Elementary School Early Learning

By Pamela M. Ehrenberg, Adele B. Robinson, and Kyle Snow

Educators agree: the 4-year-old dragging her stuffed dog to preschool falls squarely in the range of development known as early childhood. But what about the 6-year-old who reads independently, or the 8-year-old with an increasingly sophisticated understanding of math? Are these children still in their early childhood years?

The answer is yes. Based on decades of research, we know that the variability and rate of development associated with infants and toddlers continue into the primary grades. Although many of our public policies for K-12 education do not take into account early childhood development and learning, this understanding can improve academic outcomes and other crucial skills for these young children.

As you face increased pressure to help your students meet ever-higher standards, you must consider which factors are most likely to close achievement gaps and support student success. The period of early childhood -- a time of tremendous physical, cognitive, and social and emotional changes -- spans birth through age 8. However, the use of developmentally appropriate practice appears to decline as children advance through the early grades. 

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