Counting on kindergarten

Illinois sets kindergarten standards for the first time

Kim Edwards is excited about her students' futures. Although they are only in kindergarten, they are achieving more at 5 years old than their parents did.

Edwards, a teacher at Chase Elementary School in Chicago, has taught kindergarten for 11 years. She integrates developmental skills by having students count to 100, learn their colors, letters and sounds. Now, she has a few more goals to reach.

The Illinois State Board of Education released kindergarten learning standards for the first time at the beginning of this school year, requiring these youngsters to achieve more.

According to the ISBE Web site, the Illinois Early Learning Standards for Kindergarten were created by more than 500 Illinois teachers and administrators "to put kindergarten on the map in curriculum alignment and school improvement planning."

"I think it's better than when we had to go by the first-grade standards," Edwards says. "It should be done in a fun way if they are going to remember."

According to the board of education's Web site, 145,797 Illinois kids attended kindergarten during the 2004-2005 school year, with 80,303 in full-day programs and 65,494 in half-day. Kindergarten is optional in Illinois.

The current state standards for grades K-12 focus on eight curriculum areas: language arts, math, science, social science, physical development, fine arts, foreign languages and social and emotional development.

Joyce Davidson, city-wide kindergarten coordinator for Chicago Public Schools, says these standards would be the same if a student switched schools during the school year.

Out of all the new kindergarten standards, Davidson feels the most important is social and emotional development.

"They're still developing. They learn a lot through interacting with their peers-how to cooperate, solve problems and share," she says.

Edwards agrees social skills are vital for young, developing minds.

"If I can't relate to you or get along with you, it's hard to talk to you," Edwards says.

Davidson says it's important for parents to remember their kids don't have to reach all 172 goals and benchmarks set by the state.

"Different kids learn through different styles."

To learn more about Illinois' standards for your child, visit

Julie Liotine


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