The fundamental elements of quality preschool teaching and learning practice include well-organized and managed learning environments, responsive social and emotional supports, and use of curricula materials and meaningful instructional interactions to facilitate children’s thinking and skill development. Implementation of curricula, lesson planning, and interactions and instruction are informed by on-going assessment of children’s progress towards early learning and development standards and kindergarten readiness goals. Professional development and continuous improvement of instructional practice occurs through embedded routines of peer-to-peer technical assistance that incorporates discussion of data (children’s progress, learning environments, and teacher-child interactions), examination of practice, and collaboration to improve teaching and learning.

Organized environments that support children’s engagement with materials and peers are the foundation for all learning in early childhood classrooms. Effective preschool teachers support children’s exploration in the learning environments through relationship building; awareness, sensitivity and responsiveness to children’s emotional and learning needs; and by regarding and expanding children’s perspectives. There is an absence of negativity, sarcasm, hostility, and aggression in teachers’ interactions with children.

Research-based curriculum provides learning goals and activities in the major domains of children's development and the key knowledge and skill areas to support kindergarten readiness. Curricula provide guidance on what to teach (content) and how to teach (learning experiences and strategies for teaching). Curricula content is drawn from current child development science, early childhood teaching and learning science, interests and ideas of the children, and the values of the community.

Effective preschool instruction for all children requires the design of learning opportunities and interactions that facilitate children’s inquiry, thinking, and construction of understanding and knowledge about concepts. Young children vary widely in their development, skills and abilities, and background knowledge. Effective teachers are sensitive and skilled in interactions; they use ongoing formative assessment of each child's skills to plan learning opportunities; and they use curricula materials and activities to engage and individualize instruction for all children, regardless of their abilities and disabilities.

Ongoing assessment is integral to curriculum and instruction. The objective is to help children achieve kindergarten readiness through individual learning goals. Assessment information helps monitor progress — both for individual children and for the program as a whole. Assessment information needs to be valid, reliable, useful, and timely so the results can inform curricula development and instruction. Systematic, ongoing assessment provides valuable information on children's learning and helps inform curriculum planning and teaching across all domains of development and learning.
Professional development is designed to support teachers’ continuous learning, effective implementation, and improvement of practice. Teachers engage in weekly/monthly sessions of peer-to-peer technical assistance involving discussion of child and teaching data, observing and examination of practice, and planning improvements to teaching and learning opportunities.

The Award of Excellence for Preschool Teaching and Learning, part of ExceleRate Illinois, reflects these principles.


Please visit the following links for more information on the Award of Excellence for Preschool Teaching and Learning.

Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards (298 KB)

Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards and Requirements (150 KB)

Frequently Asked Questions (301 KB)

School-Based Prerequisite Application and Supplement

Licensed Child Care Center Prerequisite Application and Supplement

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