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Early Learning and Development Guidelines Outline Milestones for Children From Birth Through Third Grade

The Washington Department of Early Learning (DEL) has published the Early Learning and Development Guidelines (guidelines) for children from birth through third grade. Find the guidelines online>>

The guidelines replace the Early Learning and Development Benchmarks, which were first created in 2005 to outline what children know and are able to do at different stages of their development.

DEL, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Thrive by Five Washington led the recent revision of the guidelines in close partnership with a 51-member workgroup that included statewide representatives from Head Start, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), parents, Tribes, child care providers, special needs experts, K-12 staff and our state's ethnic commissions.

"The Early Learning and Development Guidelines are a cornerstone of early learning in Washington state," said DEL Director Bette Hyde. "The guidelines are accessible for parents, child care providers and early learning professionals to help them ensure our youngest children are meeting basic milestones in their development. This document will be an important resource for parents and caregivers in years to come."

The guidelines accomplish five goals set by the work group at the beginning of the redesign: 

  • Celebrate Washington's increasingly diverse population.
  • The guidelines' easy-to-read format also better supports parents as their child's first and most important teachers with information about what children can do and learn at different stages of development.
  • Extend the guidelines through third grade and align with the K-3 learning expectations, including Common Core Standards.
  • Reflect what we've learned about child development since 2005.
  • Support ECEAP and Head Start standards.

The National Equity Project and a private consulting organization facilitated the redesign process to help ensure the process was inclusive and thorough.

"One of my top priorities when I took office in January 2009 was to increase access to early learning programs," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. "It's still one of my top priorities today. The investment society makes in early learning pays large dividends later on in students' lives. The new guidelines are a great first step in that investment. They give clear direction about what children are able to do at every stage in their early lives. I'm very proud of the work that DEL, Thrive by Five and OSPI did to produce the guidelines."

The guidelines are organized by age ranges:

  • Birth to 11 months
  • 9 to 18 months
  • 16 to 26 months
  • 3 to 4 years
  • 4 to 5 years
  • Age 5 and kindergarten
  • 1st grade
  • 2nd grade
  • 3rd grade

The developmental topics covered are:

  • About me and my family and culture
  • Building relationships
  • Touching, seeing, hearing and moving around
  • Growing up healthy
  • Communicating
  • Learning about my world
  • Differences in development

The guidelines are comprehensive and culturally inclusive. The workgroup collected input from diverse groups around the state during three rounds of extensive public outreach during Summer and Fall 2011 and January 2012. The workgroup sought feedback from Tribal and cultural organizations; families who receive early childhood and K-12 services and families who do not receive services; and professionals from backgrounds in child care, Head Start, ECEAP, preschools and K-12.

"What excites me most about the new guidelines is the potential to share information with parents—in a way that they can really use," said Nina Auerbach, president and CEO of Thrive by Five Washington. "They also celebrate our state's extraordinary diversity and are meant to be a guide for all children. The guidelines have the potential to create and strengthen partnerships between parents and educators, making it possible for more children to enter school ready to succeed and to continue succeeding throughout their elementary years."

DEL is working with partners to translate the document and to develop related content, such as instructional videos, in other languages.

Guidelines are an essential element of an early learning system. DEL, OSPI and Thrive by Five worked with the 2012 Legislature to add the guidelines' existence and five-year review requirement into state law, under House Bill 2608, which did not pass the Senate. The three organizations will work together again next year on this important legislation to ensure this important resource is continued for future generations.


*This post was obtained from DEL's newsroom.