A Principal’s Guide to Early Learning and the Early Grades (Pre-K–3rd Grade)

The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), in partnership with the National P–3 Center, is proud to announce the release of a new guidebook, Leading Learning Communities: A Principal’s Guide to Early Learning and the Early Grades (Pre-K–3rd Grade). The guide articulates a vision and practical strategies leaders in early childhood and elementary education can use to strengthen the learning opportunities provided to young children.

Backed by relevant and recent research findings, the guide defines six competencies to help elementary school principals navigate aligning Pre-K–3rd grade—for children, families, and the adults who serve them within a school—and practical strategies that will support these competencies.


  • Competency 1: Understand Child Development and Its Implications for High-Quality Instruction and Interactions, Pre-K–3rd Grade
  • Competency 2: Develop and Foster Partnerships with Families and Communities
  • Competency 3: Embrace and Enact a Pre-K–3rd Grade Vision
  • Competency 4: Ensure Equitable Opportunities
  • Competency 5: Share Leadership and Build Professional Capacity
  • Competency 6: Promote a Culture of Continuous Improvement

The understanding of how to provide equitable and high-quality learning opportunities to young children not just in pre-K, but also throughout the primary grades, has grown in the past 10 years. This guide brings together current research and field-proven strategies about reforming elementary schools to effectively engage and support young learners and their families. Importantly, the guide also discusses the value of schools engaging with the mixed-delivery early care and education (ECE) system, and it also addresses the need for greater attention to equity issues across early learning and the early grades. 

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