Early childhood professionals participating in leadership development program

The Essential Fellowship

The research behind The Essential Fellowship, an intensive, individualized program for early childhood leaders.

Decades of research have demonstrated that effective leaders are the key drivers of improvements in educational settings, including early childhood programs. With those findings in mind, our research team helped develop The Essential Fellowship, an intensive leadership development program designed to enhance early education program quality and child outcomes by supporting and improving instructional leadership.

Our research on adult learning among early education practitioners resulted in an approach that combines training, coaching and peer learning to drive program improvement. Our focus is on strengthening key organizational supports: effective leaders, collaborative teachers, supportive environment, involved families, and ambitious instruction.

Key Findings

  • In school settings, we have found that instructional leadership and embedded professional learning serve to transform not just preschool classrooms, but all grades served in the school building.

Research & Evaluation Team & Collaborators


  • Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant
    • U.S. Department of Education
    • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Alvin H. Baum Family Fund
  • James P. and Brenda S. Grusecki Family Foundation
  • Pritzker Children’s Initiative
  • Prince Charitable Trusts
  • Harris Family Foundation
  • Northern Trust
  • The Oscar G. & Elsa S. Mayer Family Foundation
  • The Stranahan Foundation