Frequently Asked Questions
Progress Rating Tool

Technical Questions

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Progress Rating Tool Questions

What is the Progress Rating Tool (PRT)?
The Progress Rating Tool is a collaborative digital resource that makes it easy for individuals and communities to assess their progress in the journey to become an Early Learning Community. This tool provides community stakeholders with an opportunity to reflect on the actions they have already taken, and to collaborate on the next actions they agree to prioritize. The PRT contains targets, levels and action steps within four Building Blocks.
Why should I use the Progress Rating Tool?
The PRT provides the criteria needed to assess your community’s status in becoming an Early Learning Community, and helps you explore your goals, and to create momentum and alignment through an action plan. Over time, you can track your progress in a specific, data-rich and shareable way.
How will this process strengthen my community?
The PRT is a collaborative resource that helps you gather together stakeholders to think critically about what you’re doing as a community to support young children and families, and to create a strategic plan that builds on current strengths to address gaps.
What are the Building Blocks? Why do they matter for early learning?

While communities vary greatly by culture, demographics, geography and history, Early Learning Communities stand on four key “Building Blocks” – that is, community characteristics and actions that promote healthy child development and family well-being.

These include:

  • Community leadership, commitment and public will to make early childhood a priority;
  • Quality services that work for all young children and their families;
  • Neighborhoods where families can thrive; and
  • Policies that support and are responsive to families.

In an Early Learning Community, these Building Blocks are aligned, bolstered and assembled by design in ways that build on the strengths of the community, recognize the challenges families face, and address disparities across racial, ethnic, socio-demographic and/or geographic lines in the community.

What are targets, levels and action steps?

Each Building Block is divided into targets that describe the ideal conditions you’ll see when each specific Building Block is in place. Levels describe how close your community is to reaching the Target. The levels are hierarchical so a community can build on its progress.

Keep in mind that a community may be at Level 2 for one target and Level 3 for another target. So then, even when a community has achieved Level 3 for a given target, there still may be room for improvement in Levels 1 and 2.

The Levels

  • “LEVEL 1” - The starting point, the first thing a community will want to establish on its path to reaching that target.
  • “LEVEL 2” - A next step that illustrates a community is taking initiative and making continued progress toward the target.
  • “LEVEL 3” - A community has made significant progress to integrate efforts across the Early Childhood system and other sectors.
Do we have to complete all four Building Blocks at once?
No, you can begin with any Building Block survey, in any order. It is recommended that communities that are just getting started begin with Building Block One: Community Leadership, Commitment and Public Will. As a reminder, once started, each survey saves automatically, so you can pause at any time and return to it at a later date to add to it or revise it.
Should we complete the Building Block surveys in a particular order?
It is recommended that communities that are just getting started begin with Building Block One: Community Leadership, Commitment and Public Will. But you can begin any Building Block survey in any order you prefer. As a reminder, once started, each survey saves automatically so you can pause at any time and return at a later date.
Where can I find more Early Learning Nation resources for my community?
For more information on how to become and Early Learning Community and be part of an Early Learning Nation, visit

Community Process and Leadership Questions

What’s the difference between a stakeholder and a community lead?

A stakeholder is anyone who is interested in helping your community become an Early Learning Community. It can be an early care and education provider, a parent, an agency director or an elected official.

The community lead is the designated person in the community who will coordinate this effort to become an Early Learning Community. It may be a role that is shared by several people in the community, but for the purposes of the digital PRT, one community lead account should be set up for the community.

Why does this designation matter?
The community lead survey has more questions than the stakeholder surveys, and the community lead can see the aggregated responses from other community stakeholders to help inform how they rate each item. Also, the community lead can invite other stakeholders to complete the surveys and can create an action plan based on the advocacy plans created by other stakeholders.
How do I know whether I should be the community lead? How do we select a community lead?
The community lead should be knowledgeable about the community, its challenges and resources. The community lead should be a strong organizer and ambassador for early learning in your community. A community lead should have a talent for galvanizing the community around a shared passion and goals.
What are the responsibilities of the community lead?
The community lead should know how to create and convene a group, be an active listener and inspire the group to stay dedicated and on target.
How much time will it take to be a community lead?
This will vary from community to community, and be driven by the ambition and urgency of your goals, dedicated team members and resources.
How much time will it take to participate in this process as a stakeholder?
This will vary from community to community, and be driven by the ambition and urgency of your goals, dedicated team members and resources.
How do I go about bringing stakeholders together to complete the PRT?

This will vary. Some teams come together from education, medical, museum and ecumenical settings. Some communities get creative to collaborate cross-sector. Others take a two-gen approach. Some nonprofits and organizations create partnerships with municipal agencies and programs, or directly with business. Others dive into politics to rally voters to support special referendums for early childhood interests. And some collaborate to use the actual city where they live for inspired pop-up events designed to mobilize communities.

Where do I begin?

Becoming an Early Learning Community is an ongoing process with continuous opportunities to make progress. In the “Build Your Early Learning Community” infographic, the steps your community can take are illustrated as a community coming together to build a playground.

There are common elements in all Early Learning Communities, but, like playgrounds, these elements can be assembled in many different ways. Some communities may choose to make minor renovations or additions to an established playground, while others are breaking ground for the first time. Wherever your status in the process, some elements are critical to your success.

These include:

  • Commitment: making a commitment to value and support early learning and development for all young children in your community. Making a commitment to those children and communities that lack equitable access to opportunities for success is a critical first step.
  • Leadership:becoming an Early Learning Community won’t happen without dedicated leadership. 1. It’s critical to create or identify a diverse, inclusive leadership group with cross-field experience in areas such as early care and education, health and dental care, public health and family support, as well as parents and community residents. 2. It’s also important to designate an office, agency or staff person to coordinate and monitor the cross-sector work opportunities for collective action, and to guide the community narrative about the commitment to early childhood and the potential for all children to succeed.
  • Assessment: once the commitment has been made – by a mayor or city council, a county executive or county board, a parent group, other local leadership or ideally by all of these stakeholders – the next steps depend on the unique characteristics of your community. For example, you will need to build on existing policies, programs and initiatives within or across the sectors that work with young children and their families, and in some cases create new policies, programs and initiatives.
  • Action: with the commitments made, the right stakeholders at the table and the PRT data in hand, the next steps are up to you. Some communities will choose to focus on one or two Building Blocks, while others will take on all four Building Blocks at once. Some will choose to enhance areas where there is already a strong foundation, while others will focus on a Building Block where very little has been done so far.
What if I don’t see my community listed?
Community stakeholders are only able to choose from the dropdown list if a community lead has already established an account and provided some basic information about the Early Learning Community initiative there. If you don’t see your community listed, you may apply to be the community lead (if appropriate for your role in the work). If that’s not you, you may invite the right person (by sending them, so that you can respond as a stakeholder once they have established the community lead account.
What if I identify as a stakeholder in more than one community?

The Progress Rating Tool is set up for each account specific to one Early Learning Community. But if, for example, you’d like to respond to the surveys for one community where you work and another where you live, you’ll need to create two separate accounts.

If you are focused on a particular neighborhood or city within a county that also has an Early Learning Community process underway, you should respond as a stakeholder for the community where you are most involved in the work.