The Arizona Academic Standards list of expected standards is a comprehensive list of several fields of study for different age grades. It included a separate undertaking of the kindergarten standards laid down for early childhood educators. This was of particular use as opposed to other standards wherein grade levels were lumped per group. Such approach proved impractical as at times kindergarten standards were included in a set with up to fourth grade level standards. Certainly, such lumped together standards could not accurately address the disparity in skills and capacity of the students enrolled in these different grades.
Arizona thus presents a more comprehensive and practical standard of instruction. The Department of Education presented the Arizona standard using content standards to communicate their expectations of classroom progress. Content standards delineate what students are expected to know and do as opposed to performance standards which indicate assessment as to the extent with which content standards have been achieved (Kendall, 2003). The Arizona standard enumerated extensive content standards with which to gauge the appropriateness of curricula developed for the different scopes of education at the kindergarten level.
The attention given to the different areas of study was noteworthy as there was an observed attempt to satisfy the needs of each subject. Such a detailed approach allowed for the easy tracking of classroom performance on whether or not the standards were being met. Furthermore, in certain areas, such as the arts, there was such a detailed discussion as to the content standards prescribed that the curriculum to be utilized would only have to be elaborated on the manner of actual application.
In other areas, such as health, there were also significant guidelines placed to ensure that teachers were able to grasp not only the expected capacities of their students after the year but also their responsibilities to the parents and to the family of their children. Such an approach not only allowed for but determined dialogue between the school and the family. There was also a clear showing of an interest in the role of the family in the education of their children. In each subject undertaken there were also given specific and general rationale for the giving of standards.
This enabled teachers to better comprehend the purpose for the standards and their role in implementing the same. With such rationale, the teachers could look beyond the content projected and analyze the conceptual framework that they were being asked to work in. Curriculum established within the Arizona standard would then consider not just the areas of learning listed out in content standards but would be able to address the developmental roles the lessons were to play in the growth of the children.
The reflection of the intent of the authors of the Arizona standard would give teachers a sense of approach when applying these same standards. A rigid content standard not adequately placed in context might only serve to constrain the relevance of the same to teachers. However, with the addendum of a rationale the teachers are engaged in a broader perspective as to the impact of the lessons on the maturation of their students. It should be said that performance standards were also given notice in the Arizona standard, although markedly not with the same detail and attention as content standards.
It would be of help if the rationale of the studies were coupled with performance standards to better empower teachers to expand their individual curricula. Furthermore, a well-developed curriculum based on the given standards does not assure that students would be able to reflect mastery of the content communicated, the same should thus be coupled with a well-developed assessment system as should be underscored by performance standards (Cassidy, 2003). The Arizona standard worked to cover the many areas of interest in young learners.
It also strived to provide instructors with example applications as well as detailed content standards. This served to make curriculum preparation more efficient. With the established standards a teacher could adequately assess the students’ needs which were expected to be addressed. Furthermore, the rooting of the standards in the rationale presented based the same on cognitive developments and community acceptable standards, the same enabling the standards to be workable components for the teachers involved (Hyson, 2003).
The Arizona standard is not without its weaknesses however. The detailed concept standard approach may have made the writing of a curriculum easier but it only did so in the sense that the instructor would follow to the letter the standards set. The detail given in individual areas, and the detail given to all subjects as a whole presented little room for instructors to create activities and objectives of their own. Hyson (2003) submits that although academics is of importance in the development of the child, the same should not be taken in isolation.
The academic approach of early childhood systems should leave room for the natural interests of individual students and provide an atmosphere welcoming learning through drawing, talking and playing (Hyson, 2003). The ability of teachers to come up with lessons based on the particular interests of children is a rich source of knowledge for students. The students themselves are able to contribute activities which the teacher may utilize to present lessons yet to be introduced to students.
The importance of a play environment allowing for individual interests and shared creativity should not be undermined. At the level of development that early learners are in, such activities better serve to drive home lessons that are presented. In fact, such an approach more determinedly focus on the specific talents and abilities of the students and thus serve to mature the same. It is also observed that the Arizona standard focused on in-depth presentation of standards required of early childhood educators.
However, some of the standards outlined were too detailed and required levels of understanding that might have projected impractical expectations on young learners. While the holistic development of children should be promoted, levels of complexity of the different teaching domains should be made appropriate for the level of development of each child (Schweinhart, n. d. ). Such consideration would entail the limiting of the depth with which the different content standards would be presented.
This might even entail a limited presentation of the target lesson itself. However, with a keen awareness of the interest of particular students, teachers may be able to delve deeper into subject content. What is important is that although teachers maintain standards expected of them by the community at large, the particular attention given to each individual student should be maintained. Highly academic systems for early childhood education need not necessarily have a lasting effect on the performance of students in later years (Hyson, 2003).
In preparing curricula therefore, teachers should keep in mind the developmental levels that their students are in and the particular interests of the specific populations they are responsible for. Curricula established with only the meeting of standards in mind may miss out on the actual addressing of educational needs in actual classes. Furthermore, a curriculum for any kindergarten class should be flexible and able to grasp educational opportunities presented by the relational and social trends of the students inside the classroom.