Using the System Transformation for Equitable Preschools (STEP Forward with Data) Framework

January 30, 2024

The STEP Forward with Data Framework is intended to serve as a tool that can be paired with other current or future data efforts, rather than as a standalone extensive data project. The Framework, intended for use by preschool system leaders, should be flexible enough to implement in multiple ways. You can use the Framework in any way that meets your needs and matches your preschool system’s current capacity to collect, use, and analyze preschool data.  

Since there is flexibility in how the Framework can be used, this guide can help you determine a starting point. The Implementation Guide is a companion resource to the STEP Forward with Data Framework and designed specifically to help you implement the Framework. You can think through how to best approach implementation by gathering and reviewing information and working with other preschool system partners through the various activities and exercises in the Implementation Guide.   

The Implementation Guide is organized into two sections:  

Section I: Defining the preschool system, identifying focal populations, and determining data practices.

This section includes a series of resources and exercises to ensure a shared understanding of the preschool context, focal populations of interest, and current data activities. Within this section there are five activities:   

  • Activity 1: Defining the preschool system. This exercise will help you and your partners define and document the scope of the preschool system in your state or community, providing you with a common understanding as you begin implementation.   
  • Activity 2: Understanding the data landscape of your preschool system. Through this exercise, you will create a comprehensive overview of the available data in your preschool system, helping you assess the implementation starting point that best meets your goals.  
  • Activity 3: Identifying focal populations of interest. This exercise provides guiding questions to help you and your partners understand and select the focal population(s) you will center in your implementation of the Framework. It also provides a template to help you understand the scope of the focal population in your preschool system.   
  • Activity 4: Considering data collection practices. In this exercise, you will identify specific data systems that may hold preschool system data and the degree to which the data housed in those systems are accessible; you will also describe any qualitative data efforts within your preschool system.   
  • Activity 5: Determining data analysis practices. This exercise will walk you through system data disaggregation capacities and guide you and your team in identifying next steps.   

Section II: Choosing a starting point.

This section provides a set of approaches that you, as a preschool system leader, can take when identifying a starting point for engaging with the Framework. The section also provides a short assessment exercise that you and your team can use to determine your approach to implementing the Framework, along with which of the six preschool system steps and associated essential questions align best with your selected approach. The five approaches are:  

  • Approach A: Start with a full assessment of your preschool system. If you are interested in assessing all the Framework systems steps, you can work through each essential question to determine your data and data infrastructure needs.  
  • Approach B: Start with your data strengths. If you aim to address questions promptly, start with those for which you have already identified a robust capacity to access and disaggregate data for your focal populations.  
  • Approach C: Start with your data needs. If you aspire to expand beyond your current data capacity and address areas where additional data capacity is desired, consider selecting areas for which you may need to establish partnerships or implement additional methodologies to answer essential questions.  
  • Approach D: Start with your priority systems areas. If existing research or policies highlight specific areas of your system in need of immediate attention, begin with steps that align with those priority areas; the Framework steps and questions can help you use data to guide discussions to formulate policies and procedures.  
  • Approach E: Start with your priority focal populations. If you already have initiatives aimed at enhancing preschool services and outcomes for specific groups that you wish to examine from a systemic perspective (e.g., multilingual learners or children with disabilities), follow the steps to answer questions tailored to your priority focal population.  

Download the Implementation Guide

STEP Forward with Data Framework Implementation Guide: This guide was designed specifically for preschool system leaders who plan to use the STEP Forward with Data Framework. It includes a series of exercises and tools for leaders and their community partners as they apply the Framework to their own unique systems.

The STEP Forward with Data Framework was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The content contained within this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.