Over the last two decades, MDRC has conducted rigorous research in more than 1,000 early education classrooms. The evidence suggests three important investments that states, districts, and programs can make to support high-quality teaching:

Pick curricula with a track record of improving children’s skills in targeted areas of learning—and that provide teachers with clear guidance. Curricula can be a central guide for shaping how teachers plan and deliver activities in the classroom, but not all of them lead to improvements in children’s skills. Choosing a curriculum that is based in strong evidence makes it more likely that you will see positive change in teacher practices and child outcomes. Places like the Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center and the What Works Clearinghouse have good information about choosing curricula.

Provide teachers with robust ongoing training and coaching. It takes time and ongoing support for teachers to consistently implement new practices in the classroom, just like for any profession. Too often teachers receive training on a curriculum just once, in the summer before school starts, and are then expected to implement it faithfully for the next nine months. But teachers benefit from ongoing training that allows them to try out new strategies in their classrooms throughout the year.

Create metrics, and collect and monitor them frequently, to inform continuous quality improvement. Gathering and using data to monitor progress and identify barriers to teachers’ use of the curriculum gives programs the opportunity to provide teachers with real-time support around challenges with materials, administrative support, child-specific issues, or implementing a particular curricular strategy. Some programs do this through coach or teacher logs of daily teaching. Databases can be as sophisticated as an online, flexible management information system (MIS) for tracking program implementation or as straightforward as a spreadsheet.

Read the full article about supporting early childhood care and education by Shira Kolnik Mattera and Ximena Portilla at MDRC.