Unleashing the power of early childhood data

With good data, policymakers can provide robust and high-quality services, staffed by a strong workforce, to the children and families who most need them.

However, most states struggle to gather high-quality data on this group, and face tremendous barriers to linking that information across the multiple systems that support young children. States and the federal government offer a constellation of services for vulnerable children and families, including child care assistance, special education services, health insurance, home-visiting, pre-kindergarten, and Head Start.  Understanding which children and families access these services, what other services they use, and how well they fare from birth to school age is essential.

At The Early Childhood Data Collaborative (ECDC), we promote policies and practices that support the use of data about young children to make decisions. We accomplish this by assessing state progress, showcasing state successes, and using strategic communications to convey the need and importance of policies to support increased data coordination to produce actionable data for audiences that need it. That means early care and education data must be high-quality and accurate, and that the data must be connected, or linked, to each other. Armed with knowledge about which families are accessing multiple services, where those families live, and how young children fare as they grow up, policymakers can enact policies that are good for children, good for families, and lead to strong investments of public dollars.

Currently we are working closely with several states, supporting and documenting their efforts to gather, integrate, and use quality early care and education data. For example, in New York, we are developing and implementing strategic communications and messaging plans to help stakeholders understand how integrated early childhood data can help achieve their policy goals. In Minnesota, we’re working with the Children's Defense Fund Minnesota (KIDS COUNT grantee) as they review, analyze, and share data from the Minnesota Early Childhood Longitudinal Data System.

In addition to our work with individual states, we strive to provide resources and tools for a national audience. With that broader goal in mind, we are thrilled to announce the launch of our new website, www.ecedata.org. Here are a couple of key features we are most excited about:

  • Featured resources on the homepage, showcasing new publications and case studies. For example, check out our new brief on how states can use data to measure access to high-quality early care and education. You will also find our roadmap for linking early childhood and k-12 data, report on linking Head Start data, or read about Oregon’s recent efforts to gather and use their early childhood workforce data.
  • An interactive state map where you can find information on your state from our 2013 national survey. We will regularly add case studies and highlights as we continue to work with states, so keep an eye out for these new resources. And let us know if you have a success story or state resource we can share!
  • The 10 fundamentals of coordinated state data systems. With our partners, we identified key elements states must have in place to answer key policy questions about their young children and families. For example, “Are children, birth to age 5, on track to succeed when they enter school and beyond?” and “What are the characteristics of effective programs?
  • Information about our partners. We are a collaborative, and could not do the work we do without the input and support of our strong network of partners.
  • Details about our staff, including our contact information. We’d love to hear from you! Is your state working to integrate your early care and education data? Can we connect you to resources for a particular challenge you are facing in using early care and education data? Do you have a success story we can learn from and help share? Please feel free to reach out to us!

As we share on our website, this is the ideal time for states to build and use coordinated state ECE data systems. Policymakers are eager to understand what works and make wise investments with limited resources. We are excited to help state leaders better understand their young children and the best ways to set them up for healthy and successful lives.

-Carlise King
Executive Director, Early Childhood Data Collaborative at Child Trends

(April 3, 2017)