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June 13, 2013

ULM's Williamson helps shape Louisiana's new early childhood education standards

The Louisiana Department of Education, the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services, and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals collaborated with officials from various educational organizations and institutions—including the University of Louisiana at Monroe—to compose Louisiana's new "Birth to Five Early Learning & Development Standards."

Emily Williamson, Director of the ULM Child Development Center, was part of the committee which enacted the new standards.

"These standards will begin effecting education immediately, because they have been approved and signed into law," said Williamson.

"This new document is part of ACT 3 legislation, creating one unified early childhood system in our state."

According to the new document, these standards are "designed to help early childhood educators [provide an environment and experiences that promote growth and learning] by describing the particular skills and abilities that children need to develop to be successful."

The standards are "applicable to all children, including those with disabilities and English language learners."

"This will help to ensure that all children are ready for kindergarten regardless of what early education program prepared them, be it a public school, a private school, childcare, or their parents," continued Williamson.

"These standards give each teacher a blueprint for what children should know and be able to do at different ages."

Previously, Louisiana's early education standards were separated into three documents: "Louisiana's Early Learning Guidelines: Birth to Three," "Louisiana's Early Learning Guidelines: Guide to Working with Threes," and "Louisiana Standards for Programs Serving 4-Year-Old Children."

Now, all standards have been combined into a single document, one that describes "a continuum of learning from birth to age five."

This continuum is designed to help early childhood educators look across age levels and learning domains to see how children's development emerges and progresses over time.

"There is also a new section in the standards called Approaches to Learning that looks at how children learn as opposed to what they learn, which I think will be very beneficial to teachers," said Williamson.

"I have already been conducting training over the last six months with different programs to prepare them for the changes."

Williamson served on the original standards committee in 1995, when the standards were first enacted by Louisiana.

She also served on the revision committee in 2010 before working once more in 2012 with the committee to revise the latest version. The revisions took a year to complete.

Williamson said, "Many other states are going through this same process, and many states have used our standards as a model."

After working with the revision committee, Williamson feels honored to have accessed so many different points of view.

"The team of writers was very diverse, simply because of all the different programs that will be using the document," she said.

"Each brought different ideas from their programs, so it was exciting to hear what each of these programs brings to the table."

"I hope that ACT 3 will be successful in creating one system with a unified set of standards and program guidelines for all the diverse early childhood programs and settings in our state," said Williamson.

One of the more uplifting tenets of the new standards insists, "Young children are capable and competent. All children are capable of positive developmental outcomes. Therefore, there should be high expectations for all young children."

Parents and other early educators who would like more information may access these standards (as a PDF) at

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