Grassroots and Grass Tops: How a Shared Data Set Can Promote Change

Jaclyn Vasquez1, Rebecca Halperin1, Anisha Grimmett2, Elizabeth Richardson3

1Erikson Institute, Chicago, United States, 2Alignment Rockford, Rockford, United States, 3Greater East St. Louis Early Learning Partnership, St. Louis, United States


Erikson Institute is the premiere graduate school in child development in the United States. Erikson has partnered with key cross-sector stakeholders in five communities across the state of Illinois in the United States to implement the Early Development Instrument (EDI). The tool itself proves to be a foundational baseline, serving as a shared data set with common language across diverse stakeholders. The partnership with each community involves a community coaching process throughout and beyond implementation. The data gathered from the tool, coupled with coaching, informs community efforts. The theory of change behind the coaching model is that through activities that promote data literacy, systems thinking, and identifying opportunities for coordinated action all within a racial equity approach, communities move toward structural outcomes. This panel will provide insight on the experiences of Illinois communities that have engaged in this process and identify how representational organizations have utilized the data. Some of these uses include how they have built bridges between diverse stakeholders. They will also discuss meaningful changes for children and their families, including how they identified and acted upon barriers and opportunities for change during the Covid-19 pandemic. Panelists will include representation from Rockford Illinois’s Ready To Learn Initiative (RTL) and Greater East St. Louis’s transitions pilot project. The RTL used the EDI data to identify workgroups that together focus the work with a goal of improving kindergarten readiness in the community. In Greater East St. Louis, EDI data was instrumental in the identification of the need for stronger transitions support as children move from previous care arrangements (home, daycare, preschool, etc.) into formal schooling (kindergarten). This resulted in a pilot program that enhances existing kindergarten transitions strategies and seeks to identify additional ones based on teacher, family, and community feedback.



Jaclyn Vasquez is the Associate Director of the Early Development Instrument (EDI) at Erikson Institute. During her time at Erikson she launched the EDI project in partnership with UCLA to provide the EDI neighborhood level data to communities throughout Illinois. Under Jaclyn’s leadership, her team launched an interactive website and an app for communities to have greater access to resources and data.   Jaclyn serves as a coach for the Early Childhood Leadership Academy at Erikson Institute, effectively supporting Illinois leaders in deepening their knowledge around early childhood policy development using a racial equity lens.