Preview of Markers that Matter: Success Indicators in Early Learning and Education

FSG recently hosted a webinar where we shared some highlights of our work to research, synthesize and vet a set of early learning indicators, which will be detailed in a forthcoming report entitled Markers that Matter: Developing Success Indicators in Early Learning and Education. This work was made possible with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and we are looking forward to sharing the report later this summer. This blog post is the first in a series about the findings.

During the webinar, we were thrilled to see the level of interest in our research from those working on early learning on a variety of fronts – including nonprofits, foundations, K-12 and higher education institutions, and consulting firms and individuals. The number and diversity of the webinar participants reflect a field that is vast and varied. We wanted to follow up to share some highlights from our research and the resulting indicators and emerging themes for those who are interested and may not have participated in the webinar.

Through our research, we understand early childhood outcomes as the product of an ecosystem within which young children grow and develop. This system includes the actors (including parents and relatives, care and education providers, health professionals, social service agencies, among many others) and environments (including families, education and care settings, and communities) with which children interact every day. A system approach to early learning must also address the experiences of children from a range of racial and cultural backgrounds. Positive outcomes for all young children depend on healthy development across a range of domains (such as cognitive, social emotional, and physical) and along a continuum that begins at (or even before) birth and extends to age 8.

Indicators have an important role to play in supporting healthy development for all children; they provide a common language and can facilitate collaboration among the wide range of actors working on behalf of young children. Through our research, we sought to identify a set of indicators that can do just that.

We used a multi-phase process to assess and distill a set of early learning indicators and emerging themes that included:

  1. Interviews with early childhood experts to learn about the existing state of indicators in the early learning field.
  2. Synthesis and prioritization of existing sets of indicators to identify those that are well-reputed in the field; reflect “whole child” development across domains and within a system (with indicators of different system “layers” including the child, families, education and care settings, and communities); address racial, ethnic, or cultural diversity in their design and/or intended use; and are intended for use across geographies/communities.
  3. Analysis and vetting of over 1,100 indicators to identify those that are highly regarded and commonly used resulting in a set of 48 indicators, as well as 10 emerging themes where further exploration is needed to define additional indicators.

Our report will be released later this summer, and will be available on FSG’s website.

You can preview the indicators and emerging themes from the report in the slides posted here (presentation entitled Markers that Matter: Developing Success Indicators in Early Learning and Education). We hope that our research and the resulting indicators and themes can help stimulate conversation and collaboration in a field that is vast, varied, and critically important for the well-being of the next generation.

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