Early Education Essentials

Research on early childhood education has demonstrated that high quality organizational conditions — those that support teachers, students, and families — are essential to the success of early learning programs. With that in mind, the Ounce of Prevention Fund collaborated with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research to create, pilot, and test the Early Education Essentials framework and surveys.

The Early Education Essentials measurement system offers educators three powerful resources to understand the strength and quality of their organization: teacher/staff and parent surveys, user-friendly reports and data, and a data-use and improvement toolkit.

Our research team tested and evaluated whether the Early Education Essentials surveys capture reliable and valid information about the organizational quality of early education programs. The results confirmed the reliability of the surveys across school- and center-based settings. Responses also aligned with survey scores on teacher-child interaction quality and attendance outcomes, confirming that the surveys provide valuable information for measuring organizational effectiveness.

Looking ahead to additional applications of the Early Education Essentials surveys, our team has adapted them for use in infant-toddler settings as well. To date, these birth to age 2 versions of the surveys have been piloted within Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership programs in Colorado, Florida, and the District of Columbia. Our team is in the process of analyzing the pilot survey data for a validation study in 2020, before broader release in the field.

Key Findings

  • 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.

Publications and Resources

Ounce Research and Evaluation Team

  • Debra Pacchiano, Co-Principal Investigator and Vice President, Translational Research
  • Amanda Stein, Director, Research and Evaluation
  • Maureen (Wagner) Garza, Program Manager, Evaluation and Solutions
  • Tony Raden, Former Senior Vice President, Research and Policy
  • Ann T. Hanson, Vice President, Advancing Quality

External Collaborators

  • Research Partners
    • NORC at the University of Chicago
      • Stacy Ehrlich, Co-Principal Investigator and Senior Research Scientist; formerly of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research
    • University of Chicago Consortium on School Research
      • Holly Hart, Survey Director
      • Chris Young, Psychometrician
      • Penny Sebring, Co-Founder and Senior Research Associate
      • Stuart Luppescu, Affiliated Researcher
  • Stakeholder Organizations
    • Chicago Public Schools
    • City of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services


  • Anonymous Funder
  • The Crown Family Philanthropies
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Joyce Foundation
  • The W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  • The Pritzker Children’s Initiative

Point of Contact

  • For research and policy inquiries, contact Debra Pacchiano, vice president of translational research, at ResearchTeam@theOunce.org.
  • To learn more about implementing Early Education Essentials, contact eee@theOunce.org.