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In 1994, the Open Society Institute (OSI) initiated a project to introduce child-centered teaching methods in preschools in 15 Central and Eastern European countries as a way to promote and develop democratic principles. The Step by Step (SbS) early childhood program initially supported professional development of educators and resources for development of classrooms and teaching practices to promote open and critical thinking in a new generation of children. SbS now operates in over 30 countries, primarily through non-governmental organizations, and has expanded its activities to include special initiatives for Roma children and children with special needs, parent education, and children's literature, to name a few.

In 2005, OSI provided a planning grant to the RAND Corporation to study the SbS program. That initial study aimed to assess SbS's reach and sustainability using available data and to recommend a strategy for a future evaluation. In October 2006, RAND began conducting the evaluation study of SbS to further assess the program's reach and sustainability. A second aim of the project was to provide technical assistance to the program to help develop its data-collection and data-analysis capabilities.

A survey of SbS country directors provided data on program operations and impact. To date, SbS has trained over 68,000 teachers, and over 1.5 million children have been exposed to SbS methodologies. Over 1,200 faculty members at pre-service institutions have been trained in SbS methodologies, which means that potentially tens of thousands of student teachers are learning SbS methodologies. And the SbS program is being institutionalized into national education systems. With regard to sustainability, some findings are that SbS organizations take on multiple advocacy roles, and a majority are involved in education policymaking at the national level. SbS organizations enjoy a positive public image, locally, nationally, and internationally. In a majority of countries, SbS organizations have more demands for their services than they are able to provide. SbS's financial viability is mainly positive: Programs secure grants from diverse sources and raised about $6.5 million in grant income in 2006 alone.

This report, which is primarily intended for the OSI, describes the research and technical assistance project to develop a survey, and the study's findings. The report may also be of interest to practitioners involved in early childhood education programs and to program evaluators.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Open Society Institute and was conducted by RAND Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation.

This report is part of the RAND technical report series. RAND technical reports may include research findings on a specific topic that is limited in scope or intended for a narrow audience; present discussions of the methodology employed in research; provide literature reviews, survey instruments, modeling exercises, guidelines for practitioners and research professionals, and supporting documentation; or deliver preliminary findings. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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