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Conducting an Early Learning Needs Assessment

Introduction and Description


The early learning needs assessment (1 CCR 301-1) supports schools and districts in analyzing the needs and learning of children birth through age 8. This process can strengthen relationships between schools, districts, and early childhood partners to identify needs within the community more accurately, monitor trends, and inform the implementation of preventative strategies.

As part of continuous improvement, all schools and districts serving K-3 students are encouraged to assess their needs related to early childhood as part of the annual Unified Improvement Planning (UIP) process. Completed collaboratively, the early learning needs assessment (ELNA) provides opportunities to create common language, identify common goals, share resources, and build collective capacity among the early learning community.

Description of Resource

This resource is designed to provide guidance for schools completing an ELNA. It contains background research, a step-by-step process, and procedures for documenting in the UIP. Additional resources are also available to support completing this requirement. This is intended to be a support to completing requirements; however, we strongly encourage schools to modify based on local needs and context.

Vocabulary and Definitions

These definitions are provided for the purposes of clearly defining terms and meaning within this guide. However, coming to consensus on definitions of key terms and vocabulary is part of the local process for completing an ELNA. 

Early Childhood: early childhood generally represents the period of childhood for birth to age 8. However, in this document we use this term to mean 0 - 5 (prior to kindergarten entry) to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the public school system from the early learning program a child may have attended prior to formal school entry.

Early Childhood Education Programs: formal childcare or preschool experiences for students prior to kindergarten entry. 

Early Childhood Council: established by the Colorado General Assembly in 2007 to support the accessibility, quality and capacity of early childhood services for children birth to five.

Early Childhood Experiences: the education experiences of children prior to entering kindergarten.

School Readiness: the level of development that indicates a child is able to engage in and benefit from elementary school classroom environments (C.R.S.22-7-1003). The state board, pursuant to section 22-7-1004, describes school readiness as: 

School readiness describes both the preparedness of a child to engage in and benefit from learning experiences, and the ability of a school to meet the needs of all students enrolled in publicly funded kindergarten. School readiness is enhanced when schools, families, and community service providers work collaboratively to ensure that every child is ready for higher levels of learning in academic content. State Board of Education, 2023

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