Anyone Who Cares for Children Can Use North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development


Our Blog Guest for March is Dr. Catherine Scott-Little, Professor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department, UNC-Greensboro. As a nationally recognized expert on early learning standards, Dr. Scott Little has served as an advisor in numerous states on state-level standards. She is the co-author of Conceptualization of Readiness and the content of Early Learning Standards and Early Mathematics Standards in the United States: The Quest for Alignment. In North Carolina, Dr. Scott-Little was one of the co-authors of North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development (Foundations). She is also a member of the Ready for School, Ready for Life Early Literacy Design Team.


What is North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development?

Catherine Scott-Little: Foundations, which is also called NC FELDS, is a document that outlines what we want children to know and be able to do, starting at birth until they enter kindergarten. It’s the culmination of decades of research in the child development field which gives us a framework for what we want every child to have the opportunity to learn during the earliest years. It also gives early childhood educators, policymakers, families and others a path for how to help children progress during this short period of time that creates the foundation for all future learning.

In 2013, a group of diverse stakeholders in North Carolina came together to answer the question: “what should young children know and be able to do to be successful?” Foundations answers that question at each stage of development. It’s been adopted by the state of North Carolina and endorsed by all state-level early childhood agencies.


How is Foundations used today?

Catherine Scott-Little: Foundations is used as a guide for the types of learning experiences children should have before kindergarten. Teachers, caregivers, family members, and anyone else who cares for children can see what children should be learning and how to help them learn specific skills at each age between birth and kindergarten entry. Educators are using the document to plan what they are doing with children and guide them as they assess children’s progress. They are also using NC FELDS to partner with families to individualize instruction for children.


What is included in Foundations?

Foundations includes Goals and Developmental Indicators that describe what children should know and be able to do at each of five age levels (Infants, Younger Toddlers, Older Toddlers, Younger Preschoolers and Older Preschoolers). The Goals are organized in the five domains of development. Here are the five domains and questions about children the domains address:

  1. Approaches to Play & Learning: To what extent do kids show curiosity, enthusiasm, and persistence toward learning tasks?
  2. Emotional & Social Development: Do children interact well with others and communicate their feelings in appropriate ways?
  3. Health & Physical Development: Are children growing and developing properly?
  4. Language Development & Communication: How are children’s listening, speaking, and print awareness skills developing?
  5. Cognitive Development: How much do children understand about the world around them?

 In addition, NC FELDS contains strategies and other useful information included to support adults in knowing what to do to promote children’s learning and development.

Click here to see a sample page: NC_foundations


How would you like to see NC FELDS used?

Catherine Scott-Little: Foundations is designed to help the whole community—families, direct service providers, early childhood educators, and others—support children and families. It is our collective vision for what we want children to have the opportunity to learn. Anyone whose work touches a child would benefit from using NC FELDS.

For child development students and teachers, it’s used as a textbook and  in professional development to learn about child development and intentional teaching. The goal is for every teacher working with children to use this document as a starting point for planning and evaluating her/his teaching. Caregivers should use NC FELDS to plan their curriculum, communicate with others who work with a child, guide how they assess children, and learn about child development.

Physicians and healthcare providers can talk to parents about NC FELDS and the importance of working with their child’s educators to support development in the domains that are described. Service providers could use this document as a resource to share with families. Politicians and policy makers should use Foundations as a guide to ensure we are implementing policies and providing resources that support children’s development and learning so children make progress on the Goals included in Foundations. 


If our readers want to access NC FELDS, how would they get a copy?

Catherine Scott-Little: There are several resources available. NC Foundations for Early Learning and Education is free to the public and available online here and there are family-friendly resources available in English and Spanish here.