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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Introduction of a preschool or kindergarten teacher is seen as more important in our society. In addition, more public and political attention is now focused on early childhood education. The importance of the early years is addressed routinely in the media with articles and reports about the long-term ben- efits of high-quality early childhood programs and the latest research in brain development. And governors across the country have implemented pre-K (public prekindergarten) programs and full-day kindergartens as ways of closing the achievement gap and providing children with equal opportunities to flourish. As early educators communicate with parents, helping them see connections between their child’s development and early learning standards, they further the perceptions of professionalism in the field. Again, that’s good! And the Challenges—Teaching Is Rocket Science! The shift toward more accountability and professionalism, while beneficial, is challenging as well. First, there are cautions to consider when imple- menting early learning standards. Everyone must understand the purpose of standards: they are reasonable expectations to serve as curricular goals. Every child will NOT achieve every standard. Unfortunately, politicians, policy makers, and parents have embraced the fallacy that each child will achieve each standard—that we can expect all preschoolers to recognize all of their letters, and all kindergartners to read by the end of the kindergar- ten year. Best practices for any age group, but especially for young children, recognize that each child develops and learns at his or her own pace, with strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others (NAEYC 2009). To make use of early learning standards most effectively, teachers use them as expec- tations by which they can measure each child’s strengths as well as weaker areas of performance. Armed with this information, teachers can then plan curriculum that is individualized for each child, meeting each child where he is and helping him grow and learn from that point. There are many ways to incorporate early learning standards without giving up the best approaches for teaching young children. Preschool and kindergarten classrooms can still be joyful, fun places where chil- dren thrive and love learning new things. Early learning standards can be integrated into play experiences both indoors and out. They can be part of daily routines such as snack, arrival and departure, bathroom time, and transitions. And standards can be part of small and large teacher-led group COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 3