Sound state early childhood programs demand close, careful attention to planning. Five key elements to incorporate into state-level program planning follow:
- Be inclusive, transparent, and influential. Involve a variety of stakeholders, ensure that the planning process is transparent, and include those who can influence state policies.
- Be driven by current research and a theory of change. Base your planning on current research and have a framework that guides decisions toward a clear endpoint.
- Account for the realities of each state’s policy and political context. Take realistic stock of each state’s current policies and policy instruments; understand stakeholders’ opinions and public and political support.
- Aim for a set of actionable priorities. Establish both short- and long-term priorities; identify quick wins as they build momentum.
- Include an afterlife. Commit to regular review and revision.
 Kagan, S. L., Tarrant, K., & Kauerz, K. (2012). Planning an early childhood system: Policies and principles matter. In Early Childhood Systems: Transforming Early Learning, edited by Kagan, S. L., & Kauerz, K. (pp.137–54). New York: Teachers College Press.