Using KELS to Assess Social-Emotional Development in Young Children


Explore how KELS can be an assessment tool for young children in early care and education settings. This training session suits all kinds of early care and education professionals.

Respondents reported that their state aimed to align early learning and 12 standards, although this wasn’t always straightforward. When dealing with broad age ranges, they found it particularly challenging to define these links.

Social-Emotional Development

Social-emotional development includes children’s ability to recognize and manage their emotions and skills necessary for maintaining healthy relationships, which form the basis for a solid learning foundation in education. Recently introduced Kansas SEL standards give early childhood educators a framework for integrating SEL into curriculum and instructional practices while aligning to national frameworks such as CASEL.

The Social and Emotional Learning Standards are divided into five competencies: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Childcare and education professionals can use them as guides for understanding young children’s development and learning and professional growth opportunities.

Children develop at different rates and unique paces, yet the SEL standards guide the typical progression of skills expected at specific ages based on research. Mastering these skills takes time, practice, and adult support and guidance.

Physical Development

The standards provide a framework for understanding children’s learning, development, and well-being. They serve as a basis for designing high-quality learning environments with appropriate activities and curriculum selection and developing teaching strategies.

This framework was designed to assist early care and education providers in understanding the developmental sequence of skills from birth through kindergarten, providing continuity across early learning settings and a basis for transitioning from early childhood to elementary school. Furthermore, it fosters collaboration among teachers and families that support children’s learning and well-being.

The framework also helps identify where children are in their developmental progression and connects them to the next step, providing opportunities and learning experiences to help children master each skill they will need for the next stage. However, it should not be seen as the curriculum for early care and education programs but as a lens that allows programs to assess whether their activities meet all domains and standards set forth by KELS.

Language Development

Language development is essential to effective education. At KELS, this involves activities such as listening, speaking, reading, and writing – particularly attention paid to early literacy and vocabulary development.

Practical early learning standards give equal weight to all aspects of young children’s development and learning: cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and language domains, motivation, approaches to education, and discipline-specific domains like arts, mathematics, and science. Their knowledge is strongly intertwined; any positive results achieved in one area depend on positive progress being made elsewhere.

Standards must be designed with an in-depth knowledge of young children’s development gleaned from research findings, using tools for assessment that reflect key learning represented by standards; tools must also be culturally valid as well as technically sound for accurate reporting on progress made towards meeting them; this ensures comprehensive yet valuable data collection. Early learning standards offer a framework for setting high expectations for all young children while communicating them to families – meeting this challenge will result in an enhanced and focused education system for young children.

Cognitive Development

KELS is designed to facilitate learning and development across the lifespan, whether children are in a family environment, childcare setting, school setting, or any other community environment. KELS provides a framework for setting developmentally appropriate expectations and providing a shared language for families, administrators, and policymakers.

Curriculum assessments offer a way of looking at curricula and daily activities through a developmental lens to examine how they may address critical aspects of children’s learning and development. While not prescribing curriculum or teaching methodologies directly, they guide teachers and caregivers as they create quality learning opportunities and experiences for children.

Frog Street provides a multi-age continuum of research-based English and Spanish curricula aligned to state Early Learning standards for children from birth to age 5. Our curriculums integrate social-emotional, cognitive, and physical development and STEAM learning; all this is delivered using our Conscious Discipline approach for teaching and learning.

Mathematics Development

Kansas Early Learning Standards, Kansas Mathematics Standards, and Standards for Mathematical Practice all outline what students must know and be able to do in math. These standards cover content (what should be taught), practices (habits of mind), and domain cluster standards; learning progressions also feature heavily within these standards.

By the end of kindergarten, children should be able to count from zero to 100 and accurately determine the number of objects in a group with up to 20 items (KCC.A.1 and KCC.B.5, respectively). Since this study primarily addressed counting and cardinality skills, its results may not apply to other national standards.

However, these findings indicate that national and state early learning standards often fall below children’s capabilities. Future research should take a larger sample across multiple states and compare children’s performance on numerous national/state standards to ensure instruction matches developmentally appropriate expectations.