Standards & Assessment - Early Learning - The Issues - BUILD Initiative
Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

Standards and Assessment

Early learning and development standards, sometimes called early learning guidelines, are the heart of an early childhood development system.

Setting standards and providing assessment helps children learn and threiveBased on scientific research, they provide guideposts of what children should know and be able to do at various age ranges.

State Early Learning Standards

Most states have now developed early learning standards or guidelines that describe child development across the birth to five years age range. Strong early learning standards can be a foundation for:

  • instructional guidance
  • sound general information to parents
  • screening and assessment of children for special attention
  • overall understanding of child development
  • development of quality rating and improvement systems

Importantly, most state early learning standards recognize and emphasize that child development occurs across multiple domains:

  • language and literacy    
  • physical health and motor development
  • social and emotional development
  • general cognition and
  • approaches to learning

Early learning standards also indicate developmental milestones within each of these domains.

Since standards are only as good as the implementation, the BUILD Initiative supports state efforts to design, revise and use these early learning standards in systems building work. BUILD also supports state efforts to ensure that early learning standards inform the development and use of learning standards in the early elementary years, such as the Common Core.

Creation, adoption and revision are not the end game. Implementation, continued refinement and improved outcomes for children are the true objectives.


States also are developing kindergarten entry assessments (KEAs) to assess what children know and are able to do at the time they enter kindergarten, with increasing attention to assessing children across the same domains and aligning them to early learning standards.

The BUILD Initiative supports state efforts to develop KEAs, within the context of a comprehensive assessment system that can inform instruction, involve families, and incorporate family knowledge of their children.