See how the Ounce is innovating early learning through these articles, videos, reports, newsletters and toolkits.

Featured Publications

The Ounce: Inspire Minds. Change Lives

A new introduction to an organization that’s been innovating since 1982

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

A six-page snapshot highlighting key findings from our validation study

Organizing Early Education for Improvement: Testing a New Survey Tool

Full technical report from our validation study

A New Approach to Policy

The Case for Strengthening Organizational Conditions to Improve Early Childhood Care and Education Quality

Publications, by Title

Achieving Kindergarten Readiness for All Our Children

A funder’s guide to early childhood development from birth to five

An Early Learning User's Guide for Illinois School Boards - Full Guide

A co-publication of the Ounce & the Illinois Association of School Boards

Birth-to-College Collaborative Toolkit

This toolkit is a product of a partnership between the Ounce and Urban Education Institute to build a seamless high-quality education from birth through secondary school. These guides and resources are designed to help schools and districts undertake that complex alignment work. (published November 2014)

Birth to 3rd Grade Case Studies

These briefs were developed in partnership with communities which invested in integrating experiences for children, families and educators.

Closing the Achievement Gap in Academic Performance

The achievement gap is really a gap in school readiness. Unfortunately, policies that dictate how we invest public dollars in education have not kept up with what the science tells us. The result is too many children who start school already behind; most of these children will never catch up.

Building Inclusive State Child Care Systems

This resource represents a joint effort by the Ounce of Prevention Fund, the Division for Early Childhood (DEC), and Child Care Aware® of America. It provides context for the current debate on inclusion, but largely focuses on discussing how states can maximize opportunities in the new CCDBG requirements to promote inclusion.

Cost Savings Analysis of School Readiness in Illinois

The goal of school turnaround strategies are to put schools on a trajectory to long-term success, but current metrics effectively eliminate the viability of early learning as a potential long-term improvement strategy. The federal government and states should rethink their metrics for turnaround success in order to encourage earlier investment. (published May 2011)

Early Childhood Advocacy Toolkit

This advocacy toolkit is designed to help parents, student groups, practitioners, and other advocates get involved in the public policy-making process by educating key audiences about, and developing support for, early childhood initiatives.

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

A six-page snapshot highlighting key findings from our validation study.

Early/Head Start Program Annual Reports

The Ounce of Prevention Fund is a Head Start/Early Head Start grantee which provides services through directly-operated, partner, and delegate programs in Chicago, its south suburbs, and Waukegan. These annual reports include service data for years dating back to 2008.

Early Returns on Educare Chicago

Among some of the most difficult to reach children, Educare Chicago is improving early language and literacy skills, creating active and engaged learners, and putting vulnerable children on the pathway toward school success.

Educare: Catalyst for Change

When Educare Chicago opened its doors in 2000 to 150 low-income infants, toddlers and preschoolers, the Ounce of Prevention Fund could not have predicted just how much early investments in our school would help reshape public education in Illinois and revolutionize the entire field of early education.

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

This paper was co-authored with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research as part of the partnership on the Five Essentials-Early Education Measurement Project. It briefly introduces the field to the need to broaden our understanding, definition and focus of quality and quality improvement, then chronicles the rigorous survey development methodology and initial pilot results we employed.

The First Days of Life: Adding Doulas to Early Childhood Programs

How can we find more effective ways to reach young, at-risk parents whose children are less likely to do well in school? In communities throughout Illinois, specially trained home visitors called “doulas” are reaching families early—during pregnancy. This report explores how more early childhood programs can add doula services.

Foundations: How States Can Plan & Fund Programs for Babies & Toddlers

Providing one year of preschool to four-year-olds is often too little, too late for many children. This publication explores what babies and toddlers need to thrive and take advantage of preschool, and offers strategies for states to plan and structure funding for programs for babies and toddlers.

Heart to Heart: An Innovative Approach to Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

Heart to Heart is a model child sexual abuse prevention program designed and implemented by the Ounce with funding from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Heart to Heart builds on participants’ inherent strengths and reinforces their desires to be effective and nurturing parents. –

Home Visitation: Assessing Progress, Managing Expectations

Dr. Deborah Daro reviews the evolution of home visiting programs, research evaluating such programs, and suggests strategies to move the field forward. Dr. Daro is a research fellow at the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago and is a member of the Ounce board of directors.

The Importance of Continuity of Care

Policies and Practices in Early Childhood Systems and Programs

Inspiring Innovation: Creative State Financing Structures for Infant-Toddler Services

The Ounce of Prevention Fund and Zero to Three published this policy brief highlighting creative state financing structures for infant and toddler services.

Introduction to Early Childhood Advocacy

A condensed version of our Early Childhood Advocacy Toolkit–English version.

Introducción a la Defensa de la Niñez Temprana Abogacía

Una versión condensada de nuestra guía para abogacía de la niñez temprana–en Español.

Illinois Obesity Prevention Standards Case Study

Strengthening obesity prevention standards in child care through state partnerships.

Inspire Minds. Change Lives.

An introduction to the organization for all audiences, and an invitation to help the Ounce unleash the power of human potential in all of us. (published September 2016)

Invest in the Very Young

In this summary paper, Dr. Heckman explores the assumptions and foundations of current policies toward skill formation. He examines the conventional wisdom articulated by our political leaders and draws on a body of recent scholarship that challenges many of the premises that govern popular policy discussions.

Irving B. Harris: In His Own Words

Quotations from Ounce founder Irving Harris, and thoughts about him from colleagues and peers.

It All Adds Up: Early Math Initiatives in Illinois

Math is all around us, and research suggests that children understand math concepts even before they can speak. So why does “math” seem so hard to so many and why are so many children failing math in school? The Ounce partnership with Erikson Institute to infuse math into infant and toddler learning is featured in this publication from CME Group Foundation.

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

Drawn from the Ounce Investing in Innovation project, this brief 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.

The Language of Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

Even before a child learns to speak, the amount and quality of the language she hears has an important impact on her developing communication skills. Sadly, for many children, particularly those facing multiple risk factors including poverty, their home and primary care environments are not structured to maximize language and literacy development.

Learning Begins at Birth

Our expanded knowledge of human growth and development in the earliest years has taught us that children are learning from the moment they are born. Brain growth, approaches to life and learning, language skills: all these are shaped by what does—or does not—happen in a child’s first days, months, and years.

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

Statement summarizing a framework for policy approaches to improving early childhood care and education quality through strengthening programs’ organizational conditions. (published April 2018)

A New Beginning: The Illinois Kindergarten Individual Development Survey

The Kindergarten Readiness Stakeholder Committee, convened by the Illinois State Board of Education, produced this report for creating a statewide, research-based kindergarten assessment process. The Ounce of Prevention Fund partnered with Erikson Institute and Advance Illinois to produce the report.

Organizing Early Education for Improvement: Testing a New Survey Tool

Full technical report from our validation study.

Organizational Supports Essential to Improving Early Education Settings

How the Five Essentials could be adapted and applied to early childhood settings.

Parents Too Soon/Doula Annual Report 2009

Read about our home visiting programs and how they are improving outcomes for at-risk children and families in the 2009 Parents Too Soon/Doula Annual Report.

Parents Too Soon/Doula Annual Report 2010

The Ounce of Prevention Fund has partnered with community-based agencies across Illinois since 1984 to give teen parents and their babies a better start in life by providing funding and support for Parents Too Soon programs.

Planning for Success

This issue in the Birth to Five Best Practices series describes the uses and many benefits of developing a logic model for programs serving young children and their families. The brief provides information on what a logic model is, the key elements of a logic model, how to develop a logic model or refine an existing model, and how the model can be used to continually improve program services.

Policies to Foster Human Capital

In this paper, James Heckman considers the source of skill formation in a modern economy and emphasizes the importance of both cognitive and non-cognitive skills in producing economic and social success. He also looks at the importance of both formal academic institutions and families and firms as sources of learning.

Policy Conversations #1: Early Learning at the Turbulent Dusk of the Pangloss Era

With No Child Left Behind, state K–12 education systems set their own proficiency standards in accountability testing. Many states defined that level much lower than national standards, but that disconnect is about to be fixed, dramatically reducing the number of students considered proficient on state tests. (published April 2013)

Policy Conversations #2: Considering a Multistate Approach to Early Learning Standards

The Common Core State Standards were based on the idea that states working together to develop high-quality standards for K–12 could result in improved quality, increased efficiency, and higher likelihood of implementation. What can political and early learning leaders learn from them? (published August 2013)

Policy Conversations #3: A Framework for Rethinking State Education Accountability and Support from Birth through High School

Statewide accountability systems have emerged as a strategy for improving child outcomes because they can impact local action. But those systems in early learning and K–12 have yet to set the right goals or deliver adequate supports. (published June 2014)

Policy Conversations #4: Changing the Metrics of Turnaround to Encourage Early Learning Strategies

Turnaround strategies should put schools on a path to long-term success, but current metrics effectively eliminate early learning as a potential long-term improvement strategy. States and the federal government should rethink their metrics for turnaround success to encourage earlier investment. (published September 2014)

Policy Conversations #5: Valuing the Early Years in State Accountability Systems Under the Every Child Succeeds Act

The early years matter to a child’s success in real life, but they have not mattered in state education accountability systems. ESSA gives states a new chance to hold districts and schools accountable for their work with students prior to 3rd grade. (published March 2015)

Policy Conversations #6: Uses and Misuses of Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Results

States and schools are increasingly using KRAs to measure the developmental progress of children as they enter kindergarten. These assessments can provide valuable information, but the results of these assessments have sometimes been used inappropriately. (published February 2017)

Policy Conversations #7: An Unofficial Guide to the Why and How of State Early Childhood Data Systems

Developing a unified early childhood data system at the state level might be one of the most significant opportunities to improve early childhood policy. This Unofficial Guide is just the thing you need to get engaged in that work and fundamentally change state policy on early childhood. (published August 2017)

Preschool for All: Full Report

The Illinois Early Learning Council developed a set of recommendations for a five-year plan to make Illinois the first state to offer high-quality preschool to all three- and four-year-olds whose families choose to enroll them. (published spring 2006)

Raising Young Children to the Top of the Policy Agenda: Lessons from Illinois

This is the story of two decades of advocacy work in Illinois, culminating in the 2006 historic passage of Preschool for All, making high-quality preschool available to all 3- and 4-year-olds who chose to participate and increased investments in programs and services for at-risk infants and toddlers.

Ready for School: The Case for Including Babies and Toddlers As We Expand Preschool Opportunities

How do we ensure that children enter school eager to learn and ready to succeed? By helping young children develop solid intellectual and emotional foundations, starting at birth and even before.

Ready to Succeed: The Lasting Effects of Early Relationships

We have high rates of school dropout, teen pregnancy, and violence among youth—and equally alarming low levels of preparedness for the workplace among young adults. So what determines the success or failure of teenagers? We find some answers in the critical role of social and emotional development.

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

Drawn from the Ounce Investing in Innovation project, this brief 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).

Safe Start: How Early Experiences Can Help Reduce Violence

There is strong evidence that the propensity for violent behavior can be influenced by many factors in early childhood. Featured here are a number of promising interventions designed to support a child’s healthy development while reducing the risk of later violent behavior.

Science, Policy and the Young Developing Child

Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., has examined the state of early childhood, and explored ways to close the gap between what we know and what we do as a society. Dr. Shonkoff, the Dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, spoke at the Ounce 20th anniversary dinner. This report, written by Dr. Shonkoff, expands upon his remarks.

Secure Attachment

The foundation of this social and emotional competence is laid in the very first days, months and years of life, shaped by the interactions babies have with their parents and other caring adults. Babies thrive when they are securely attached to someone special—their mother, father, or other primary caregiver—who knows and responds consistently and reliably to their unique personalities.

Self-Assessment Tool For Early Childhood Programs Serving Families Experiencing Homelessness

This Self-Assessment Tool for Early Childhood Programs Serving Families Experiencing Homelessness has been specifically designed for child care, Head Start and Early Head Start, and public pre-k programs as a guide for welcoming and supporting families and children experiencing homelessness into these programs.

Snapshots: Incorporating Comprehensive Developmental Screening into Programs and Services for Young Children

Comprehensive developmental screening can identify children who may have or be at risk of a developmental delay or disability. This report describes key best practices and different methods for implementation of that screening.

Start Early To Build a Healthy Future

This publication analyzes the latest research on how early experiences—both beneficial and stressful—can have strong impacts on the health of the developing child. It also offers research, policy and practice recommendations for supporting children’s lifelong health through high-quality early childhood education.

Starting Smart: How Early Experiences Affect Brain Development

The ability to understand language, solve problems and get along well with others is strongly influenced by what people experience as infants and young children. While early experiences help the brain to develop well, poor early experiences can cause serious issues for genetically normal children.

Supporting Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness: CCDF State Guide

A guide for assisting states in utilizing their CCDF state plan as a vehicle for improving access to high-quality early care and education for children who experience homelessness. (published October 2015)

Supporting Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness: CCDF State Self-Assessment Guide

This self-assessment tool identifies key policies and practices that may improve inclusivity of homeless children in early care and education settings. (published October 2015)

Toward the ABCs: Building a Healthy Social and Emotional Foundation for Learning and Living

This publication identifies promotion, prevention and targeted intervention strategies for addressing the unique mental health needs of children under five and also provides important policy recommendations.