• What is the NC Early Learning Inventory?

    The NC Early Learning Inventory (NC ELI) is an observation-based formative assessment that supports teaching and learning by helping teachers, students, and families understand the learning needs of each child as they grow and develop.

    Almost 120,000 children in North Carolina enter kindergarten each year with varying experiences, knowledge, and skills. The NC ELI helps teachers and families gain an ongoing understanding of the strengths and needs of each child as a way to help ensure that each child reaches his or her greatest potential.

    WHAT happens?

    In the formative assessment process, teachers collect information about children to guide teaching and learning. The information gathered during the first 60 days of kindergarten creates a child profile – a snapshot of each child’s early learning development in key areas. Teachers use this understanding– as well as information collected throughout the school year – to meet the specific learning needs of each child.

    HOW does it work?

    The teacher intentionally collects evidence about what children say, do, make, or write (e.g., observations, work samples, parent input, activities) through the course of regular instruction. The focus is on five areas of learning and development:

    • Language & Literacy
    • Cognitive/Mathematic
    • Cognitive/Approaches to Learning
    • Social-Emotional
    • Physical 

    The teacher and student use the evidence collected through the formative assessment process to better understand where a child is developmentally in his or her learning. This helps the teacher and student make immediate and ongoing adjustments to instruction and learning.

    A secure electronic platform stores the collected student information to support sound instructional decision-­making.

    The materials developed as the foundation for this process align with both the NC Foundations for Early Learning and Development and the NC Standard Course of Study.

    WHO participates?

    Kindergarten teachers in all school districts will assess children in all five areas – or domains – of learning and development with these learning objectives:

    • Notices and Discriminates Rhyme, Notices and Discriminates Alliteration, Tells About Another Time or Place, Follows Directions (Language & Literacy)
    • Counts, Quantifies, Connects Numerals and Quantities (Cognitive/Mathematic)
    • Attends and Engages (Cognitive/Approaches to Learning)
    • Manages Feelings, Responds to Emotional Cues, Interacts with Peers, Solves Social Problems, Follows Limits & Expectations (Social-Emotional)
    • Uses Fingers and Hands  (Physical)


    The Office of Early Learning has developed a brief resource to explain the NC ELI to families - NC ELI at Home.