Oct 15 2019

Early Childhood Essentials

A Framework for Aligning Child Skills and Educator Competencies

The Early Childhood Essentials framework presents the essential skills and competencies children should be acquiring before they enter kindergarten and the related skills and competencies early childhood educators (early educators) must cultivate in order to provide high-quality early learning experiences. It provides a baseline of knowledge to help decisions-makers think critically about how to improve the early learning programs they oversee.

Essential Child Skills Are Diverse and Interrelated

The essential skills children need to succeed in school span the areas of social-emotional, cognitive, language and literacy, mathematical and scientific reasoning, and physical development. Although these skills are presented as distinct areas of development, they are interrelated: Progress in developing one skill set can accelerate or impede progress in another area. 

Early Childhood Educators Must Master a Complex Set of Competencies 

Likewise, early educators need to acquire and work to refine a wide range of essential competencies. Effective educators must be able to utilize developmentally appropriate practices and environments to support, observe, and assess children’s development and learning and, ultimately, provide individualized supports and inclusion-based practices. These individual competencies do not exist in a vacuum. Likewise, educators’ competencies in continuous improvement and professionalism and in engaging in family support and partnership will either support or hinder their capacity to provide high-quality learning experiences that fulfill the promise of early education for every child.

Why Decision-Makers and Leaders in Early Learning Need the Framework

State and local policymakers, administrators, and leaders influence preparation and professional development, play an important role in funding to support compensation for early educators, and often directly oversee early learning environments. However, child development is multifaceted, and providing high-quality early learning experiences is complex work

Although not every decision-maker with influence over early childhood programs needs to understand the nuances of these complex concepts, it is critical that decision-makers develop and maintain a basic understanding of the essential child skills and the essential educator competencies and acknowledge the foundational conditions necessary for children’s readiness to learn and educator’s ability to succeed. This fundamental understanding will support leaders in making informed decisions to ensure that educators have the resources they need to provide every child with the opportunity to enter school ready to thrive.


Fact Sheet: Early Childhood Essentials: A Framework for Aligning Child Skills and Educator Competencies​ by Beth Meloy and Abby Schachner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

This work was supported by a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Core operating support for LPI is provided by the Sandler Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.