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Hawaii invests big in early childhood development

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Hawaii has an “Executive Office of Early Learning.”  That’s news in itself.  Maybe Governor-Elect Hassan could make one of those – or better, re-establish the “Kids Cabinet” people have been talking about, like the one Governor Shaheen had.

The Hawaii Office of Early Learning has announced early learning and development standards (Here.  Take a look.  It’s a great site.) to help get kids ready for school and reduce The Gap – the difference in school readiness between better off kids and lower income kids.  The Gap never goes away.  Those are the kids more likely to drop out later and get into trouble.  Hawaii, Vermont and states all over the country are investing in early childhood development to close The Gap.

Here’s what Hawaii said about its standards:

HONOLULU – The Executive Office on Early Learning released new research-based standards, which identify the expectations of knowledge and behavior for children from birth up through kindergarten entry.

The Hawaii Early Learning and Development Standards (HELDS) will be used to support early childhood professionals in the development of their programs, and provide guidance on how to integrate strategies to educate young children. HELDS will also be used to help inform and reassure parents about the development of their child, and can support communication between teachers, caregivers and families.

“This is the first time a set of standards have been released that address the development needs of the whole child from birth to kindergarten entry,” said Terry Lock, director, Executive Office on Early Learning. “In addition to national research, the updated HELDS are based on decades of work within the Hawai‘i early childhood community and show our state’s commitment to ensure that all children receive a high quality early learning experience.”

This also marks the first time Hawai‘i’s early childhood field has a set of standards that aligns with the Hawai‘i State Department of Education and the Common Core State Standards. HELDS aims to allow for a smoother transition for students from early childhood into kindergarten.

“The HELDS standards provides the framework, goals and language to help put everyone on the same page both in the early childhood field and across the entire educational pipeline,” said GG Weisenfeld, director of Early Learning at Hawai‘i P-20 Partnerships for Education.

The new standards are an expected set of knowledge and behaviors categorized into five areas based on the National Education Goals Panel framework. These areas are:

  • Physical Well-Being, Health, and Motor Development
  • Social and Emotional Development
  • Approaches to Learning
  • Cognition and General Knowledge
  • Language and Literacy

The standards were developed and researched by an advisory group that included representatives from Hawai‘i P-20 Partnerships for Education, Center on the Family at the University of Hawai‘i (COF), the Early Learning Advisory Board (ELAB), Good Beginnings Alliance (GBA), the Hawai‘i Association for the Education of Young Children (HAEYC), and the Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HIDOE).

For more information on HELDS visit

The legislation enacting the Executive Office of Early Learning was signed by Governor Neil Abercrombie on June 28, 2012.  The office is responsible for developing an implementation plan for an early learning program, and ensuring government services among Departments of Health, Human Services, Education, Judiciary and other agencies are coordinated, well implemented, continuously improved, and consistently meeting needs.  The vision is to have a universal network of child care and preschool support for every 4 year old in the State.

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