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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL introduction The Wonders and Challenges of Teaching Young Children I have been in the field of early childhood education for thirty-six years. I have taught in a variety of early childhood settings: a cooperative nurs- ery school, a university laboratory school, a Head Start program, special education preschool classrooms, and a public school kindergarten. As a consultant and an author, I have had the privilege of working with thou- sands of teachers around the country, helping them identify the best ways to implement recommended curricular and assessment strategies and meet the needs of the children in their unique settings. Over the years, I have seen the expectations for preschool and kinder- garten change dramatically. No longer is it enough to provide a fun, engag- ing social experience for young children. Teachers are held accountable for helping children achieve preschool and kindergarten standards that define expected performance—not only in the social domain but in other domains as well. And those domains are more traditionally academic in nature—literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies. It is not enough for early childhood educators to love and enjoy young children. They must also know their state’s standards, plan curriculum incorporating those expectations, and conduct assessments that help them meet each child’s needs. Academic learning is the focus now, and assessment of each child’s learning is necessary. I think this shift in early childhood education is wonderful! I also think it is challenging. As I work with preschool and kindergarten teachers across the coun- try, I hear their confusion and frustration about the challenging aspects of this shift. They feel they must push back against pressures for inappropri- ate early educational experiences for young children. They ask questions such as: COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 1