Investing In Innovation (i3)

The need to increase early childhood program quality is well documented, but few, if any, improvement efforts have focused deeply or systematically on leaders and leadership. The Ounce of Prevention Fund conceptualized, implemented and independently evaluated a pioneering approach to professional development that builds professional capacity for instructional improvement across the entire organization.

Improving young children’s learning outcomes and increasing the quality of early childhood programs demands an evolved and shared understanding of instructional improvement that is based on the evidence of what actually improves teaching and learning.  To that end, we developed a Professional Development Intervention (PDI) that drives better child outcomes by strengthening the organizational conditions and leadership that surrounds teachers and teaching.

The intervention’s key premise is that instructional improvement flows from strong organizational conditions that support teachers and the work of teaching and learning. Program leaders shape teaching through day-to-day practices of instructional leadership and drive continuous improvement by facilitating routine teacher collaboration and practice improvement cycles. Cultivating those leadership competencies with early childhood program leaders requires embarking with them on a professional development journey that transforms not only their knowledge and practices but also their conceptualization of their role and understanding of leadership.

Our work was independently evaluated by the University of Illinois at Chicago, Center for Urban Education Leadership ( Their evaluation found that we successfully:

  • Increased leaders’ knowledge, skills and dispositions with instructional leadership
  • Established a system of instructional guidance and feedback, and weekly and monthly job-embedded professional learning routines
  • Increased teachers’ knowledge, skills and dispositions
  • Realized statistically significant improvements in children’s social-emotional learning and development

For a more in depth look at the PDI please see our Professional Development Initiative overview.

This project was generously supported by US Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3) development grant, the Stranahan Foundation and The Crown Family.