What We Do

At the National P-3 Center, we use three core strategies to achieve our mission: providing leadership and professional learning opportunities, offering support and resources to guide effective implementation of policy and practice, and engaging in innovative research and evaluation efforts.

National P-3 CenterCore Strategies

Our three strategies deliberately overlap and complement one another. Throughout all of our work, we create new ideas and knowledge; curate promising strategies, tools and resources; convene people to work together toward common goals; and collaborate with others to build shared learning.


Leadership &Professional Learning

We offer professional learning opportunities designed to connect stakeholders, to build shared understandings and practices among leaders in the ECE and PreK-12 systems, and to increase the exchange of ideas between research, policy, and practice. To accomplish this, our work intentionally engages people from ECE and PreK-12 together to build shared knowledge and visions for young children’s learning, enhance technical skills related to organization- and system-level variables, and broaden the scope and scale of P-3 approaches across the country. Our leadership and professional learning efforts are infused with a combination of extended learning time, team-based engagement, and an intentional commitment to applying new knowledge to real-world work.

Explore some of our signature Leadership & Professional Learning offerings below.

The P-3 Leadership Certificate Program provides elementary and early care and education (ECE) leaders with the skills and knowledge to lead cross-system improvements and to implement instructional reforms. This fully online, executive-style program is for working professionals who want to engage in intentional and collaborative learning to deepen their understanding of child development, school leadership, and learning opportunities that dismantle historic inequities. Program cycles begin in June and complete the following March. For more information, click here

The National P-3 Institute is an intensive, three-day, team-based opportunity to dig deeply into problems of practice and to plan strategically for implementation success. Unique in design, the Institute combines engagement with national experts, structured team planning time, and cross-pollination of promising practices within a community of leaders from across the country.

This year, the Institute will focus on three systemic P-3 strategies:

  1. School district organization and culture;
  2. Elementary principal leadership and development; and
  3. Instructional alignment and coherence.

The Institute is designed for teams of leaders from states, school districts, and community-based organizations. Much more than a traditional conference, the Institute offers the time, space, and professional network to delve into lessons learned from the past decades and to refine strategic action plans for the future. Teams are selected to attend based on a competitive application process.

The first Institute was held in 2008 (then called the Harvard PreK-3rd Grade Institute) and has been held bi-annually since, with a pandemic pause in 2020. The 2024 Institute will be held October 23-25 in Vail, CO. Applications are now open and will be due July 1, 2024. Accepted teams will be notified by mid-July.

To learn more view our FAQs and to access the application click here

The Washington P-3 Executive Leadership Certificate Program was designed to build and support a cadre of administrators—in both ECE and elementary education—who are well equipped to ensure Washington’s young children have a high quality continuum of learning that begins at birth and extends through elementary school regardless of race, class, culture, or zip code. The 10-month, credit-bearing course of study co-enrolled practicing elementary school principals and site-based ECE program directors/managers in the state of Washington from 2014-2017. Over its four years of implementation, the Program graduated more than 160 administrators.

Though the program ended when the National P-3 Center moved to University of Colorado Denver, it is still considered a model in the field. A full report that details the program design and participants’ engagement was published in December 2018: Building Cross-Sector P-3 Leaders.


Implementation& Practice

To keep our work relevant, we engage directly with practitioners and policymakers to better understand and contribute to on-the-ground P-3 efforts. To this end, we prioritize projects in which we are on-site, learning side-by-side with individuals and teams working to plan, implement, and evaluate P-3 approaches. Our projects vary in scope – from one-time, field-building keynotes or workshops to long-term collaborations during which we bring tools, resources, and facilitation that help to design and refine cross-sector strategies and comprehensive P-3 approaches. True to our mission and vision, our engagement is focused on relationships among organizations. We intentionally seek opportunities that allow us to learn together with people who are problem solving in the field.

Our field-building efforts include:

  • Keynotes at national, state, and local conferences
  • Workshops on a range of topics related to P-3
  • Facilitation at meetings and other convenings

The Framework for Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating P-3 Approaches is the tool that anchors much of our field-based work. We’ve created additional tools to inform and influence specific aspects of the design and implementation of P-3 approaches. For example, we have tools that:

  • guide self-assessment of current P-3 efforts
  • identify the depth of shared vision across stakeholders from ECE and PreK-12 systems
  • help teams set priorities for attention and action
  • develop a theory of change, bringing focus to outcomes and processes that matter most
  • outline ways to marshal resources that will sustain P-3 efforts

These tools can be adapted and used at state, school district, and community levels.

From 2017-2019, funded by the Nevada Department of Education’s Preschool Development Grant (PDG), we engaged in a three-year project to inform the development of [1] a statewide B-3 Professional Leadership Series; and [2] a review of the B-3 alignment of state-level policy plans in Nevada. Other collaborators in this work included Turning Point Inc., FirstSchool, and University of Nevada – Reno. The final reports on these efforts can be reviewed here:

Nevada Ready! B-3 Professional Leadership Program

Nevada Ready! B-3 Policy Analysis and Recommendations

Research& Evaluation

Research and evaluation inform every aspect of our work. We define research broadly to include theorizing, defining, and understanding the different kinds of alignment and coherence that are needed at the interface of ECE and PreK-12 systems. We recognize that the evidence supporting P-3 approaches is continually evolving. In our work, we translate our own and others’ research into actionable strategies for practitioners and policymakers. Our research and evaluation approaches are collaborative, applied, and intended to inform continuous improvement of P-3 efforts.


We are developing a new series of written products, “P-3 Snapshots,” to translate research into policy and practice. We will provide concise summaries of complex, yet salient topics, in an easy-to-digest format with practical examples and suggestions for applications in the field. For example, we will address topics such as fade-out, the cumulative effects of effective teaching, alignment of instructional approaches, and other topics.

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