Framework for Effective Practice

Framework for Effective Practice displaying all its sections.The National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning (NCECDTL) uses a house to represent six elements of quality teaching and learning for children ages birth to 5 in all Head Start program options. Quality teaching and learning uses children’s and their families’ lived experiences, home languages, perspectives, and cultural ways of knowing and being to make learning more meaningful and engaging. It creates equitable environments where all children feel a sense of belonging, and that promotes their social and emotional development and school readiness.

The six elements of the Framework for Effective Practice, or House Framework are:

  • Interaction and Environments: Providing nurturing, responsive, and effective interactions, and engaging environments
  • Curriculum: Implementing research-based curriculum and teaching practices
  • Screening and Assessment: Using screening and ongoing assessment of children's skills
  • Individualized Support: Embedding highly individualized teaching and learning
  • Families: Engaging parents and families
  • Equity-focused Practices: Promoting high-quality equitable learning environments

When these elements are connected, they form a single structure that surrounds the family in the center. Family is at the heart of the house. Each element is implemented in partnership with parents and families as co-educators in their cultural and community context. Equity-focused practices and policies not only surround the house but are embedded throughout each element to ensure equitable access, belonging, high-quality nurturing and joyful experiences, and positive outcomes for all children and families.

Equitable Teaching and Learning Practices


Fair and just treatment to all children, families, and those who support them, enabling everyone to achieve their full potential.

Equity promotes consistent, systemic, and unbiased access to comprehensive services and systems for everyone, including marginalized groups — African American, Black, Latino, Hispanic, Indigenous, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American, Pacific Islander, or other people of color; members of religious minorities; people who are LGBTQIA2S+; people with disabilities; people who live in rural areas; and people adversely affected by persistent poverty or other forms of inequality.

The terms “children and families who are historically and contemporarily marginalized” and “children and families with marginalized identities” are used throughout this resource. Specific groups are named when appropriate.

Equitable teaching and learning practices are built on positive and nurturing relationships and interactions that are culturally and linguistically responsive, bias conscious, and affirm all aspects of children’s identities — race, ethnicity, culture, language, disability, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. Children who are Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian, and all children of color, as well as children with disabilities, children experiencing poverty, children whose parents are LGBTQIA2S+, and their families bring a wealth of diversity and knowledge rooted in cultural ways of knowing and being, which should be centered during their learning experience. Centering their lived experiences seeks to remedy the impacts of historical and contemporary marginalization while creating equitable learning environments where children’s joy, brilliance, and identities are validated.

Equity-focused practices teach through the lens of culture in authentic ways that validate children's and families’ identities to support development and learning. It is necessary for early learning leaders, education staff (e.g., teachers, home visitors, family child care providers), and coaches to consider how their beliefs and practices work to disrupt bias to encourage a joy in learning. To accomplish this goal, equity-focused practices are an essential practice and elevated within each element of the House Framework.

Equity-focused Mindset

An equity-focused mindset maintains the following:

  • Keeping children and families at the center
  • Being aware of our own biases and assumptions
  • Understanding how bias and assumption lead to prejudiced attitudes, beliefs, and actions toward children and families, particularly those whose identities have been historically and contemporarily marginalized

Education staff play a critical part in children’s learning experiences in early childhood and beyond. When staff create learning environments characterized by interactions that are positive and strength-based, children and families experience a sense of belonging. To accomplish this, education staff need to have an equity-focused mindset. Being equity-focused means that one is consciously aware of the historical and contemporary injustices and discrimination that have marginalized the identities of children and their families in our society. It requires an understanding of the barriers that racism, classism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, xenophobia, and other systems of oppression have had on children and families’ lived experiences. It also means that beyond awareness and understanding, one is committed to action to disrupt these inequities within our spheres of influence so children and families can thrive. Having an equity-focused mindset is key to working with children and families from diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and ability backgrounds. In the House Framework, this equity-focused mindset is shown as the strong siding that surrounds the house. It highlights the importance of entering all aspects of the work with awareness of how one’s biases and daily actions impact children and families.

Having an equity-focused mindset involves:

  • Committing to ongoing self-reflection about one’s actions, biases, attitudes, and beliefs 
  • Learning about the historical and contemporary aspects of our society that unjustly discriminate against people and communities based on their intersecting identities 
  • Critically reflecting on and unlearning research and educational framings that are deficit-based  
  • Applying strength-based language and approaches that center the joy and brilliance of all children, particularly children of color and children with disabilities 
  • Fostering learning environments where children and their families’ intersecting identities are included as valuable parts of children’s development and learning 
  • Advocating for greater equity in children and families’ access to high-quality education and services, positive and fair experiences, and outcomes that are not based on one’s demographic variables