This morning the Early Ed Initiative issued a brief that sheds light on what's missing as states build data systems to analyze children's progress over time. The brief, "Many Missing Pieces: The Difficult Task of Linking Early Childhood Data and School-Based Data Systems," urges states to take steps to gather and integrate information from the full array of early childhood programs and a fuller social services.
In addition to releasing the brief, the Initiative hosted a panel discussion here in Washington, D.C. The panel featured:
- Laura Bornfreund and Maggie Severns, authors of the Early Education Initiative brief
- Elizabeth Laird, program manager, Data Quality Campaign
- Jennifer Stedron, member, Early Childhood Data Collaborative
- Harriet Dichter, national director, First Five Years Fund
- Rolf Grafwallner, assistant state superintendent, Maryland State Department Education
- Danielle Ewen, director of childcare and early education policy, Center for Law and Social Policy
Video from the event is available on our website. Presentations included information from newly released reports from the Early Childhood Data Collaborative, including a paper that provides a framework for state policymakers and describes 10 fundamentals of a coordinated system. The event highlighted Maryland and Pennsylvania as models for other states, with presenters talking about the obstacles that were overcome in each state to achieve better coordination.
It’s an opportune time to be discussing data systems because of recent federal investments. Over the past five years, the federal government has invested roughly $515 million to help states build and expand longitudinal data systems to collect data across the full span of a child's educational experience. The latest round of funding, $250 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), was allocated to 20 states in May 2010 and required states to make linkages between data on early childhood programs and the traditional K-12 system.
(To learn more about which states have won grants over the past 5 years, don't miss our interactive map available here.)
But, as we found in our brief, even with these investments, many states are still a long way from collecting and using early childhood data (birth to age 8) that can inform teachers and parents about needed changes in instruction, improve learning opportunities in each year of a child's educational journey, and guide policy decisions related to early childhood programs.
The paper makes the following recommendations for federal and state policymakers about the types of information they should collect and how it could be used to provide a more complete picture of how states serve young children:
The federal government should:
- Include data-system development among the priorities of the soon-to-be-formed “Interagency Policy Board” between the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services. This new board should explore how to improve system coordination between federally funded early childhood programs and states so that state longitudinal data systems include a fuller picture of children’s early childhood education experiences; and
- Make sharing early childhood data across agencies, in accordance with privacy laws and regulations, a priority and encourage state agencies to do the same.
- Work to implement the Early Childhood Data Collaborative’s 10 fundamentals of coordinated state early care and education data systems;
- Provide timely information to pre-k–12 teachers and principals on individual students and their academic backgrounds so that instruction can be tailored to their needs;
- Expand agreements to share data responsibly with other state agencies so that data systems include information from a fuller range of education and social service programs;
- Develop guidelines and professional development programs on the responsible use of and security of data to ensure the privacy of student information;
- Collect student-level information (where permitted) on children enrolled in federally funded programs such as Head Start, Early Head Start, Even Start, Title I, IDEA, and those funded by Child Care and Development Block Grants;
- Incorporate data on kindergarten, first, and second grade assessments so that districts can track student progress in the early grades and identify effective early childhood programs;
- Collect information about early childhood educators’ credentials, the pre-service training they received and their participation in professional development programs, and use that data to help identify the knowledge, skills, and ongoing support teachers need to be effective;
- Include Quality Rating & Improvement Systems (QRIS) information about centers and programs providing early childhood education;
- Allow the public to access aggregated data on the long-term success of children who attended early childhood programs;
- Ensure that educators have access to data about their students’ early childhood education experiences and that early childhood educators have information about students’ achievements in later grades;
- Assist school districts in collecting more complete attendance data so that districts and the state can use the information to guide future funding and policy decisions to address chronic absenteeism more quickly; and
- Ensure that researchers have access to longitudinal, unidentifiable, student-level information to conduct research on the effectiveness of programs from birth through the third grade, including not only state-funded pre-k, Head Start, and subsidized childcare, but also home visitation, parent engagement, and other social services on children’s success in school.
Clearly, states are in the early stages of integrating early childhood data into their state longitudinal data systems. We recognize that doing this well will take an enormous amount of coordination, collaboration, and consultation with privacy and data experts. But, it is the only way to meet the growing demands for quality data that teachers, principals, researchers, policymakers, and parents need to ensure that they are meeting the needs of all children.