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An Integrated Stage-Based Framework for Implementation of Early Childhood Programs and Systems

Metz, A., Naoom, S. F., Halle, T., & Bartley, L.

Implementation science is the study of the process of implementing programs and practices that have some evidence from the research field to suggest they are worth replicating. It is the study of how a practice that is evidence-based or evidence-informed gets translated to different, more diverse contexts in the real world. In this way, effective implementation bridges the gap between science and practice.

There is a growing body of research looking at the processes and core components of implementing evidence-based practices in different settings and, especially, at what it takes to move an evidence-based practice from the laboratory to the field. However, historically, much of this research has focused primarily on adult services rather than on services for young children and evidence-based practices that support young children’s growth and development.

The importance of implementation has come to the fore within the early childhood field in recent years because, increasingly, early childhood program developers are being asked both to prove their program’s efficacy before bringing it “to scale,” and to articulate which components of their model, or contexts in which the model is deployed, are essential for making the intervention a success. This is true of individual programs, such as discrete language and literacy interventions, as well as for larger, systems-level interventions, such as statewide initiatives to improve early childhood educators’ professional development, children’s school readiness, or child care quality. However, until now, the early childhood field has lacked a common framework and language with which to examine important implementation supports for successful initiatives.

This research brief series seeks to provide early childhood researchers, program developers, and funders with an introduction to implementation frameworks and promising practices in implementation science, with the aim of facilitating their use in early care and education research and program evaluation.


Metz, A., Naoom, S. F., Halle, T., & Bartley, L. (2015). An integrated stage-based framework for implementation of early childhood programs and systems (OPRE Research Brief 2015-48). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.