Our Approach

Start Early’s research shows that children, families and staff thrive when organizations invest in teams.

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The Start Early Essentials

Start Early’s professional development is rooted in an evidence-based framework of essential conditions that, when strong, most directly impact children’s long-term success. Our courses, tools, and processes are designed to build program strength in these key areas.

Developed in partnership with The University of Chicago, The Start Early Essentials can be measured in birth through pre-K programs, and through the lens of both teacher and family perspectives—providing a targeted roadmap for program improvement across an entire organization.


Research Behind The Start Early Essentials

  • Effective Instructional Leaders

    School/center leaders are strategically focused on children’s development and early achievement. They nurture trust, collective understanding, and responsibility for excellence and improvement among staff and families.

  • Collaborative Teachers

    Teachers are committed to the school/center and champion collaboration as the path to success. They build strong relationships with colleagues and work together to continuously improve teaching and children’s learning.

  • Involved Families

    Staff build responsive relationships with families and actively support their engagement with the program, community, and children’s learning. Families learn the lasting skill of advocating for their children’s success.

  • Supportive Environment

    School/center is a physically and emotionally safe and engaging environment. Staff hold high expectations for children’s social and emotional and academic learning, coupled with nurturing, individualized support for children and families.

  • Ambitious Instruction

    Educators provide consistently engaging, rigorous, and developmentally appropriate learning experiences. Teachers prioritize inquiry-based teaching and learning, differentiated instruction, and reflective planning to ensure progress and growth.

  • Teacher & Family Voice

    Through staff and family surveys, teachers and families inform the measurement of the essential conditions and drive program improvement plans. By valuing both perspectives, schools/centers develop more effective strategies for child, staff, and family success.

The Start Early Essentials in Action

How do early childhood educators work with The Start Early Essentials to improve child outcomes? Take a look at the four stages of The Start Early Essentials in action.

The Start Early Essentials in Action

  1. Start Early’s professional development starts by focusing on the leader as the catalyst for action within a program.
  2. We teach leaders how to leverage and facilitate evidence-based cycles of collaboration that help teams become stronger in the areas most critical for positive child outcomes. The more teams collaborate to solve problems of practice, the more they strengthen each of The Start Early Essentials…
  3. …and increase educator well-being at the same time. As this cyclical process becomes rooted in daily routines, the overall effectiveness of the early childhood program improves.
  4. And when each of these areas within a program thrive, children and families do too.