Early Development Initiative Receives $800,000 Grant from McCormick Foundation

This fall, Erikson Institute is launching a pilot project featuring the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a tool that will help communities measure how young children are developing and ultimately advocate for more effective early childhood policies, systems and funding.

The EDI has been used for years throughout Canada and Australia. This will be the first time it is used in Illinois. Supported by an $800,000 grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the EDI will describe how children are developing before they start school. Results are reported at a population level rather than by each child, and look at children wholistically across multiple developmental domains including physical health, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development, and communication skills. Importantly, no data is ever reported on individual children or teachers.

Participating communities and school districts can use the data to develop action plans to improve the development of young children, including school readiness. This is accomplished using data that is displayed on geographic maps that show—down to the neighborhood level—which factors may be affecting the development of young children. For example, in northwest Canada, EDI data showed children in small communities were more likely to face developmental challenges than in larger ones. Officials quickly launched three speech and cognitive development pilot programs in response. In Ontario, a city received $525,000 in government funding after EDI data showed that 25 percent of its kindergarten students were vulnerable in physical health and well-being.

“When communities are equipped with timely, actionable and understandable data about their children, they can collaborate, focus their efforts and, ultimately, improve the likelihood their youngsters begin school fully prepared to succeed,” said David D. Hiller, president and CEO of the McCormick Foundation. “Erikson’s groundbreaking Early Development Instrument pilot project does just that, and the McCormick Foundation is pleased to support innovative ideas such as this that improve child outcomes.”

The McCormick Foundation has long supported organizations that are committed to fostering communities of educated, informed and engaged citizens, including in early childhood.

“This initiative is designed to ‘shift the curve’ for all children by really giving communities a precise understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their children as they start school,” said Geoffrey A. Nagle, Ph. D., Erikson’s president and CEO. “Our effort draws from Erikson’s mission-driven work to ensure a future in which all children have equitable opportunities to reach their potential.”

Erikson will issue a request for participation to communities and school districts across Illinois to participate in the pilot, and will provide support throughout the process. Learn more here.

The EDI has also been implemented in approximately 55 communities throughout the United States by the Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities at University of California, Los Angeles.