Measures for Early Success


Measures for Early Success: Supporting Early Learners and Educators with Innovative, Equitable Assessments

The Measures for Early Success Initiative, led by MDRC with foundational support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to reimagine the landscape of early learning assessments for three- to five-year-olds in pre-K so that more equitable data can be used to meaningfully support and strengthen early learning experiences for all young children. Measures for Early Success seeks to support innovative solutions and develop scalable, comprehensive, and validated assessment tools of children’s developmental gains that are relevant and usable for all educators, children, and families in pre-K settings.

A wave of federal and state investments aims to build high-quality and equitable early learning systems. Instrumental to achieving these goals is the availability of reliable, high-quality, and unbiased information about children’s needs, competencies, progress, and classroom experiences in pre-K. Yet this type of data is rarely collected as part of normal pre-K operations.

Three primary hurdles limit the range of information collected across pre-K systems, undermining critical opportunities to identify solutions that can support all children:

  • Most of the existing child assessment tools have been developed and validated with study samples that are not representative of the diverse populations of children served by publicly funded pre-K systems;
  • Existing tools are also often costly, burdensome to use, and do not always yield meaningful and timely insights to support educators, families, and young children’s learning; and,
  • Most tools focus on narrow sets of skills that have not been consistently linked with longer-term indicators of success.

Over the past year, MDRC, in collaboration with Substantial, a human-centered design firm, engaged pre-K educators and families as well as program leaders and administrators from federal, state, and local systems, to understand the current landscape of assessments in the pre-K space. In doing so, we sought to identify how future assessment tools could better address the needs of these stakeholders and to inform design parameters for the development of more equitable child assessment tools.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

Significantly shifting available data across the pre-K landscape requires overcoming the limitations of existing pre-K assessment tools, while still preserving their strengths. Beginning in 2022, MDRC launched Measures for Early Success, an ambitious, multipronged effort to support the development of innovative assessment solutions to meet these pressing challenges. MDRC will engage potential assessment suppliers and developers and pre-K educators, families, administrators, and other stakeholders in an inclusive, phased research and development process with supported feedback loops and rapid cycles of design, research, and development.

We will deeply engage with families and young children with historically marginalized racial, ethnic, linguistic backgrounds or who experience poverty, as well as with the pre-K educators who support their early learning. In doing so, we aim to elevate community voices and perspectives that are often excluded from the early stages of assessment tool development. We also seek to build partnerships and relationships with state and local pre-K systems and communities as part of the research and development process. Through these activities, the initiative will advance new breakthrough assessment solutions that are practical, relevant, and enhance the quality and usefulness of data collected as part of typical pre-K operations.