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From Vision to Impact: Early School Success in Action


by Aditi Sharma



As we step into a new year, we are reflecting on the journey of Early School Success (ESS)—a journey that has been shaped by collaboration and a shared commitment to create aligned early learning experiences for children in preschool through fifth grade. ESS represents an ongoing, collective effort to cultivate growth, resilience, and academic achievement for young learners. Rooted in evidence-based strategies, ESS strives to bridge the gap between research and practice, and seeks to build educational systems that actively support a range of educational needs.

We have come a long way since the inception of ESS and appreciate the path that we have travelled to get to where we are now. We look forward to the next phase of this work, which will focus on reaching more students through deep partnerships with school districts and educators.


The Early School Success Approach

The School-Based Initiatives (SBI) team at Children’s Institute partners with school districts across Oregon. One of the key bodies of work within SBI is Early School Success (ESS), which supports educators and school leaders to align family engagement, developmentally appropriate teaching and learning, and other school supports for children. This ensures continuity from preschool through the elementary grades and sets a foundation for lifelong learning. Current ESS partners include Beaverton, Forest Grove, Lincoln County, and St. Helens school districts.

Additionally, ESS  reaches more educators and students through our Early Learning Academy (ELA), which is open to all school districts and education service districts (ESDs) in Oregon. ELA is a virtual cohort-based learning experience that guides district teams through a year-long professional learning series. In our 2023-24 ELA cohort, nine school districts and ESDs across Oregon are engaged in alignment and building systems to strengthen early learning.



At their core, ESS and ELA create a holistic vision and nurture learning environments beyond traditional educational models, tailored to each child’s unique needs. Our approaches are community-driven and draw upon the strengths of improvement science and human-centered design. This work aims to address the root causes of educational inequity and dismantle systemic barriers to school success.


Charting the course forward

After five years of meaningful engagement with school district partners, ESS is transitioning into a strategic five-year expansion. The next phase will focus on continued support for rural school districts and ELA expansion.

After the first four years of partnership, Beaverton and Forest Grove school districts are set to become learning labs, spreading ESS and improvement processes across their elementary schools. As we continue this work well into the future, we plan to increase the number of schools benefiting from ESS, ensuring innovative models, support, and resources reach more districts, schools, and educators. We will also be able to provide more resources and reach more districts, schools, and educators. 

Our partnerships make ESS successful

Now, more than ever, the success of Early School Success is deeply intertwined with the dedicated support of educators and school districts. Over the last five years, CI’s engagement with two unique cohorts of educators has provided direct coaching to 114 educators and impacted over 3,000 students.

“I have worked with Children’s Institute for the last three years and as an educator, I have learned so much from them,” said Dani Boylan, director of early learning at Helens School District.

These powerful partnerships highlight tangible outcomes in the classroom. For example, children who attended Toledo preschool learned the flow of their school day by managing an interactive visual schedule; and in Toledo kindergarten classrooms children use the same process, making the transition from one learning environment to another consistent.

CI also partners with four different culturally specific organizations for the Early Learning Academy—CAIRO, Y.O.U.T.H, S.P.I.R.I.T.S, and Adelante Mujeres—which further strengthens professional learning for educators to find solutions that work best for the communities they work with.

Boylan explained that the partnership has made the St. Helens School District stronger with administrators, teachers, and families better understanding the importance of early learning and all that it entails.

“This partnership has made my district stronger as a team. Administrators, teachers and families are seeing the importance of early learning and all that goes with it,” she said.

“Together, we’re helping children be more successful by working with teachers to make the transition more effortless for preschool to third grade.”


Interested in bringing ELA to your district? Contact Erin Lolich at


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