Building a strong foundation for children’s success starts with taking a look at where they are now. Enter the Early Development Instrument (EDI), which offers a comprehensive view of how children are developing in neighborhoods and census tracts across Arkansas.
The Excel by Eight (E8) planning process in each community begins with a research phase to inform child development-oriented goals, priorities, and action plans. The EDI, along with other data, allows communities to identify gaps and opportunities in their resource grids, analyze root causes, and define and measure goals, so they understand where to begin.
The geographic analysis is one of the most useful characteristics of the EDI. When Conway County’s steering committee analyzed its EDI results, it discovered something unexpected. Southeast Conway County, generally known to be a more vulnerable area, scored higher than expected in nearly all EDI domains. This suggests local institutional resources are making a difference, something the E8 committee may be able to leverage in the future in other geographic areas. In other communities, such as Union County, the EDI will be incorporated into community-level data walks, to help parents, educators, and residents offer feedback, context, and, ultimately, set priorities.
E8 steering committees are also gaining profound insight into pressing issues as a result of the EDI. For example, in Independence County, community feedback showed child food security was a top concern. According to Feeding America, one in four children under age 18 currently experiences hunger in the county. Going by this data alone, finding a clear solution was difficult because local school districts have sufficient or robust feeding programs. Digging deeper into the EDI results, however, the Independence County steering committee realized to address this issue, increasing nutrition – not calories – is key.
Finally, E8 initiatives use the EDI to benchmark their goals and action plans. Independence County is exploring goals around the Physical Health domain as well as Social Competence and Emotional Maturity. Little Rock is working to pinpoint where its action plans could make the most impact. Implementing the EDI every two to three years is recommended, so communities understand where progress is being made and where new vulnerabilities are emerging.
Each E8 Community faces unique challenges and bright spots. With the EDI, E8 steering committees can achieve deep, multidimensional, and developmentally-oriented understandings of their local resource grids to help with the planning process and, later, the implementation phase.