Anyone Who Cares for Children Can Use North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development


Our Blog Guest for March is Dr. Catherine Scott-Little, Professor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department, UNC-Greensboro. As a nationally recognized expert on early learning standards, Dr. Scott Little has served as an advisor in numerous states on state-level standards. She is the co-author of Conceptualization of Readiness and the content of Early Learning Standards and Early Mathematics Standards in the United States: The Quest for Alignment. In North Carolina, Dr. Scott-Little was one of the co-authors of North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development (Foundations). She is also a member of the Ready for School, Ready for Life Early Literacy Design Team.


What is North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development?

Catherine Scott-Little: Foundations, which is also called NC FELDS, is a document that outlines what we want children to know and be able to do, starting at birth until they enter kindergarten. It’s the culmination of decades of research in the child development field which gives us a framework for what we want every child to have the opportunity to learn during the earliest years. It also gives early childhood educators, policymakers, families and others a path for how to help children progress during this short period of time that creates the foundation for all future learning.

In 2013, a group of diverse stakeholders in North Carolina came together to answer the question: “what should young children know and be able to do to be successful?” Foundations answers that question at each stage of development. It’s been adopted by the state of North Carolina and endorsed by all state-level early childhood agencies.


How is Foundations used today?

Catherine Scott-Little: Foundations is used as a guide for the types of learning experiences children should have before kindergarten. Teachers, caregivers, family members, and anyone else who cares for children can see what children should be learning and how to help them learn specific skills at each age between birth and kindergarten entry. Educators are using the document to plan what they are doing with children and guide them as they assess children’s progress. They are also using NC FELDS to partner with families to individualize instruction for children.


What is included in Foundations?

Foundations includes Goals and Developmental Indicators that describe what children should know and be able to do at each of five age levels (Infants, Younger Toddlers, Older Toddlers, Younger Preschoolers and Older Preschoolers). The Goals are organized in the five domains of development. Here are the five domains and questions about children the domains address:

  1. Approaches to Play & Learning: To what extent do kids show curiosity, enthusiasm, and persistence toward learning tasks?
  2. Emotional & Social Development: Do children interact well with others and communicate their feelings in appropriate ways?
  3. Health & Physical Development: Are children growing and developing properly?
  4. Language Development & Communication: How are children’s listening, speaking, and print awareness skills developing?
  5. Cognitive Development: How much do children understand about the world around them?

 In addition, NC FELDS contains strategies and other useful information included to support adults in knowing what to do to promote children’s learning and development.

Click here to see a sample page: NC_foundations


How would you like to see NC FELDS used?

Catherine Scott-Little: Foundations is designed to help the whole community—families, direct service providers, early childhood educators, and others—support children and families. It is our collective vision for what we want children to have the opportunity to learn. Anyone whose work touches a child would benefit from using NC FELDS.

For child development students and teachers, it’s used as a textbook and  in professional development to learn about child development and intentional teaching. The goal is for every teacher working with children to use this document as a starting point for planning and evaluating her/his teaching. Caregivers should use NC FELDS to plan their curriculum, communicate with others who work with a child, guide how they assess children, and learn about child development.

Physicians and healthcare providers can talk to parents about NC FELDS and the importance of working with their child’s educators to support development in the domains that are described. Service providers could use this document as a resource to share with families. Politicians and policy makers should use Foundations as a guide to ensure we are implementing policies and providing resources that support children’s development and learning so children make progress on the Goals included in Foundations. 


If our readers want to access NC FELDS, how would they get a copy?

Catherine Scott-Little: There are several resources available. NC Foundations for Early Learning and Education is free to the public and available online here and there are family-friendly resources available in English and Spanish here.  



Investing in Early Childhood: Economist Rob Grunewald

On February 7, 2017 NC State University’s Institute for Emerging Issues hosted a forum focused on the Economics of Early Childhood Investment. Economist Rob Grunewald spoke on the growing body of evidence that investing in the youngest children is critical to our economic vitality in the future and benefits everyone in society. To see more videos from the conference, go to

News & Research Roundup: Early Care and Education

News & Research Roundup: Early Childhood

Steering Committee Member, Jim Hoffman, wrote an editorial published in the Sunday, December 4th, News & Record. Jim is a military veteran, and he shares a recent finding of Mission Readiness that 71% of military applicants do not have the basic eligibility to serve in the military. A group of a group of retired generals, admirals, and military leaders believe quality early learning would reverse this trend. Read the article in its entirety here.

A new study out of Duke University shows that the benefits of NC PreK last through fifth grade. Hear the study’s author talk about these lasting benefits on a recent episode of Education Matters here. Steering Committee member, Tracy Zimmerman, is also a featured guest on this episode. Tracy is the Executive Director of the NC Early Learning Foundation.

A study from San Antonio confirms that high-quality early learning environments contribute to academic success for low-income students. Read more about this study here.

Supported and supportive families can have a lasting effect on the mental wellness of young children. This article from outlines the impact of mental wellness on infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.



News & Research Roundup: Early Childhood

  • November 7, 2016. Poverty Wages for U.S. Child Care Workers May Be Behind High Turnover. Greensboro was highlighted in an NPR Morning Edition story about pay for childcare teachers and professionals. While education requirements for early care professionals has increased dramatically, pay hasn’t kept pace.  Learn more about the issue, which is critical to stabilizing the early care workforce so high-quality early care and education is affordable and accessible for all families.
  • November 7, 2016. When It Comes to Infant-Toddler Care and Development, It’s All About Relationships. Check out the latest research about practices that child care centers can adopt to develop and support caring relationships between young children and their caregivers. Read more.
  • October 22, 2016: U.S. Parents are Sweating and Hustling to Pay for Child Care. In Guilford County, families pay an average of $902 every month for childcare for their infants with annual expenses higher than that of paying for a college education at a state school. How are families doing it? Check out this NPR article that is part of a series on working families.
  • October 17, 2016. The Weight of Their Experiences: The impact of childhood trauma on learning. A study by the Public School Forum explores how “adverse childhood experiences” (ACEs) impact child’s ability to learn and function in the classroom. Data shows a high prevalence of ACES — exposure to domestic violence, poverty, traumatic divorce, abuse/neglect and more — among North Carolina’s children. The study explores how we might create school and other environments in which every student has a chance at success. Read more.


  • October 12, 2016. To Retain More Parents, the Military Offers a Better Work-Life Balance. To attract, engage and retain both men and women, the military is doing things differently than other employers. Learn more about some unique benefits in this traditionally highly competitive, highly mobile field.

See more articles from the NPR series Stretched: Working Parents’ Juggling Act.

Guest Blogger: Tracy Zimmerman

September Update on 10 Key Early Childhood Strategies

Dedicated teams have continued their work on each of the ten selected strategies. Here’s an overview of the work and the next steps associated with each strategy.
  • Strategy 1: All new parents connected to information, services and supports. Ready/Ready staff are participating in statewide strategy sessions in early October to learn more about strengthening the zero to three system of care. The Family Action Learning Team (ALT) shared their perspectives about what supports and services would be most helpful to families. (See monthly meeting minutes here.) Our goal is to launch a team in early 2017 to begin the design phase of this work. In addition, the Breastfeeding Friendly Community 100-Day Challenge Team has made significant strides in the community and has expanded their reach. Join their Facebook page to see regular updates.
  • Strategy 2: Embed coordinated developmental screening and referral processes into settings that provide services for young children. The 100-Day Challenge Team made several recommendations about how our community can approach developmental screenings to ensure that families are connected to appropriate resources earlier and to collect data to determine what interventions are most needed. Ready/Ready has submitted a proposal to a local funder to convene key players across agencies and organizations that would be charged with building a common vision for developmental screenings in the community and designing a process to support that vision.
  • Strategy 3: Effective coordination and referral network. This pilot launched in May has continued through the 15 agencies/organizations who serve families through the Family Success Center (specifically, in the 27406 zip code). The team, led by Robin Britt at Guilford Child Development, will reconvene in October to determine how to scale the work across the community.
  • Strategy 4: Leverage and expand early literacy resources/services (birth through age 5).  Jenny Gore (Reading Connections) and Dr. Whitney Oakley (GCS) will serve as Co-Chairs of the Early Literacy Design Team that will meet on October 26 for the first time to design the early literacy system. They are expected to complete the design phase in March, with implementation to follow. Ready/Ready has hired Michigan State University’s Joan Blough to help design the process and to serve as a co-facilitator. Denise Nelson (independent contractor) will co-facilitate and Rachael Burrello will be the Ready/Ready staff member supporting this work. The team consists of experts in early literacy, plus design/strategic thinkers, and community change agents who work in this space. The team will meet four times to: examine data and best practices, develop a vision for early literacy that supports kindergarten readiness, design powerful strategies and begin implementation of strategies through small wins.
  • Strategy 5: Leverage and expand parenting resources. This strategy is embedded within each of the community strategies as we consider what parents need at every stage of their child’s development. The Family ALT provided input around what kind of supports families would take advantage of, including creating more social supports, a 24/7 parenting resource line and for parenting information and resources to be available in places where they  frequent, i.e. community centers, child care centers/family child care homes, parks, grocery stores, and more.
  • Strategy 6: Address affordability and accessibility of high-quality child care in Guilford County. Several cross-agency groups continue to work on the affordability, accessibility and quality child care initiative. A team that includes early childhood professionals meets regularly to develop a strategy around compensation for early childhood teachers, which is closely tied to enhancing quality in the classroom. A small team, convened by Guilford County Partnership for Children, will meet in early October to determine next steps. In addition, Ready/Ready Co-Chairs provided a letter of support for a proposal to secure additional Early Head Start slots in Greensboro, and the county is under consideration for participation in statewide effort through the Child Care Services Administration (CCSA) around pay for early care and education professionals.
  • Strategy 7: Ensure a smooth transition from PreK to kindergarten for children, families, teachers and administrators. The transition from PreK to kindergarten sets the stage for how students think about and experience the educational system. The PreK to K transition team have set three key goals: (1) Proposing a kindergarten registration process that increases family engagement and lends community support to this important transition; (2) Determining how to ensure that the PreK and kindergarten health assessments are completed accurately, and that results are used to improve the health of children; and (3) Developing a strategy for ongoing principal (and teacher) engagement in the early childhood (prenatal to age 5) space by leveraging expert community resources. The team also had a busy summer — read more about their work.
  • Strategy 8: Ensure system is responsive to and respectful of family voice/need. The next Family ALT meeting is Monday, October 17. To date, families have learned about social-emotional development, cognitive development, and provided feedback on several different programs and strategies to help children enter kindergarten ready for what’s ahead. See monthly meeting minutes here. 
  • Strategy 9: Increase public demand for school readiness through implementation of public awareness campaign. The team has developed a process and materials for engaging three key audiences in this work — the faith community, the health care system and business leaders. In addition, Ready/Ready staff have participated in several events, including the recent High Point Education Summit.
  • Strategy 10: Focus on continuous improvement (including 0-8 data system). The American Institute for Research (through our partnership with Say Yes) is working with us to vet indicators, to make recommendations for how to collect needed data, and to develop the architecture for a 0-8 data system to measure progress against key indicators.
Community Connections:
  • We’ve movedReady/Ready moved to 500 W. Friendly Avenue in Greensboro and to office space at the Southside Recreation Center in High Point (next to Fairview Elementary). Thanks to the Guilford County Partnership for Children and to UNCG for supporting our work with this gift of space!
  • We’re engaged in state-wide early childhood system building work. Rachael and Mary are participating on two separate teams that are doing work at the state level to build a stronger early childhood system across NC. This effort is sponsored by North Carolina Partnership for Children, NC Early Childhood Foundation, Best NC, and others. Learn more
  • Steering Committee works with Racial Equity Institute. In September, the Ready/Ready Steering Committee worked with Deena Hayes-Greene and Bay Love to learn about institutionalized racism and explored how we can conduct our work in a way that focuses on equity. Based on feedback, this was a powerful learning session for all of us. We will debrief at the October Steering Committee meeting on Oct. 10.
  • Collaboration continues with Children’s Home Society/UNC Regional/High Point University/Ready-Ready: A grant from the Foundation for a Healthy High Point enabled four organizations to work on a process to embed parenting education within a pediatrician’s office in High Point. Recently, Natalie Tackitt (CHS) trained High Point University Physicians Assistant Program students (who will serve as navigators) in early brain development, toxic stress, positive parenting, local resources and more.
  • Liftoff to Learning will take off this spring. The annual Liftoff to Learning event (formerly “Kickoff to Kindergarten”) will be held in early 2017 and focus on families from birth to age five. This is a collaboration with many organizations, and is coordinated by the Children’s Museum of Greensboro and the High Point Museum.
  • Building a literacy rich Guilford County. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that families read to babies starting at birth. To support the early literacy work, Kay Zimmerman has volunteered to do some research about what other communities are doing to support literacy at this crucial stage.
A Few Small Wins
  • The Breastfeeding-Friendly Community 100-Day Challenge Team has had some significant wins over the past month — securing two breastfeeding friendly rooms for new mothers at the National Folk Festival, serving as speakers at a variety of events, and moving their own organizations and others to become certified as breastfeeding friendly spaces.
  • Ready/Ready officially named as Say Yes Guilford’s convening partner for the PreK to 5th Grade Task Force. The Task Force met on Thursday, Sept. 8 and three groups were formed around each of Say Yes’ early indicators of success: (1) kindergarten readiness; (2) third grade reading; (3) high-stakes testing at 5th grade (reading and math). While the Ready/Ready focus is kindergarten readiness, this work gives us the opportunity to collaborate with Say Yes in meaningful ways and to build the cradle to career pathway in Guilford County. Were excited about this partnership and will keep you updated about progress.

Early Childhood System Transformation: Priority Indicators, Ten Strategies & What’s Next

Ready/Ready is a partnership with hundreds of community members focused on building a more responsive, innovative early childhood system so each child enters school ready for what’s ahead. Together, we’ve collected qualitative and quantitative data, examined best practices in early childhood system building, collaborated across agencies and organizations on key parts of the system, and engaged families along the way. This work has led to the development of priority indicators for this work, ten key strategies, and a roadmap for the work ahead.

Priority Indicators 

In June, the Ready for School, Ready for Life Steering Committee agreed to priority indicators to drive the work of the early childhood system transformation in Guilford County. At the highest level, the indicators focus on three areas:

  1. More children will enter kindergarten with the needed social-emotional skills.
  2. More children will enter kindergarten with the needed literacy skills.
  3. Critical elements of an effective early childhood system will be put in place.

Each has associated measures on several levels: child impact, supportive families, supported families, aligned and accountable policies and programs, and foundation for community action. To make a positive difference at the child impact level, we all need to make a concerted effort to address the rest of the levels. <See the full list of indicators here.>

Ten Key Strategies

To reach these goals, we’ve identified ten key areas of focus for the next three years of Guilford County’s early childhood system transformation work. The strategies are based on all of the research done to date, as well as recommendations  the twelve 100-Day Challenge Teams made in May 2016. The strategies are:

  1. Ensure all new parents are connected to critical early childhood information and community supports/services.
  2. Connect more young children and their families to needed services by embedding coordinated developmental screening and referral processes into settings that provide services for families with young children.
  3. Improve family access to needed programs through the creation of an effective referral and coordination network for young children and their families.
  4. Leverage and expand early literacy resources/services to meet community need by determining and launching priority program and system changes.
  5. Leverage and expand parenting resources/services to meet community need by determining and launching priority program and system changes.
  6. Improve school readiness by addressing affordability and accessibility of high-quality child care in Guilford County.
  7. Create seamless and easy transition experiences for children and their families by aligning Pre-K and kindergarten priorities, curriculum, and transition processes.
  8. Ensure the local early childhood system is responsive to and respectful of family needs and voice.
  9. Increase public demand for school readiness by implementing a public awareness campaign focused on building community buy-in about the importance of early learning and development (0-8).
  10. Embed continuous improvement orientation within the local early childhood system.

What’s next?