While there is much discussion about the Common Core State Standards being implemented in North Carolina’s K-12 public schools, there is not much talk about what Common Core means for our youngest students. Simply put, the Common Core State Standards are a set of guidelines used in 45 states which outline what a student should know in each grade.
In 2012, North Carolina passed the Excellent Public Schools Act and will retain students in the 3rd grade if they are not proficient in reading on the end-of-grade standardized test. It is essential for students to show up at the Kindergarten door ready to learn so they do not fall behind by the time they reach 3rd grade. Early Childhood Week is about ensuring that the programs provided to children help them succeed. Evidence shows that Pre-Kindergarten is one of those programs that help at-risk students become successful.
Since North Carolina has adopted the Common Core and has always had a thriving Pre-K program, the question becomes how do we ensure our preschoolers will be successful when they finally reach that Kindergarten door?
The Office of Early Learning (OEL), which is a part of the Department of Public Instruction, exists to make sure that Pre-K through 3rd grade students thrive academically. Even though, the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten program (NCPK) is a part of the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) in the Department of Health and Human Services, it is essential that NCPK remains an academic program.
To that end, the OEL gathered educators and child advocates to illustrate what alignment between Common Core and the state’s early learning standards would look like. It produced two documents showing how the English Language Arts section would work and the same for Mathematics.
No matter how people feel about the Common Core, one thing is for sure; it is in North Carolina and we cannot afford to lose cohorts of students while debating the merits of the program. If our goal is truly to see every student reach his or her desk in Kindergarten ready to succeed, it is equally as important for us to prepare them for the Common Core while they are in Pre-K.