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The standards are organized by age (infant, 2, 3, 4, and 5 years) and by four basic arts-making processes: Creating, Performing, Responding (NAEP, 1994), and Interconnecting. Content and Achievement Standards are overarching categories that are defined for each age level under the appropriate arts-making process. Content Standards remain constant for each of the age levels, and Achievement Standards gradually become more advanced and require greater maturity in each advancing level.
The Content Standards outlined in the standards are aligned with the Standards for Learning and Teaching Dance in the Arts: Ages 5-18 developed by the National Dance Education Organization. The content areas cover a wide perspective that encompasses the full artistic range of the dance experience. The language of the Content Standards for early childhood was written in coordination with the standards designed for older ages. Even though preschool children do not conceptualize or process their movement experiences in the same intellectual capacity as older students, the language has been preserved for the sake of continuity.
The Achievement Standards outline what young children ages two to five should know and be able to do in dance. They become progressively more advanced according to the maturity and abilities of each age group. It must be stressed that children mature at individual rates and a wide variance will be seen within any one group of children. Early Childhood Achievement Standards must therefore be approached within the context of the individual development of each child. The Achievement Standards are not meant to set standardization levels. Instead, they represent an average level of learning expectancy for each benchmark age level. They are meant to help teachers understand a graduated sequence of movement development that most children progress through from birth through age five. The exact age at which a child reaches each level will vary.
The language used in the standards and the organization of movement into the elements of time (rhythm), space (pathways, levels, shape, design), and energy (force, weight, effort, flow) are based upon a foundation of movement analysis that is widely accepted by the dance and arts communities. It provides a common vocabulary with which to describe and analyze movement and its relationship to artistic meaning and structure in all dance styles and genres, and is meant to be used with a wide lens in order to accommodate a variety of movement perspectives.
Photo by Kendra Harris, Colorado Ballet