What Utah Preschoolers Might Be Required to Know Before They Start Kindergarten

There is little doubt that preschools are, or at least should be, designed to prepare kids to enter kindergarten. However, there are currently no uniform standards for preschools. Should these institutions be forced to comply to mandated standards, much as K-12 public schools are? In Utah, this may soon be the case.

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'Outside the Realm of Public Education'

Many states offer guidelines to pre-school or early learning settings that identify important areas of development. So, too, do other organizations; for instance, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics outlines math standards for pre-K students.

For the most part, these are suggestions and, while there are expectations, there are no set rules for exactly what needs to be taught in these environments. But in Utah, this could soon change.

But is the state overstepping its bounds when it comes to mandatory standards? As one state board member put it in a recent article in The Salt Lake Tribune: 'This seems to be outside the realm of public education.'

Private preschool owner and teacher Amber Peck questioned whether such standards would be 'too confining.'

Universal Preschool

The concept of pre-K standards is not a new one.

Some feel that providing public preschools with mandated standards is a good idea, citing improved quality of education and the possibility of student success further down the road. The idea of a universal preschool, available to all children regardless of race or socioeconomic status, might be an appealing one.

But beyond funding issues, many might agree with the aforementioned Utah state board member who questioned the authority and even capability of public education when it comes to preschool. And it would not be the first time that public education has been doubted in this area.

In 2006, voters in California rejected a Preschool for All initiative which would have had children attending state-run preschools. Many were leery of these schools being run by the State Department of Education, as they felt that the department had not really done a great job of running K-12 schools at that time.

Regulating Moms and Dads?

And what of those kids who don't attend preschool? Will moms and dads be forced to adhere to these mandated standards?

So far, no. If they become law, these standards will only apply to public preschool institutions. But the idea of regulating private preschools or families has left some feeling uneasy, as many Californians felt six years ago. Others, though, like the idea of such standards, of knowing what their kids should know before starting kindergarten.

So, will Utah parents have faith in its public education system, or will preschools be left to follow their own curricula? For now, the state school board will seek public comment about the standards before votes are cast.

But some feel that the time has come for mandated standards. Dixie Allen, the vice chair of the state school board, told The Salt Lake Tribune: 'From my perspective, we have lots of parents who ask for this, who want to know this...and there are lots of preschool programs out there that want to know this.'

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