About Early Education Essentials

Extensive evidence demonstrates that high-quality early childhood education (ECE) positively impacts the learning trajectories of children. Yet many early childhood programs across the nation struggle to implement high-quality programming and, consequently, fail to sufficiently advance children’s early learning. A growing body of research on school improvement demonstrates that strong organizational conditions will be necessary to lift stagnant levels of quality in early childhood settings.

The Ounce of Prevention Fund, in partnership with University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (UChicago Consortium), developed and validated the Early Education Essentials surveys to provide the field with reliable and valid measurement of these organizational conditions.

Early Education Essentials measures the following organizational conditions or essentials:

Definitions of the Essentials

  • School/center leaders are strategically focused on children’s development and early achievement. They nurture trust, collective understanding, and responsibility for excellence and improvement among staff and families.

  • Teachers are committed to the school/center, build strong relationships with colleagues, and work together to continuously improve teaching and children’s learning.

  • Staff develop strong, collaborative relationships with families and actively support their engagement with the program and children’s learning.

  • School/center is a physically and emotionally safe and engaging environment. Staff hold high expectations for children’s social-emotional and academic learning, coupled with nurturing, individualized support for children and families.

  • Teachers and staff provide consistently engaging, effective, rigorous, and developmentally appropriate curriculum and instruction.

  • Parents feel respected by all staff and included as knowledgeable partners in their children’s early learning and development, and have influence over programming.

Early Education Essentials Framework and Supports

The Early Education Essentials framework aligns with the K-12 5Essentials framework and surveys, with one additional essential Parent Voice that captures parents’ unique perspectives. Over 20 years of research on the 5Essentials shows that schools strong on at least three of the five essentials are 10 times more likely to improve student learning than schools weak on most of the five essentials.

Early Education Essentials — the most comprehensive organizational measurement system available for early childhood education (ECE) — offers educators three powerful resources to understand the strength of their organization’s conditions for positive change:

  • The Teacher/Staff and Parent Surveys have been carefully adapted, developed, and tested, with significant input from parents and professionals in the early education field, to meet the highest standards of reliability and validity. The surveys are validated for use in both school-based and community-based programs serving preschool-age children, three years and older and their families. The surveys are administered in collaboration with UChicago Impact.

  • The User-Friendly Reports are accessible and visually display survey data in ways helpful to diagnosing organizational strengths and weaknesses.

  • The Data-Use and Improvement Tools help leaders and staff collaboratively review survey results, discuss root causes, and identify short- and longer-term small changes to strengthen their organizational conditions to improve practice and increase children’s early achievement.

Early Education Essentials can contribute to policy, practice, and research by expanding the definition of “quality” to include the strength of organizational conditions, providing programs with reliable, valid, and convenient measurement to inform improvement strategies, and empowering ECE and k-12th grade alignment with a common improvement framework and metrics.

Ehrlich, S.B., Pacchiano, D.M., Stein, A.G., & Wagner, M.R. (2018). Early Ed Essentials: Testing new surveys to inform program improvement. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Consortium on School Research and the Ounce of Prevention Fund.


Interested In Learning More?

Contact the Early Education Essentials team at the Ounce at eee@theOunce.org.

Thanks To Our Partners

Development, testing, and initial implementation of the Early Education Essentials is generously supported by an Anonymous Funder, the Crown Family Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Pritzker Children’s Initiative. Early Education Essentials was created by the Ounce of Prevention Fund in partnership with the UChicago Consortium.