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Early Childhood Education Research Alliance

About the Alliance

The Early Childhood Education Research Alliance (ECE RA) brings together stakeholders from Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and North Dakota to work on initiatives to increase kindergarten readiness. The alliance has two areas of focus: Data Use; and Preparation and Support. Overall, alliance objectives include determining ways to use data to inform early childhood practices, policies, and programs; and supporting effective instruction and classroom environments. The long-term goals of the alliance involve increasing kindergarten readiness and quality early childhood environments.

Focus Areas

Data Use Icon

Data Use: focuses on using data more effectively to assess school readiness, guide instruction, and evaluate teachers.

Preparation and Support Iconn

Preparation and Support: focuses on providing technical support to early childhood educators and administrators to improve instruction and classroom environments.

Summary of Related Projects


 Infographic: Four Steps To Build Data Use Skills in Early Childhood Education Programs
This infographic walks early childhood education data teams through a four-step process to identify current data use skills, connect to professional development resources, and implement an action plan for data use improvement.

Early Childhood Data Use Self-Assessment
Closed Project
The Early Childhood Data Use Self-Assessment will provide early childhood education (ECE) data teams with a research-based self-assessment tool designed to improve the use of child assessment and administrative data. Child assessment and administrative information collected by ECE data teams includes, for example, suspension and expulsion data, evaluation and screening data, family outcome data, and satisfaction survey results. The data use self-assessment tool will provide guidance on planning for data use, using and communicating data, and self-reflecting and monitoring with data. To help ECE data teams use existing child assessment and administrative data, the tool will include (1) a data use checklist that prompts users to consider how program staff use child assessment and administrative data, (2) a resource guide to help users identify resources aligned to professional growth goals in order to improve data use, (3) an action plan template to support planning for professional growth, and (4) a step-by-step guide to support users of the tool.
Report: Early Childhood Data Use Assessment Tool

Technical Support

Understanding Teacher Variance in Early Childhood Assessments
Open Project
The goal of the Results Matter program at the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) is to “improve outcomes for Colorado’s youngest children by helping teachers, administrators, families, and other education stakeholders use authentic assessment data to inform classroom instruction as well as program and policy decision-making.” Research has suggested that teachers may differ systematically in how they complete authentic assessments, such as the GOLD assessment. As a result, children’s assessment scores may depend, in part, on what teachers they have in addition to what their true developmental levels are. In this project, REL Central is supporting CDE partners in understanding this potential issue by conducting analyses of GOLD data from Colorado. The project will build the partners’ capacity to conduct similar analyses with future years of data and support them in determining the appropriate uses of GOLD data.

Colorado Department of Education (CDE) Kindergarten Assessment
Closed Project
REL Central is supporting partners in the Preschool Through 3rd Grade Office at the Colorado Department of Education to better understand the extent to which approved kindergarten readiness assessments align with end-of-preschool Colorado Academic Standards. Because the assessment data inform teachers’ instructional practices, the partners need to understand how each assessment measures children’s progress toward achieving the standards and how the measurement of children’s progress varies by assessment. In this project, REL Central is conducting a series of trainings to assist the partners in aligning the approved assessments with the end-of-preschool standards, developing a process to align future assessments, and disseminating the information to school districts. The information will help districts make informed choices about which assessment to use to support their goals for instruction and student learning.

Approaches to Early Childhood Needs Assessment by Local Education Agencies
Closed Project
This project addressed the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) need to provide guidance to local education agencies (LEAs) on how to respond to Colorado legislation requiring schools and districts identified for improvement or turnaround to conduct an early childhood needs assessment. REL Central partnered with CDE to create an annotated bibliography of needs assessment tools, review and assess a draft tool, and provide guidance on how the approach to assessing particular indicators in the draft tool is similar to or different from the approaches in other needs assessments. This project built CDE staff capacity to develop tools for needs assessments.

Colorado Preschool Program Eligibility Indicators
Closed Project
The goal of the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) is to ensure that children with the highest risk of school failure have access to state-funded preschool. Colorado legislation identifies several risk factors, such as eligibility for the national school lunch program and homelessness, as criteria for CPP eligibility. However, some districts have requested to expand the eligibility criteria for their communities when an additional risk factor affects a child’s ability to succeed in school. The Colorado Department of Education is partnering with REL Central to develop an expanded eligibility rubric for districts to demonstrate how the expanded criteria are unique to communities and related to school failure. This project also includes developing training materials to build CPP staff and school district capacity related to using evidence and developing a theory of change.

Data Review Protocol for Colorado Early Educators
Closed Project
Early Learning and School Readiness staff at the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) need to develop resources that support early childhood teachers in using formative assessment data to shape instruction. REL Central is partnering with CDE to provide training to staff on reviewing early childhood data to inform the implementation of instructional processes.
Administrative Data Use Self-Assessment Checklist

Exploring the Feasibility of a Study of the Impact of Public Preschool
Closed Project
This project addressed the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) need to develop a rigorous process for determining and reporting whether participation in the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) has a positive impact on student reading proficiency in grades K–3, retention in grades K–3, and performance on state assessments in grades 7–11. REL Central partnered with CDE partners to develop and refine research questions, determine an approach to sampling districts to include in the study, and identify a strategy for handling the fact that different districts may use different versions of the assessment that will be the primary outcome for the study. This project will increase CDE staff capacity to design and plan rigorous impact studies using existing data.

North Dakota Kindergarten Formative Assessment Data Use
Closed Project
This project addresses the need for Office of Early Learning staff at the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI) to develop tools to support educators in using Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA) data to shape instruction. The project guides NDDPI staff in reviewing KEA data to inform the implementation of instructional processes. It also involves synthesizing research on KEA data use to facilitate the development of a data review protocol that will function as a step-by-step guide to support KEA users in interpreting data. In combination with the Data Review Protocol for Colorado Early Educators project, this project will also result in a toolkit that includes a data review protocol which any KEA user can utilize.

Understanding the Use and Purpose of Kansas Kindergarten Readiness Snapshot Tool Data
Closed Project
This project addressed the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) need to interpret and respond to results of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ). The Kansas State Board of Education has identified kindergarten readiness as an important indicator of their progress toward achieving their vision for success of every student in the state. To support their efforts to understand students’ readiness when they enter kindergarten, KSDE selected the ASQ as its kindergarten readiness snapshot. REL Central partnered with KSDE to increase educator knowledge about using early childhood screening instruments and to build their capacity to understand and interpret the kindergarten entry data. Specifically, project participants compiled existing guidance for the ASQ and other literature that captures best practices in interpreting and communicating the results of screening instruments, and are discussing various methods for disseminating information about the appropriate use of the screening instrument results to educators across the state. The project expanded KSDE capacity to communicate with teachers about how to use ASQ data.


 Webinar: Language, Discussion, and Questions in Early Math

 Webinar: Supporting Emotion Regulation in Early Childhood

 Webinar: Supporting the Evaluation of Early Childhood Educators


 Video: Early Childhood Math: Number and Operations

 Video: Early Childhood Math: Geometry, Patterns, Measurements, and Data Analysis

 Video: Early Childhood Math: Dedicate and Integrate Daily Math Instruction

 Video: Early Childhood Math: Questioning Strategies

 Video: Early Childhood Math: Use Progress Monitoring to Build on What Children Know

Technical Support

Strategies to Improve Kindergarten Readiness
Closed Project
In a January 2020 needs assessment report, the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) stated that insufficient kindergarten readiness was an issue across the state. One area of concern was lack of access to quality early learning. REL Central is supporting KSDE in using research and data to further develop strategies to improve kindergarten readiness, including support for high-quality preschool programs and recognition for districts that have developed effective kindergarten transition processes. REL Central and KSDE are partnering to ensure that resources for families and providers and early childhood instructional practices are evidence based. This project will also build KSDE’s capacity to monitor associated outcomes to improve kindergarten readiness, including the use of screening and assessment data.

Development of Early Childhood Education Evaluation Resources
Closed Project
In the current CDE State Model Evaluation System, half of a teacher’s final rating is based on an evaluation of professional practices. Each level of the evaluation rubric consists of specific professional practices that are, in some cases, tailored to a subset of grade levels. Because the application of these professional practices differs by grade level and content specialization, CDE has developed guides to help administrators evaluate educators with backgrounds different from their own. In response to the recently revised State Model Evaluation System, REL Central is partnering with stakeholders to update the Practical Ideas Guide for Evaluating Early Childhood Educators. The group is reviewing the revised State Model Evaluation System to identify how the rubric elements should be interpreted from an early childhood education perspective and to suggest how the Practical Ideas Guide might better align with the revised system.

Review of Prekindergarten Classroom Quality Indicator
Closed Project
Starting in 2019, all districts and charter schools in Missouri can claim a portion of their prekindergarten students in the state’s education funding formula. The only requirement to claim this funding is that prekindergarten teachers hold a valid teaching certificate issued by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Yet Missouri districts also need research-based information on indicators of quality for prekindergarten classrooms. This project provides Missouri partners with research on quality indicators and evidence-based implementation strategies in order to build their capacity to support the development and improvement of prekindergarten classrooms

Understanding the Colorado Early Childhood Educator Credential System
Closed Project
This project addresses the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) need to conduct an empirical investigation into whether the Colorado Early Childhood Professional Credential 2.0 system promotes effective early childhood education. This credential system is designed to provide a framework for early childhood educators to document their formal education, professional development activities, professional experience, and demonstrated competencies (for example, observational ratings on systems such as the Classroom Assessment Scoring System). REL Central is partnering with CDE in three primary activities: developing and refining research questions to guide an empirical investigation of the Colorado Early Childhood Professional Credential 2.0 system; identifying and reviewing data to address the research questions and evaluate the program’s quality; and developing an analytic study plan. This project will build CDE staff capacity to make refinements to the credential system.