Educator Development IL Practice Research
Grant Partnership
Ashley LiBetti, Bellwether Education Partners, [email protected]

In 2018 and 2019, Trust for Learning partnered with the Buffett Early Childhood Fund and Stranahan Foundation to support early childhood providers in tracking the development of children’s executive function skills.

Context and Need

Executive function skills — including focused attention, working memory, impulse control, and flexible thinking — develop rapidly in the preschool period and are critically important for both academic success and lifelong wellbeing. Evidence suggests that children in poverty are more likely to have disproportionately low executive function skills; research also suggests that these skills can be fostered and improved through high-quality early learning experiences. 

Recognizing the importance of executive function for children’s development, as well as the need to help early childhood providers build capacity to support children’s executive function skills, the Trust joined with two other philanthropic partners to enable early childhood providers to support executive function development using a common measure, the Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS). 

Goals and Impact

The overall goals of the project were to 1) explore strategies to build children’s executive function skills and 2) support a community of practice focused on executive function. The project supported 8 early childhood education providers with multiple sites across the country to be trained in and administer the MEFS assessment to more than 2,000 children. Participants actively participated in an online peer learning community (PLC) and in-person convening, through which they shared data, practices, and lessons learned. Reflection Sciences, developer of the MEFS, analyzed individual program data and provided resources to support executive function development in children enrolled at each site. Providers used the MEFS in multiple ways, including: to inform instruction, evaluate program effectiveness, and drive continuous improvement. 

Assessing children’s executive function can drive a subtle but important mindset change, helping teachers and coaches better address both content learning needs and executive function development needs and provide appropriately individualized support in response.

– Participant, Acelero Learning

Photo courtesy of the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance with appreciation to the Cyert Center for Early Education

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