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Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

Projects & Activities

BUILD is continuously providing new resources and activities for early childhood leaders and others focused on building strong foundations for our youngest children.

Our learning community offerings include information and gatherings from learning tables, topical meetings, webinars, publications and more. 

Equity Leaders Action Network (ELAN)

A focused effort across twenty states, the District of Columbia and Guam, the Equity Leaders Action Network (ELAN), a three-year BUILD project, has been working since 2015 to advance racial equity in early childhood systems. BUILD's vision is of a comprehensive, racially equitable, high-quality early childhood system that ensures all children have an opportunity to develop and reach their full potential without experiencing discrimination or bias. According to Sherri Killins Stewart, Director of the ELAN, when BUILD refers to equity, “We mean that race should not be a predictor of health status, education, birth outcomes or the community conditions for young children and their families.”

Starting with the first ELAN meeting in 2015, 38 fellows with responsibility at the state or county level, worked together to identify, address and take action on inequities based on race, ethnicity, language and culture. More specifically, the now 34-member group has sought to promote equity in the areas of health, early learning and/or family support as well as to influence state-level policy. And there is proof that the ELAN has helped them improve their ability to do so: in an October 2016 survey of the project, 95% of fellows indicated they have learned skills and strategies through the ELAN that will help them better lead on racial equity and early childhood. In addition to gaining knowledge from the wealth of information and materials provided, participants have noted the support, encouragement and validation they receive from what many of them refer to as the “family” of faculty and fellows. As Fellow Aaliyah Samuel put it, “Being a part of ELAN has actually made me bolder. While I have carried this passion for the work that I do for children all my life, I have been emboldened by the other people around me. It’s actually been a surprise to me that just knowing people in ELAN had changed the way I approach the work.”

Others have said that they draw strength from feeling like a part of a group that shares their vision while some appreciate the “safe space” the ELAN provides to discuss sensitive issues. Fellow Neva Bandelow, whose ELAN project focuses on emerging racial equity leaders, summed up ELAN’s impact this way: “I could not have started this program without ELAN’s support. The information, the opportunities and the structure of ELAN is what have provided me with the knowledge I needed to launch a program like this.”

As the ELAN fellows continue to take action to reduce disparities through the choices and decisions they make, BUILD will continue to learn from these actions and share the learning, policies and practices throughout the early childhood field.

BUILD Partners with Institute of Museum and Library Services

Leaders from museums and libraries share the desire of early childhood state systems leaders to create high quality early learning opportunities for children. BUILD and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) are partnering in a year-long effort to better integrate these asset institutions into statewide early childhood systems. Learn more about the project here.

Visit the BUILD/IMLS Partnership page on our website here.

Consortia Awarded Enhanced Assessment Grants

Grants Awarded to Improve KEA, Build Field 


BUILD Initiaitive photo on KEA EAG GrantsThe U.S. Department of Education has awarded more than $15.1 million in Enhanced Assessment Grants (EAGs) to three state education agencies – North Carolina, Maryland and Texas – to develop or enhance their kindergarten entry assessments. North Carolina, as part of a 10-state consortium that the BUILD Initiative helped bring together, has received a $6.1 million grant to support the development of a kindergarten to grade three (K-3) formative assessment. The system will help improve student outcomes and promote early learning.

Additionally, the Maryland-led consortium, which received a $4.9 million grant award, includes the BUILD states of Ohio and Michigan. As a follow-up to our early development support, we look forward to assisting the consortium further.

Improving Kindergarten Entry Assessments

Early childhood professionals know that a child who is ready for kindergarten has a strong start toward success in school and in life. The U.S. Department of Education is supporting the grant states’ development of high-quality assessments in order to provide educators and parents with more tools for understanding a child’s cognitive and non-cognitive development.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Arizona on Thursday, September 12, 2013, to highlight that state’s participation in the North Carolina-led consortium. In addition to Arizona, other states in the consortium include Delaware, Iowa, Maine, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington D.C., and South Carolina, as a collaborating state.

The primary measure of schools’ success under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is proficiency on state assessments. The EAGs can be used to:

  • Improve the quality, validity, and reliability of state academic assessments.
  • Measure student academic achievement using multiple measures.
  • Chart student progress over time.
  • Evaluate student academic achievement through the development of comprehensive academic assessment instruments.

The Maryland grant, in the amount of $4.9 million, is part of a seven-state consortium, including Ohio, Michigan, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Nevada. The grant will be used to enhance a multistate, state-of-the-art assessment system composed of a KEA and aligned formative assessments. The award received by Texas, totaling $3.9 million, will fund a proposal to implement the Texas KEA system.

Identifying and Promoting Common, Essential Standards

“BUILD’s support for the North Carolina and Maryland consortia was an ambitious and timely piece of work that we conducted with an eye to significant, broad goals for the field,” states BUILD Initiative Executive Director Gerrit Westervelt. “This includes creating better formative assessments and advancing the effort to identify and promote common, essential early learning standards.”

For additional information on the program and these new awards, visit the EAG secton of the U.S. Department of Education website.

BUILDing Strong Foundations: The BUILD Blog

Read Our New Blog Posts

The BUILD Initiative’s BUILDing Strong Foundations blog features leading-edge early childhood thinkers on all aspects of systems building from quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) to health equity, financing, community engagement and more.

In Rallying Economic Support for Early Care and Education, Andrew Brodsky, principal at Brodsky Research and Consulting, shares proven strategies for communicating the economic benefits of early care and education interventions.

In her blog post The K-3 Formative Assessment Consortium, BUILD State Services Director Gerry Cobb writes about North Carolina’s visionary approach to kindergarten entry assessment. With funding from an Enhanced Assessment Grant, the state is banding together with nine other states to think collectively about developing a KEA that will guide instruction and give teachers and students a meaningful tool for adjusting teaching and learning.

Check back every other Thursday to find our newest BUILDing Strong Foundations post. Join the conversation –share your ideas in the Comments section..