In case you missed it, earlier this month, the CDC changed its guidance for developmental milestones. Among many nuances, crawling was taken out as a milestone altogether, walking was moved from 12 months to 18 months, and talking was moved from 12 months to 15 months. Additional sets of milestones were added, 15 months being one of them, the other happening at 30 months. While this may seem like a matter for parents of younger children than those who attend Pilot, I bring it up here because we talk a lot about benchmarks and milestones in our work, and I think our community is perhaps more sensitive than most to the effects of those conversations (both positive and negative).
A circulating myth is that the CDC lowered their standards. That is simply not true. The CDC adjusted the milestones so that they now reflect behaviors that 75% of children are able to exhibit by a given age (they used to be set at the 50th percentile). A simple way of seeing the shift might be to say that the old model reflected average behavior and the new model reflects majority behavior. As an anxious mother of a very late walker, I know full well the panic induced by those early pediatrician visits. Now I wish my daughter would sit still a little more often, and I wish I could get back all those hours of worry!
At any rate, the purpose of the CDC milestones is not to measure achievement or even to screen for children in need of intervention. They are meant as a tool to spur conversations between pediatricians, caregivers, and others relevant to the discussion. That aim will be more efficiently achieved when the flag happens for a quarter of children and not half.
As a school that closely monitors the progress of our children, I think it’s important to learn a thing or two from the CDC’s actions here. Progress monitoring and data-driven instruction are helpful in identifying right-fit interventions and ensuring we are continuing on the right track. But the data is not diagnostic and is certainly no need for anxiety or panic. Development is not a tidy, linear function. It is a joyfully messy, fits-and-starts affair. I recognize that it is way easier for us to say that as educators than it is for parents to readily accept (despite all my best efforts, I have two entirely different brains for educating and parenting), but I hope you’ll trust us on this one.
In a month, the next round of progress reports will be sent out to parents. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about the efforts and achievements of your children and look forward to their set goals with a sense of optimism.
P.S. For those of you who attended our fall book club, Emily Oster wrote a column about the new milestones. You can check it out here.