Note: Glossary Terms appear highlighted and are linked directly to their definitions.
Building and sustaining high-quality early intervention and preschool special education systems is a complex and ongoing process for state agencies. To support states, the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA Center), funded by The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), has developed a framework that addresses the question, "What does a state need to put into place in order to encourage/support/require local implementation of evidence-based practices that result in positive outcomes for young children with disabilities and their families?"
The purpose of the ECTA System Framework is to guide state Part C and Section 619 Coordinators and their staff in:
States vary significantly in their Part C and Section 619 service delivery systems and the framework was developed to accommodate this variation. It is intended to enhance the capacity of Part C and Section 619 state staff to:
The ECTA System Framework is organized around six interrelated components:
Each component contains a set of subcomponents that identify key areas of content within the component. Each subcomponent contains a set of quality indicators that specify what needs to be in place to support a high-quality Part C/Section 619 system. Each quality indicator has corresponding elements of quality that operationalize its implementation. For example:
When developing quality indicators for all components, the ECTA Center considered a number of cross-cutting themes that are critical for quality systems. These include:
An important and aspirational feature of the framework is the emphasis placed on linking Part C and Section 619 with other efforts in early care and education. While the framework focuses primarily on IDEA Part C and Section 619 systems and services, it also addresses the general early care and education system in the state to promote participation of young children with disabilities in a state’s early care and education programs.
The ECTA System Framework was developed through an iterative process that involved literature reviews and extensive input, review and feedback from national and state experts in the field. Six partner states (Delaware, Idaho, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) and an expert Technical Work Group (TWG) advised the Center by providing input on the content of the Framework as well as contributing resources to support states as they use the Framework. The six partner states helped to ensure that the Framework reflects and is applicable to the diversity of state systems (e.g., differences in Lead Agency, population size, eligibility criteria, etc.).
The process started with a review of the existing literature and discussions with partner states about what is working and what could be improved in their state systems. Based on the literature and state input, the Center drafted the components, subcomponents, quality indicators and elements of quality. Partner states, TWG members, and other invited experts then reviewed each draft and provided feedback. After multiple rounds of review and revision, the Center invited partner states to test the Framework by applying the content to their own states and identifying existing evidence of quality for the elements.
The ECTA System Framework was developed in coordination with other Centers and projects. The Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy Center) was charged by OSEP to develop a Data System Framework and both DaSy and ECTA agreed that this Framework would also serve as the Data System component of the overall System Framework. The DaSy Center's Framework was developed with extensive input from Part C and Section 619 staff from seven partner states.
As a component in the ECTA Framework, DaSy’s Data System Framework follows the same organizational structure (i.e., components, subcomponents, quality indicators, and elements of quality) to facilitate ease of use by Part C and Section 619 state staff. The two Centers worked together closely throughout the development of both frameworks to ensure compatibility.
ECTA also worked collaboratively with the Early Childhood Personnel Center (ECPC) in the development of the Personnel/Workforce component of the System Framework. ECPC is funded to facilitate, on a national basis, the implementation of integrated and comprehensive systems of personnel development (CSPD) in early childhood, for all personnel serving infants and young children with disabilities.
Finally, ECTA worked collaboratively with The Early Childhood Systems Working Group (ECSWG), a volunteer group of national leaders engaged in technical assistance to state policymakers in the development of comprehensive early childhood systems. The ECSWG's Early Childhood Systems Framework (often referred to as "the ovals") depicts the intersection of critical early childhood system components, encircled by the core elements that support a comprehensive early childhood system. Their Comprehensive Early Childhood System-Building tool is designed to assist facilitators working with state or community stakeholders from multiple sectors to plan for and manage integrated early childhood systems.
The ECTA System Framework is designed to support state Part C and Section 619 Coordinators and staff in evaluating their existing systems and to encourage and support efforts to improve early intervention and preschool special education systems of services. The following considerations are important for making best use of its contents:
The ECTA Center, in partnership with the DaSy Center, has a corresponding Self-Assessment for the framework to assist states to:
The results of the Self-Assessment will help a state identify the relative strengths and areas needing improvement in its service system; however, the framework is not a road map for how to build a high-quality system. It does not tell a state where to start or what to do next. The state will need to determine where to focus improvement efforts based on priorities and resources. A state might choose to focus entirely on one component or on multiple components. A state may choose to complete the Self-Assessment for only one or two components or subcomponents.
There are no rules, only suggestions, for how the framework and Self-Assessment are to be used. The ECTA Center created these tools to support a planning process that identifies the activities, timelines, resources, and intended outcomes needed to improve the system; however, states might find other ways to use them as well. Both tools are designed to help states build high-quality systems. We encourage states to use them in ways they find most helpful.
The ECTA Center is compiling resources to support improvement activities for each of the components. Some of these will address a subcomponent and others will be specific to a quality indicator or element of quality. The Center is gathering examples of how states are implementing the quality indicators. These resources include examples of policies, procedures, planning documents, and other state-developed tools. The System Framework and the associated resources are used to guide technical assistance (TA) to states.
We encourage states to contact the ECTA Center with any questions or requests for TA related to its use. We can provide any clarification needed, help find additional resources and help plan improvement activities. We can also provide TA to support activities such as facilitating a stakeholder process to complete the Self-Assessment or developing an improvement planning process to make use of the results.
We look forward to working together with states to improve the quality of systems of services for young children with disabilities and their families.
The ECTA System Framework was developed by the Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center with extensive input from Part C and Section 619 Coordinators and staff from six partner states as well as national and regional experts that participated on a Technical Work Group (TWG). The Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy) developed the Data System component of the framework. The Early Childhood Personnel Center (ECPC) collaborated in the development of the Personnel/Workforce component. The ECTA Center gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following individuals:
The ECTA Center is a collaborative effort between the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute; SRI International; PACER Center; University of Colorado, Denver; University South Florida; Puckett Institute; RTI International; University of Nebraska Medical Center; and Walsh Taylor Associates. Additional information about the ECTA Center can be found at ectacenter.org
Suggested citation: Early Childhood TA Center. (2014). A System Framework for Building High-Quality Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education Programs. Retrieved from http://ectacenter.org/sysframe
The contents of this document were developed under cooperative agreement numbers #H326P120002, #H325B120004 and #H373Z120002 from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.
Project Officers: Julia Martin Eile, Dawn Ellis, Meredith Miceli & Richelle Davis.