Are young children (birth to age five) on track to succeed when they enter school? How many children have access to high-quality early care and education (ECE) programs? Is the early childhood workforce adequately trained to meet the needs of young children? Most states cannot answer these basic questions because data on young children are housed in multiple, uncoordinated systems, managed by different state and federal agencies.
Even though research has shown program quality and staff training are linked to educational outcomes for young children, information about programs, ECE professionals, and children themselves are not connected.
Policymakers, program administrators, ECE professionals and parents need timely and accurate data to make informed decisions to help children succeed when they enter school and beyond. Comprehensive and connected data on children, programs, and the workforce are used to track progress over time, pinpoint problems, identify underserved groups, and allocate limited resources. ECE professionals use data about children’s development to inform instruction, and parents rely on information about the characteristics of early childhood programs to select needed services.
The Early Childhood Data Collaborative (ECDC) supports the development and use of coordinated state ECE data systems to improve program effectiveness, inform decisions, and help policymakers answer key questions. ECDC promotes policies and practices that encourage the coordination, security, and use of ECE data. ECDC has identified 10 Fundamentals of Coordinated State ECE Data Systems to guide states as they work to transform compliance-driven data systems into coordinated, quality-improvement-driven data systems.
One fundamental component of a coordinated early childhood data system is the ability to securely link child-level data across different ECE programs and services, meaning that state data systems can share unduplicated data about program participation, the services a child receives, and developmental assessment data across programs and over time. These linkages might include information on the dosage of ECE services, program quality, access to well-trained ECE professionals, or developmental outcomes, which are often collected by different state agencies and housed in different databases. Linkages between ECE and other data systems (e.g., K-12, health, social services) help policymakers and other stakeholders understand how children’s experiences in these systems contribute to their learning and development – and how policy changes can support the continuous improvement of these programs.
In July 2013, the ECDC surveyed 50 states and the District of Columbia to assess state early childhood data systems. The survey, completed by state education, health, and social services staff, focused on these three key aspects of state data systems, taken from ECDC’s 10 Fundamentals:
- Do states have the ability to securely link child- level data across ECE programs and to other state data systems, including K-12, health, and social services?
- Do states collect developmental screening, assessment, and kindergarten entry data to examine children’s developmental status and service needs?
- Do states have an ECE data governance structure designated to support the development and use of a coordinated longitudinal ECE data system?
Source: Early Childhood Data Collaborative