The Early Development Instrument (EDI)
The Early Development Instrument (EDI) assesses how kindergarteners are progressing across five domains (physical health, emotional maturity, social competence, language and cognitive skills, and communications skills and general knowledge). With funding from DCCECE, Arkansas Research Center (ARC) is leading the effort to expand the EDI to all counties in the state while continuing to engage and collaborate with local stakeholders. This work is done in partnership with Excel by 8 and UCLA’s Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities.
Early Development Instrument in Action
Arkansas EDI Results
News and Events
Frequently Asked Questions
Children with appropriate support and engagement during their early years have healthier brain development, leading to a range of known social, educational and health benefits. To take advantage of the most important brain development years, educators, policymakers, and community members across the globe have benefited from the EDI (Early Development Instrument) as a measurement that captures how children are doing earlier on in life. Stakeholders use the EDI to evaluate how they can improve conditions for young children before they reach kindergarten.
The EDI uses a 103-item questionnaire that is filled out for each student by kindergarten teachers every few years. The questionnaire assesses how kindergarteners are progressing across five domains (physical health, emotional maturity, social competence, language and cognitive skills, and communications skills and general knowledge). It is a population-based measure that gives a holistic, not just cognitive, view of early child-development in a community. The predictive ability of EDI scores is well researched and includes connections to a variety of social, health, and educational outcomes.
The EDI differs from most kindergarten assessments used in Arkansas. Typically, assessments are completed by students multiple times per year and focus on academic achievement like literacy and mathematics. The results are then used to help teachers and parents see where individual students are doing well, and where they need extra support. These assessments serve an important but different purpose from the EDI. The goal of the EDI is to give district leaders, policy makers, and community stakeholders a holistic view of how well census tracts are supporting child development in the years leading up to kindergarten. EDI data is collected once every three years to monitor changes in child wellbeing. Students do not take a test, instead, kindergarten teachers complete the EDI based on their knowledge of their students mid-year. The data is then reported by census tract, never by individual student, and includes academic as well as physical wellbeing, social and emotional components. By looking at data at the census tract level, it helps the community to figure out how children in particular neighborhoods are faring and helps them to target limited resources. Research shows that the EDI is a valid and reliable assessment. It is consistent with measures like parent reports and rigorous developmental tests, many of which are much more difficult and expensive to administer. The EDI is relatively simple and cost effective because it does not involve a direct assessment in front of the child or the need for an outside trained evaluator.
One of the earlier kindergarten assessments was called the Qualls Early Learning Inventory. Arkansas has discontinued the Qualls and decided to give schools several choices for K-2 assessments. These options include i-Ready, ISP, MAP Growth and STAR. These assessments are performed multiple times per year. They cover some domains similar to the EDI but are reported on individual students instead of at the neighborhood level and are used for different purposes. A report by the Policy Equity Group describes the transition from Qualls to the new assessment options in Arkansas. That report can be viewed here.
The time needed to complete the EDI depends on the teacher and the class size. A teacher with a 20-student class would typically need about 4 hours to complete the EDI and related training. Teachers are able to complete the EDI and training at their own pace over the course of 4 weeks using an online portal. The training video takes about 30 minutes, and the EDI takes about 10 minutes to complete per student. Although the EDI takes time, because it is online and from observational recall, teachers have some flexibility on when and where they complete their EDIs. It can be done on a Professional Development or Pupil-free day with district or school support. There are also options that allow for teachers to do it when it is most convenient for them (after school, at home, on weekends, over school breaks, PD days, etc.). That flexibility is something that teachers tend to appreciate in addition to the stipend for their time.
The EDI is free to participating communities, including a $100 stipend or gift card for all kindergarten teachers who complete the assessment. When teachers complete the EDI questionnaire for their students, they are helping to shape the future of early childhood programs in Arkansas that contribute to the wellbeing of their future students.
Teachers and principals report that they see value in the EDI. Teachers say that the EDI is not difficult to complete, scoring is simple, and the online data collection is user-friendly. They also say that the EDI gives them a holistic framework for considering and communicating about children’s development and that the experience of reflecting on a child's development is positive. The framework also helps inform parent-teacher conferences and report cards. Finally, teachers report that the process gives them a sense of doing something preventive, linked to the community-wide effort to improve school readiness
Asking too much of our teachers is a valid concern for teachers of all grade levels. There are several reasons why many districts choose to participate in the EDI despite an already heavy workload for teachers. First, a major component of the EDI that many teachers appreciate is that the data is population level. The EDI does not report on individual students or teachers – which is a nice change for teachers. The data is used to support interventions in the neighborhoods where teachers’ students are coming from each year. In taking the time to complete the EDI, teachers are helping to determine what interventions and supports their future students can receive to help them come to kindergarten more ‘ready’. Another is access to holistic Kindergarten Data. Kindergarten teachers and classrooms are often left out of school conversations around data. This can create missed opportunities because many grants, state reports, and other funding resources require schools to provide data to back up claims and justify needs. The holistic nature of the EDI data is also important – any Kindergarten teacher will say that a large portion of what they focus on is social and emotional instruction. The EDI is a unique opportunity for teachers to report this data and for school and district administrators to see the importance of social emotional instruction and supports in early childhood.
No. The EDI is not about teacher accountability or school report cards. It looks at what is happening in Arkansas neighborhoods and communities in the years before children arrive in kindergarten.
The EDI contains information about students’ development and general demographic information. UCLA maintains Human Subjects approval for EDI work through its Institutional Review Board, observing the following rules
- Children’s names are NOT collected.
- Children are NOT present when the EDI is completed.
- Data is NOT reported at the child or teacher/classroom level.
- Questionnaires are NOT retained by the school nor retained in the student’s school record.
- nformation from a specific questionnaire is never released.
- Once an address is geocoded to a neighborhood, it is stripped from the data file.
Excel by Eight (E8) piloted the EDI in six counties from the 2018-19 to the 2021-22 school years. Early financial supporters of Excel by 8’s EDI project include the Arkansas Community Foundation, Arkansas Children’s, the Natural Wonders partnership, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. Now, with funding from DCCECE, Arkansas Research Center (ARC) is leading the effort to expand the EDI to all counties in the state while continuing to engage and collaborate with local stakeholders.
The EDI is a population measure that captures all or almost all of the public-school kindergarten students in a community. This includes public charter schools, SPED/IEP/Special Ed, and classrooms of teachers who teach multiple grade levels. Private schools can participate by opting-in. This census-style approach provides robust neighborhood-level data and information about hard to measure populations that can be otherwise overlooked in sample studies.
One thing that makes the EDI different from other kindergarten assessments is the holistic approach it takes. EDI scores do reflect school readiness, but some sites prefer to refer to it as a ‘childhood wellbeing’ assessment, as that extends beyond just being ready for school.
Researchers have found that early childhood experiences like childcare quality, physical environment, and physical health are strongly linked to EDI scores. Stakeholders can use EDI scores to inform the structures in their communities that contribute to healthy child development. These scores can also be used to evaluate and guide initiatives aimed at closing the developmental gaps identified and improve school readiness at kindergarten entry. Similarly, EDI scores can be used to identify and build on bright spots, where existing programs and interventions are overcoming socioeconomic barriers. The EDI provides a better understanding of community conditions that allows schools to forge new local partnerships. It informs curriculum, professional development, and parent education efforts and creates a dialogue among preschool, kindergarten, and first grade teachers about improvement strategies in early childhood development, school transition and school success. Specific examples of EDI data use in Arkansas include:
- Sevier County added equipment focused on building gross and fine motor skills to park and library facilities. These improvements were in response to their EDI Physical Health domain scores. This work was done in partnership with local municipalities and other groups. Find out more about Sevier County’s data use here.
- Independence County used EDI data to apply for and receive CLSD/SOAR Grants. They will be incorporating “talk pedometers” in early child care centers in response to EDI Language and Cognitive Development domain scores. Find out more about Independence County’s data use here.
EDI outcomes are linked to future educational accomplishment in reading and numeracy skills as well as other measures of child wellbeing including mental health and social outcomes. These assessments give communities insight into how children are doing right now, and how we might expect them to do later.
The EDI is administered mid-year so that kindergarten teachers have a chance to get to know their students well enough to complete the questionnaire easily. Completing the EDI mid-year does mean that students will have learned some skills and developed since their first day of kindergarten. However, schools and neighborhoods still see persistent disparities at mid-year that reflect early childhood experiences from 0 to 5.
The EDI is free to all participating public elementary schools in Arkansas. In order to set up the online portal for teachers to complete the EDI, districts will need to complete these steps.
- Accept the EDI Sublicense agreement.
- Complete the District Profile. This is a simple Excel Spreadsheet that asks for contact information and some basic information about your district.
- Complete Teacher Student Roster. he Roster is an Excel file with roster/data for each Kindergarten student in your school district, as well as teacher information. UCLA will use this to create teacher accounts and generate blank EDI records for each Kindergarten student in your district. This data file does not include student names, only district-chosen ID numbers.
- Generate Class Lists for teachers. This is the list that teachers will use to identify students in the online portal. Since UCLA does not receive student names, teachers will need the Class List in order to identify which ID belongs to which student in their class. These are not shared with UCLA, only used internally by a district’s teachers.
- Send home Parent Letters (English/Spanish versions available). We recommend sending the parent letters home 1-2 weeks prior to when teachers will begin collecting data, giving families enough time to notify their teacher/school if they’d like to opt their child out of participating.
The Early Development Instrument (EDI) was developed by the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University in Canada. In the United States, the Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities at UCLA has partnered with organizations to administer the EDI across the nation since 2009. The EDI is used internationally and has been implemented nationwide in Canada since 1998.