Building High-Quality, Equitable Pre-K

The Partnership for Pre-K Improvement (PPI) Toolkit is designed to help state leaders, researchers and advocates develop and sustain high-quality, equitable pre-kindergarten (pre-K) programs that produce positive early learning opportunities for every child. The experience and expertise of pre-K systems leaders in Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington shaped the PPI Toolkit, resulting in a set of practical tools and resources that can be used widely across sectors in early childhood systems.

Read the report here to learn about the PPI project and the lessons learned.

Learn About the PPI Toolkit

Learning Together

The PPI toolkit will help state pre-K teams, and broader state pre-K stakeholders, navigate an overall vision and approach for statewide equity-driven pre-K improvement. Central to the toolkit is the Implementation Development Map (IDM). The IDM is a process-oriented tool that allows for a subset of stakeholders to take strategic action in enacting the broader vision. Surrounding the IDM are a set of tools that support the overall improvement process.

We joined the PPI because, while we were growing rapidly, we needed to increase our system building capacity and define quality programs. Through our continued participation, we have instilled continuous quality improvement and supports to measure quality throughout our system.

Gwyn Bachtle
Director of Early Learning Programs
Oregon Department of Education

Using the Toolkit to Improve Pre-K Programs and Practices

Engage Stakeholders & Build Partnerships

Learn how you can work with stakeholders to align on a shared vision for pre-K systems improvement that will support high-quality programs and practices that produce equitable outcomes for children.

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Assess the System

Employ the Implementation Development Map (IDM) to describe, assess, and identify priority areas for improvement of your state pre-K infrastructure and program/policy implementation.

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Implement, Improve & Advocate

Access resources to help you plan and implement equity-driven improvements to your pre-K systems infrastructure.

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What are the Essential Elements for Implementing High-Quality Pre-K Systems?

Understanding the developmental phases of infrastructure and capacity building is critical to improving quality in equitable pre-K programs. The Implementation Development Map (IDM) defines essential elements of high-quality pre-K and key indicators of recommended research-based practices. The IDM can be used as a continuous quality improvement tool to identify a developmental progression of these practices and assess, through implementation data, how each indicator lands in practice.

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Political Leadership

Political leadership can help facilitate the development of coherent policies that promote the equitable design and sustainability of pre-K improvement. It can also help provide the political will needed to create and sustain high-quality education. Key legislators and state government actors play significant roles in political leadership. This work also depends on the support of advocacy groups, organizations, and other influential political figures. 

Professional Development

Features of professional development (PD) systems include, but are not limited to, quality approval and assurance systems, access and outreach efforts, core professional knowledge, incentives or recognition for PD, financing, data systems, and career paths/lattices. Targeted PD that focuses on both administration and early childhood content – and is based on findings from needs assessments of preschool directors and school leaders – helps ensure that PD opportunities address different levels of experience and expertise appropriate for leaders working in pre-K systems.

Instructional Leadership

Instructional Leadership practices influence and sustain positive changes in early learning settings and help optimize child development and learning. These practices include setting clear goals, managing curriculum, monitoring lesson planning, allocating resources, and evaluating teachers regularly to promote student learning and teacher growth while nurturing trust, collective understanding, and responsibility for excellence and improvement among staff and parents. Instructional leaders also support and facilitate the implementation of professional development that is relevant to high-quality teaching and learning and collecting data that inform program quality, training and resources, and program planning.

Research-Based Curriculum

The Research-Based Curriculum (RBC) element focuses on supporting early childhood professionals to use domain-specific, developmentally appropriate content and skills that contribute to children’s long-range development in various domains, such as literacy, mathematics, and social and emotional well-being. Some states may indicate that curricula need to be comprehensive, while others encourage the combination of specialized curricula for different content areas (literacy, math, social-emotional, etc.).  Systems must be in place to ensure adequate training and support for the implementation of a research-based curriculum.

Formative Child Assessment

The Formative Child Assessment (FCA) element measures policies, supports, infrastructure, and data collection at the state and local level. This includes the types of data, the extent to which data are collected at the program level, and how programs and the state use data to make improvement goals and action plans. The IDM focuses on the use of comprehensive formative child assessments that cover not just one aspect of children’s outcomes, but at least three or more domains of development, such as language and literacy, social, emotional, math, science, physical, and the arts. FCA looks at the use of child assessment data that teachers collect using various pieces of evidence over regular intervals of time to provide timely and appropriate instructional support.

High-Quality Teaching

Early childhood classroom quality is a result of both “structural” and “process” features. Structural quality features refer to those that are measurable and regulated, such as teachers-child ratio, group size, and teacher education level. Process quality features refer to the more proximal factors of direct care teachers and staff give to assist children with physical, linguistic, intellectual, emotional, and social development. In other words, process quality refers to the quality of teaching or teacher-child interactions that more directly link to child outcomes.

Data-Driven Decision Making

Using data to make decisions requires an existing data infrastructure, accessible data, and a culture of data use. Obtaining data requires a reliable and valid data collection process, procedures, and reliable assessment tools. Meaningful use of data begins with who will access, analyze, or review the data and for what purpose. Within the pre-K system, there are multiple levels at which data could be collected and multiple ways in which data could be disaggregated and analyzed for the data findings to be a useful guide to decision-making. In the pre-K system, the multiple levels at which data are collected could include, but are not limited to, the child, family, teacher, classroom, program, local, regional, and state level.

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For questions about the Partnership for Pre-K Improvement Toolkit, please contact