Developmentally appropriate practice in the age of testing
An article in the May/June issue of the Harvard Education Letter caught my eye today. Since Day Nursery centers are NAEYC accredited, I am always interested to read articles that support the NAEYC philosophy of developmentally appropriate practice (or DAP as educators like to say). As the parent of an elementary school student who attended preschool at Day Nursery, I was especially interested to read the suggestion that preschools and elementary schools should spend time learning from each other.
As the push to teach literacy and math skills reaches farther into preschool and kindergarten, educators are warning that teachers need to address young students’ social, emotional, and physical needs as well as their cognitive development. Among their concerns:
- Teachers in preK–3rd grade increasingly focus on a narrow range of literacy and math skills, with studies showing some kindergarteners spend up to six times as much time on those topics and on testing and test prep than they do in free play or “choice time.”
- Many schools have eliminated recess or physical education, depriving children of their need to move and develop their bodies.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is so concerned about the pressure to prepare students for third-grade standardized tests that it adopted a position statement in early 2009 on developmentally appropriate practice for educators in preK through third grade. In their report, “Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs: Serving Children from Birth Through Age 8,” NAEYC researchers outlined 12 principles of child development that can be incorporated into classroom teaching (see NAEYC’s 12 Principles of Child Development).
The report urges educators to incorporate play into daily instruction, devise classroom tasks that are challenging yet attainable, and become attuned to the needs of each student so that materials can be adapted to a child’s individual needs. It also urges educators in preK through third grade to learn from each other: While preschool educators can benefit from understanding the standards children are expected to meet by third grade, NAEYC believes primary-grade teachers can improve the quality of their instruction by learning more about children’s developmental needs from early childhood educators.