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  • Vangie Rodenbeck

What is DAP & Why Does It Matter?

Making parenting choices can be difficult and, at times, overwhelming. One of the terms that becomes commonplace around practitioners of young children is “Developmentally Appropriate Practice,“ or DAP. But what does this mean?

To know what is DAP, we have 3 Core Considerations:[1]

  • What is age appropriate based on their years of development?

  • What is individually appropriate based on what we know about this child?

  • What is culturally appropriate for this child?

Generally, these considerations tell most preschoolers, will thrive in environments where pretend play is encouraged. This helps them take advantage of parts of their brain that are growing right now and helps them express their emotions and those in their peers. Because of this, they will learn most of their cognitive skills best if they are grounded in this pretend play – including skills like writing and mathematics. Children will show amazing gains in language skills during these years, even if English is a second language, if their environment allows them to thrive appropriately.

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “Kindergarten is a time of change, challenge, and opportunity. Because of the great individual variation among kindergarteners and the wide age range of kindergarten children teachers must be responsive to developmental, individual, and cultural variations. Five- and 6-year-olds make many cognitive leaps, allowing them to develop more personal responsibility, self-direction, and logical thinking.” [2]

Kindergarten children will grow physically, socially, emotionally, linguistically and cognitively. The gains they make during this year are some of the largest leaps they will make during their educational career. For this reason, Kindergarten is vitally critical to a child’s overall attitude about their ability as a lifelong learner. Educators I admire and respect have described the Kindergarten year as “the most crucial year in a child’s education” because it will shape what kind of student they believe they will become.

However, we find ourselves in somewhat of a current crisis where Pre-K and Kindergarten education are concerned. In our state, while Kindergarten is state funded, it is still not mandatory. For those wanting a head start on Kindergarten, Pre-K is available publicly only by lottery. Many turn to private schools like ours.

But what should we consider DAP? Do we stick with our 3 Considerations, or should we begin reaching toward what the public schools are doing in their Kindergarten programs? Trends towards standardized testing at younger and younger ages have “blurred the preschool-elementary boundary.”[3]Seeing early diagnosis of deficiencies as the solution to low test scores, many school systems are now regularly testing in Kindergarten to ensure they have a base for later skills.

While paying close attention to what our Pre-K and Kindergarten students are getting from their classrooms is an excellent and worthwhile pursuit, preschool educators also have concerns about the closer association with public school standards. Some of these concerns include:

  • adverse effects of increased testing in young children

  • learning standards outweighing DAP, such as our 3 Core Concerns

  • narrowing of curriculum scope

  • proper alignment across developmental stages and age/grade levels

  • lack of considerations taken for children learning English as a second language

The broad accommodation of strident teaching standards younger and younger ages is leading to what is being termed “standards overload.” This often looks like extensive lecturing to a whole class of children, rigid and tightly paced curriculum schedules, curtailing problem solving, risk taking and collaboration in favor of test preparation and less opportunities for physical and social development.

In the high-pressure classroom, children are less likely to develop a love of learning and a sense of their own competence and ability to make choices, and they miss much of the joy and expansive learning of childhood.[4]

At Main Street Preschool, we are diligently working to maintain a focus on those 3 Core Considerations, while at the same time streamlining state standards to create maximum effectiveness of our 4-hour school day. Soon we will be publishing documents to help you compare and contrast our program with Georgia Public Schools. Thank you for choosing Main Street Preschool and trusting us for any part of your child’s educational process.

[1] [2] [3] [4]

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