Early Childhood Standards
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Preschool Program Standards
The Iowa Department of Education (DE) supports quality learning opportunities and environments for young children by developing, implementing, and monitoring preschool programs and services provided by, or in partnership with, school districts. High quality research-based early learning experiences are essential to build a foundation to successfully achieve the social and academic challenges of school-age programs.
Legal Requirements for Program Standards
Iowa’s school districts and their community partners operating Statewide Voluntary Preschool Programs (SWVPP) and preschool classrooms providing Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) instructional services must meet approved preschool program standards.
The following are recognized in Iowa Administrative Code rule 281.16 (2007) as the three approved preschool program standards that meet the characteristics of quality early childhood programs:
- National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Early Learning Program Accreditation Standards and Assessment Items – Since 1985, NAEYC's national accreditation system has set professional standards for early childhood education programs, allowing families to find high-quality programs for their children.
- Head Start Program Performance Standards – Iowa’s Head Start programs providing services to children and families must meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards (November 2016).
- Overview of the Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards – The IQPPS and Criteria support the implementation of quality early childhood programs by promoting the use of research-based practices.
Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards (IQPPS)
The DE developed the Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards (IQPPS) in 2007 to establish program standards for school districts and their community partners providing preschool. The IQPPS are instrumental in supporting the Iowa State Board of Education's following goals: “All children will enter school ready to learn” and “All PK–12 students will achieve at a high level.”
Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards Report (2016) – The report provides information about the purpose of IQPPS and the process for the review, revisions, and recommendations of the IQPPS and Criteria conducted in 2015–2016. This report was made available to the Iowa State Board of Education to provide information about IQPPS. The revisions of the IQPPS were approved by the State Board of Education at the State Board meeting in January 2017.
Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards and Criteria (2017) – The IQPPS and Criteria support the implementation of early learning experiences by promoting the use of research-based practices. The IQPPS Criteria combine content from the core areas of early childhood development and learning, cross-cutting curriculum, instruction, and assessment that occurs in early childhood classrooms and settings.
There are 21 IQPPS Required Criteria embedded within the ten program standards. Required criteria represent the hallmarks of a high quality program. It is the responsibility of districts to ensure each component of all required criteria is always addressed and demonstrated.
Based on districts early childhood reporting, IQPPS are frequently the program standards selected by Iowa’s school districts and their community partners to be implemented in the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Programs (SWVPP) and preschool classrooms providing Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) instructional services.
Iowa’s school districts and their community partners operating Statewide Voluntary Preschool Programs (SWVPP) and preschool classrooms providing Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) instructional services are required to demonstrate that the programs are meeting the Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards and Criteria. Iowa’s school districts and their community partners are encouraged to utilize the IQPPS documents and resources to engage in a continuous improvement process to design and support the understanding of current practices, strengths, and challenges in implementing the standards and criteria.
Additionally, the school year following the approval to participate in the SWVPP, the DE Early Childhood Consultants conduct an on-site visit to verify the SWPP and preschool classrooms providing ECSE services are meeting the IQPPS and criteria. During the visit, the team conducts a family interview, classroom observation(s), and facilities tour as well as review classroom portfolio(s), program portfolio, staff files, and child files.
Beginning with the 2018–2019 school year, Districts will annually submit IQPPS evidence in the Preschool Desk Audit in CASA between September 15 and December 15. Every school district that is implementing the IQPPS at any location, including community partners, will submit IQPPS evidence. Only Districts that are having an onsite IQPPS onsite visit during the 2018–2019 or 2019–2020 school year or are following Head Start Program Performance Standards or are NAEYC accredited across all classrooms will be exempt from submitting IQPPS evidence. Guidance for IQPPS evidence to submit and related webinar opportunities are posted on the Differentiated Accountability webpage.
IQPPS Sources of Evidence and Resources
The Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards (IQPPS) represent an essential component of providing young children with early learning experiences that support the foundation for positive child outcomes and success. The implementation of IQPPS and criteria is part of continuous improvement efforts for districts and their community partners and is an ongoing process. Districts must routinely review the preschool program policies, procedures, and data to assure the programs are meeting the IQPPS and criteria. Programs may collect evidence to inform continuous improvement processes. Resources and tools have been developed to support implementation of IQPPS and criteria and continuous improvement of preschool programs.
When a district has an on-site visit or desk audit, programs following IQPPS must present evidence to show how the IQPPS and criteria are being met. The Differentiated Accountability webpage includes more information about the Preschool Desk Audit. The written, photographic, and observational evidence is arranged into seven different sources of evidence of meeting the Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards (IQPPS) and Criteria.
Sources of IQPPS Evidence
Each of the seven sources of IQPPS evidence are described below. Follow hyperlinks to checklists and tools available to districts and their community partners for collecting and preparing documentation of evidence for meeting the IQPPS and Criteria. In addition, the DE will utilize the following checklists during on-site visits. These checklists are essential in preparing for and assembling evidence to demonstrate the implementation of the IQPPS and Criteria.
- Program Portfolio Checklist – Represents a collection of written and photographic evidence developed by the district and community partners’ leadership team that shows how the program meets specific IQPPS criteria. The Program Portfolio includes, but is not limited to, evidence of policies and practices that apply to the entire program.
- Classroom Portfolio Checklist – Represents a collection of written and photographic evidence that shows how specific IQPPS criteria are met within different preschool sessions or classrooms.
- Classroom Observation Checklist – Helps preschool teaching staff prepare to demonstrate how specific IQPPS criteria that are observable during classroom activities, routines and experiences are met. The preschool teaching staff may utilize this checklist in collaboration with early childhood consultants, teacher leaders, or instructional coaches to conduct observations of each classroom.
- Facility Tour Checklist – Helps leadership and teaching staff prepare to demonstrate how the program meets specific IQPPS criteria related to materials, equipment, and the program’s physical space. The program may utilize this checklist to conduct observations of each space, both indoors and outdoors, that is used by the preschool programs.
- Staff Files Checklist – Represents a collection of evidence that would be included in confidential staff files and related to specific IQPPS criteria. Staff Files include, but are not limited to, documentation regarding staff qualifications and certifications, and professional development and training in which staff have participated.
- Child Files Checklist – Represents a collection of evidence that would be included in confidential child files and related to specific IQPPS criteria. Child Files include, but are not limited to, evidence that required, appropriate methods are used to assess developmental progress, and evidence that child records are complete and current.
- Family Surveys and Family Interview Questions
- The Family Surveys are examples of tools districts and community partners may use to survey families they serve. Two examples of surveys that could be used as evidence for addressing specific IQPPS criteria and for purposes of program improvement are available. Programs may use the Family Surveys Guidance document to support use of the family surveys:
- Family Interview Questions IQPPS – Represent the series of questions that families will be asked as part of an on-site visit as evidence to support specific IQPPS criteria.
The information and documentation within the sources of evidence described above will be gathered by the district from Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program preschool sessions and classrooms providing early childhood special education services within the district and community partners, if applicable. The written, photographic, observational evidence, and information collected from family interviews are reviewed by a visiting team during an on-site visit. Most IQPPS criteria are exemplified by more than one source of evidence. The Sources of Evidence document may be used by programs as a resource for which sources of evidence are reviewed for each of the IQPPS criteria during an on-site visit.
IQPPS Location of Evidence and Guidance – Clarifies the intent of the IQPPS criteria and explains how the criteria would be assessed during an onsite visit or as items on the Preschool Desk Audit.
Tables and Charts:
- NAEYC Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting Frequency Table
- Preschool Ratio and Class Size Maximum by Program Standards
- Alternative Pathways to Achieve Educational Qualifications of the Designated Program Administrator
- Qualifications for Preschool Teacher Assistants
IQPPS Implementation Tools:
The Program Tour Form and Classroom Observation Tool are (optional) for use for purposes of self-assessment and program improvement by programs following the Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards and Criteria. The Program Tour Form and Classroom Observation Tool are available for download for pencil/paper use. Alternatively, programs may create copies of the Google forms created for the the Program Tour Form and/or Classroom Observation Tool for local program use. See the IQPPS Program Tour Form and Classroom Observation Tool for more information on the use of these resources.
- IQPPS Program Tour Form and Classroom Observation Tool
- IQPPS Program Tour Form (.docx)
IQPPS Program Tour Form (Google form)
- IQPPS Classroom Observation Tool (.docx)
IQPPS Classroom Observation Tool (Google form)
Iowa Early Learning Standards (IELS)
The Iowa Early learning Standards (IELS) are descriptions of the knowledge, behaviors, and skills that children from birth through age five may demonstrate, and they provide a strong developmental foundation that aligns with the Iowa Core.
Legal Requirements for Iowa Early Learning Standards
Iowa’s school districts and their community partners operating Statewide Voluntary Preschool Programs (SWVPP) and preschool classrooms providing Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) services use instructional strategies and interventions to promote children’s development and learning of the knowledge, behaviors, and skills included in the IELS [Iowa Administrative Code 281.16 and Iowa Administrative Code 281.41].
Iowa Early Learning Standards
The IELS emphasize developmentally appropriate content and skills children may know and be able to do prior to entering kindergarten. The content areas defined in IELS lead to success as students enter school and later become productive adult citizens in our communities.
The developmental areas are:
- Social emotional
- Physical well-being and motor development
- Approaches to learning
- Social studies
- Creative arts
- Communication, language, and literacy