Our Research

Researchers at the Ounce of Prevention Fund, in collaboration with those from the UChicago Consortium, conducted several quantitative and qualitative studies to develop and validate the Early Education Essentials. Learn more about key findings and access in-depth research reports below.

Early Education Essentials is now available nationwide to both researchers and practitioners in the ECE field. The surveys, reports, and data tools are applicable in both school and community-based settings serving preschool-age children.

Interested in using Early Education Essentials in your program or research study? Please reach out to eee@theOunce.org.


  • Reliability
    • All the measures on the surveys were reliable. Many measures were sensitive enough to detect differences between sites. The surveys did not have strong bias toward either school- or community-based early childhood education (ECE) sites; or English or Spanish speakers (on the parent survey).
  • Validity
    • Most, but not all, Essential scores were significantly related to site-level outcomes including teacher-child interactions and children’s attendance.
    • Neither Ambitious Instruction nor Parent Voice scores were significantly related to either outcome measured. Researchers will continue to refine the survey tool and parent survey.
  • “Practical” Validation
    • Interview and observation evidence confirmed that Early Education Essentials differentiates between ECE programs. Staff and families in sites with high and low survey responses provided qualitatively different descriptions and experiences of organizational climate and conditions.


Reliability and Validity Research

Organizing Early Education for Improvement: Testing a New Survey Tool

Complete technical report detailing the study validating the Early Education Essentials data, including detailed information on the relationship between the essentials and site-level outcomes, as well as a chapter on the qualitative study that offered “practical” validation for the surveys.

Early Education Essentials: Testing New Surveys to Inform Program Improvement Snapshot 

A snapshot highlighting key findings from the validation study, which found the surveys to be both reliable and valid.

Essential Organizational Supports for Early Education: The Development of a New Survey Tool to Measure Organizational Conditions

This paper chronicles the rigorous survey development process used to develop and test the Early Education Essentials surveys, and introduces the field to the need to broaden our understanding of quality and quality improvement.

Applications to Practice

Full Report: Illustrations of Strong Organizational Practices in Program Poised for Improvement

Qualitative research report detailing strong organizational environments in several test sites and how they empowered leaders, teachers and families to realize higher-quality practices and better outcomes for young children.

Snapshot: Illustrations of Strong Organizational Practices in Program Poised for Improvement

A snapshot highlighting key findings from the qualitative research report on strong organizational practices.

Reimagining Instructional Leadership and Organizational Conditions for Improvement: Applied Research Transforming Early Education

This publication argues that we must broaden our understanding of improvement beyond the field’s sole focus on classroom-level processes to the organizational processes that create conditions essential to teaching, learning, and improvement.

Job-Embedded Professional Learning Essential to Improving Teaching and Learning in Early Education

This paper makes the case that the field must abandon traditional professional development and replace it with the organizational and sustained support of job-embedded professional learning (JEPL) and details recommendations for implementation as well as policy recommendations.

Applications to Policy

A New Approach to Policy: The Case for Strengthening Organizational Conditions to Improve Early Childhood Care and Education Quality

This policy brief examines the policy implications of recent research into organizational conditions in early childhood settings and provides a framework for policymakers to support the work of strengthening these conditions.


    • Debra Pacchiano, Vice President, Translational Research and Co-Principal Investigator, Ounce of Prevention Fund
      • Pacchiano is responsible for the conceptualization, implementation, and evaluation of applied research initiatives to advance professional learning, quality improvement, and practice innovation in early education teaching, learning, and leadership.
    • Amanda Stein, Director of Research and Evaluation, Ounce of Prevention Fund
      • Stein directs the Educare Chicago Implementation and Longitudinal Follow-Up Studies and provides research and evaluation leadership on various Ounce initiatives, including the development, validation, and ongoing refinement of the Early Education Essentials.
    • Maureen Wagner, Program Manager, Ounce of Prevention Fund
      • Wagner is responsible for creating and managing the systems and processes needed to support the implementation of the Early Education Essentials at scale.
    • Tony Raden, Senior Vice President, Research and Policy, Ounce of Prevention Fund
      • Raden develops strategies to engage early childhood champions and key stakeholders in policy, research, practice and philanthropy to help the Ounce build consensus around common local, state and federal agendas.
    • Maia Connors, Senior Research Associate, Ounce of Prevention Fund
      • Connors acts as a liaison between research, policy, and practice within the organization, analyzing and translating evaluation and research data to inform practice and policy improvements across a variety of initiatives.
    • Mi’Chaela Mills, Senior Administrative Assistant, Ounce of Prevention Fund
      • Mills provides administrative support for the Ounce’s Research and Evaluation team.
    • Stacy Ehrlich, Senior Research Scientist, NORC at the University of Chicago, and Senior AdvisorSurvey Development and Validation Study Co-Principal Investigator
      • In her prior role at the UChicago Consortium, Ehrlich developed and led the early childhood education research agenda.  Ehrlich’s research interests include using quantitative methods to measure student learning and growth for the improvement of education.
    • Holly Hart, Survey Director, UChicago Consortium on School Research
      • Hart oversees survey content development for both Consortium research and the 5Essentials Survey. She serves as the primary liaison and leader from the Consortium in the ongoing Early Education Essentials research and development work done collaboratively by the Ounce, NORC, and the Consortium.
    • Chris Young, Psychometrician, UChicago Consortium on School Research
      • Young leads the effort to maintain the quality of survey measures developed at the UChicago Consortium. In addition, he provides quantitative analysis support to researchers investigating pathways to student learning and school improvement.
    • Penny Bender Sebring, Co-Founder and Senior Research Associate, UChicago Consortium on School Research
      • Bender Sebring is an author of Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago. The research underlying this book provides the intellectual foundation for the 5Essentials survey, which provides a comprehensive picture of schools’ strengths and weaknesses as organizations. Bender Sebring serves as a senior advisor for the Early Education Essentials.
    • Stuart Luppescu, Affiliated Researcher, UChicago Consortium on School Research
      • Luppescu is a senior advisor for the Early Education Essentials. He was formally the Chief Psychometrician at the UChicago Consortium. Luppescu specializes in educational measurement and his research interests include language acquisition, Rasch Measurement, and multi-level modeling of achievement data.
    • Elliot Ransom, Co-CEO, UChicago Impact
      • Ransom manages and oversees all aspects of the organization, including operational and unit performance, strategy, finances, human resources, key partnerships and funders, and work with the Board of Directors.
    • Collette Walton, Co-Director for the 5Essentials, UChicago Impact
      • Walton oversees the day-to-day operations of 5Essentials implementations and leads the planning and strategy efforts of the 5Essentials unit.
    • Richard Bloomfield, Senior Project Manager, UChicago Impact
      • Bloomfield manages the 5Essentials implementation for the Illinois State Board of Education and smaller districts around the country.