a professor emerita at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been an international leader in early childhood education. She has lectured in all 50 U.S. states and in 43 countries. Dr. Katz also has authored more than 150 publications about early childhood education, teacher education, child development, and parenting.

(Biography current as of 2019)

About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Child Care Center
  • Family Child Care
  • Preschool Program

Intended audience(s):
  • Teachers / Service providers

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
Reviewed: 2012