Photograph of a group of 7 smiling kids running down the hallway of their school with backpacks towards the camera.

What is the Early Development Instrument?

The Early Development Instrument (EDI) is a community measure that provides information about children’s health, development and school readiness to help principals, school administrators and community partners improve services and community conditions that prepare children for success in school and in life. EDI results help schools and community partners:

  • Look back to identify how the 0-5 early childhood community can work together across sectors to support early childhood development and prepare children for school.
  • Look forward to inform how to address the needs of the incoming class of students as they progress through school.

The EDI describes children’s well-being in five areas of development known to predict later success in school and in life: 

Physical Health & Wellbeing
Emotional Maturity
Social Competence
Langauge & Cognitive Skills
Communication Skills & General Knowledge

The Physical Health and Well-being domain measures a child’s gross and fine motor skills, energy levels for classroom activities, independence in looking after own needs, and daily living skills. Children who score in the on-track range are healthy, independent, and rested each day.

The Social Competence domain measures a child’s curiosity about the world, eagerness to try new experiences, knowledge of standards of acceptable public behavior, ability to control own behavior, respect for adult authority, cooperation with others, ability to follow rules, and ability to play and work with other children. Children who score in the on-track range play and get along with others, share and show self-confidence.

The Emotional Maturity domain measures a child’s ability to think before acting, ability to balance between being too fearful and being too impulsive, ability to deal with feelings at the age-appropriate level, and empathetic response to other people’s feelings. Children who score in the on-track range can concentrate on tasks, help others, show patience, and are not often aggressive or angry.

The Language and Cognitive Development domain measures a child’s reading awareness, age-appropriate reading and writing skills, age-appropriate numeracy skills, ability to understand similarities and differences, and ability to recite back specific pieces of information from memory. Children who score in the on-track range are interested in reading and writing, can count, and recognize numbers and shapes.

The Communication Skills and General Knowledge domain measures a child’s ability to communicate needs and wants in socially appropriate ways, symbolic use of language, storytelling, and age-appropriate knowledge about the life and world around. Children who score in the on-track range can tell a story and communicate with adults and other children.

The EDI is helpful in predicting later health, education, and social outcomes and is used to engage diverse groups to better understand the needs and assets of children in the community and collectively develop solutions. Understanding how children are doing in every neighborhood allows community members, educators, organizations that provide services and supports to families, as well as policy makers, to make informed decisions about where and what types of investments and policies could be put in place to support children and families.

Data Collection

EDI is completed typically every three years to establish a population baseline and monitor change over time. At least three months into the school year, teachers complete an EDI on each child based on observational recall. This activity is conducted outside of the classroom and therefore does not interrupt instructional time. Administrators decide whether to have teachers complete EDIs during a professional training day, to use substitutes for release me, or to invite teachers to volunteer to complete EDIs outside of school hours with compensation. Participating teachers receive a one-hour orientation and then complete the EDIs online. Teachers find it takes, on average, 10-15 minutes per child and teachers overwhelmingly report that the process is quick and easy.

EDI Results

The EDI is a questionnaire completed by kindergarten teachers for each child in their class a few months into the school year. EDI results reflect how well the service system has supported young children and their families. It is not a diagnostic or screener tool for individual children. Student names or other identifying information on individual students are not shared with results. Instead, information collected using the EDI is reported at a group (population) level (e.g. for a census tract, neighborhood, city, etc.) and is never reported on individual children.

EDI results are reported as the percentage of children who are developmentally “vulnerable,” “at-risk,” and “on track” in each of five domains. Children who score at or below the 10th percentile of the national EDI population are considered developmentally vulnerable. Children who score above the 10th percentile but at or below the 25th percentile are considered at-risk for becoming vulnerable, and those who score above the 25th percentile in each area are considered on track.

We provide partners with an EDI Community Profile that describes children’s development using maps (example maps can be found here) to depict the percent of children who are developmentally vulnerable and developmentally on track in each neighborhood and for each of the five EDI domains. School level reports are confidential to the participating schools and district administrators and provide information about how the children in the school are doing developmentally compared to the average results of all participating schools in the district. School reports are only created for schools with more than one classroom and are never reported at a teacher/class level in order to reinforce for teachers that the EDI is not about evaluating their performance.

History of the EDI

Dr. Dan Offord and Dr. Magdalena Janus developed the EDI at the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University in Canada in the late 1990s. Since then, it has been implemented in over 30 countries, including its introduction in the United States in 2008.  The UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities serves as the Technical Assistance administrator and licensee for the national administration of the EDI in the US.

Frequently Asked Questions

The EDI provides schools and districts with:

  • A framework for teachers to reflect in a holistic way about their students.
  • An engagement tool with Parent Advisory Councils.
  • Concrete areas of development to discuss with parents during parent teacher conferences and on report cards.
  • Data to support grant-making and implementation grants for Community Schools efforts.
  • A platform for principals to bring preschool, Kindergarten and first grade teachers together to explore improvement strategies about early childhood development, school transition and school success.
  • Understanding of the conditions in the surrounding neighborhoods to foster new partnerships in the community.
  • Holistic baseline information about the kindergarten cohort to help anticipate and mitigate issues that may appear later in 2nd and 3rd grade standardized tests.
  • Actionable information for administrators to inform district-wide planning and school improvement efforts, including where to place school-based health clinics and improving preschool programs.
  • UCLA maintains approval for the EDI through its Institutional Review Board (IRB).
  • Children's names do not appear on the EDI questionnaires.
  • No data are reported at the individual child or teacher/classroom level.
  • Data are only reported on groups of children (e.g. at a neighborhood or school level).
  • Parents are given an informational letter and have the right to opt-out.
  • EDI data are collected through a secure web portal housed at UCLA.

Over 200 communities across 18 states have used the EDI. Some examples of how the EDI has been used include:

  • Hartford CT, by the Mayor’s Office to inform activities of their family resource centers.

  • Pasadena CA, to establish a city-level Early Childhood Development Policy.

  • San Antonio, TX, to develop take-home tools for parents being distributed in childcare and home visiting programs and partner with corporations to target resources and employee volunteerism.

  • Petal, MS, to support the launch of “conscious discipline” training/curriculum for teachers.

  • Santa Monica, CA, to inform how they empower parents on preparing their children for school and ensure classrooms are ready for students.

The EDI was developed in Canada at McMaster University and has been found to be a valid and reliable tool to predict later school success. The EDI is used throughout Canada, Australia and a number of other countries. In the United States, the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities serves as the National Support Center for the EDI as part of the Data Informed Futures Initiative.