The Early Childhood Data Collaborative's (ECDC) inaugural state analysis reveals that states collect a significant amount of data on individual children, early care and education (ECE) program sites, and individual members of the ECE workforce. However, the data are largely siloed by funding stream and incomplete and therefore are unable to help policymakers answer basic policy questions about their state's ECE systems, support continuous improvement, and determine whether their investments put children on track to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
States Collect Significant ECE Data, but Substantial Gaps Remain
States collect a significant amount of data related to publicly funded ECE programs. Of the 48 states and DC included in the ECDC analysis, every state is collecting data on individual children, program sites and/or members of the ECE workforce for at least some of the state's ECE programs. However, gaps in data collection remain. For example, far fewer states collect data on individual members of the ECE workforce than on children and program sites, and no state collects child-level development data for all state ECE programs. States also lack comprehensive data on the quality of ECE programs.
|Organization||Child-level data||Program site-level data||Ece workforce-level data|
|Subsidized Child Care||46||43||27|
|Licensed Child Care||0||42||39|
|Early Childhood Special Education||47||43||36|
|State-Funded Head Start*||12||16||12|
State Data Collection is Not Coordinated
Despite significant data collection, only one state (Pennsylvania) can link appropriate child - and program site-level data across all ECE programs, and no state can link individual ECE workforce-level data across all ECE programs. Moreover, data linkages between ECE and K-12 and other key state systems serving children are most likely to occur between data systems located within the same state agency. As a result, data entry and database maintenance is inefficient, and policymakers cannot attain a complete picture how the state's entire ECE system is performing.
|Organization||Connects across all programs||Connects across some programs|
States Cannot Answer Basic Questions about the State's ECE System
With the 10 Fundamentals of Coordinated State Early Care and Education Data Systems in place, policymakers and practitioners can begin to answer key policy questions. However, states' inability to link appropriate data across ECE programs and gaps in current data collection prevent states from answering critical policy questions including:
|Critical Policy Questions||Current Status|
|Are children, birth to age 5, on track to succeed when they enter school and beyond? Fundamentals 1, 2, 3 and 4||No state can answer these critical policy questions.|
|Which children have access to high-quality early care and education programs? Fundamentals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6|
|Is the quality of programs improving? Fundamentals 5 and 6|
|What are the characteristics of effective programs? Fundamentals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6|
|How prepared is the early care and education workforce to provide effective education and care for all children? Fundamentals 7 and 8|
|What policies and investments lead to a skilled and stable early care and education workforce? Fundamentals 6, 7 and 8|
In addition, policymakers struggle to obtain answers to basic questions about the number of children served in publicly funded programs, the characteristics of existing programs and the qualifications of the adults working in ECE programs.
States are collecting data related to ECE programs, but they are uncoordinated and often incomplete and therefore cannot be used effectively to support continuous improvement efforts. Stakeholders — from policymakers to parents — do not have access to the types of information that will allow them to make informed decisions. To leverage current investments and ensure effective use of data, the ECDC encourages state policymakers to:
Too often, federal reporting requirement shape state data collection efforts. For example, data on a child's developmental progress (Fundamental 3) is most likely to be collected in programs with federal mandates to report this information, namely Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education, even though policymakers need this information to ensure children are on track to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. Data will be used for continuous improvement only when they are collected to inform current policy discussions, rather than for compliance. States can ensure data are coordinated and used by first engaging diverse stakeholders to determine the critical policy questions that will guide state ECE data systems' development and use.
Once states have prioritized the critical policy questions they want to address, they can determine how to develop and enhance coordinated state ECE data systems to meet their unique needs. States can also use the 10 Fundamentals of Coordinated State Early Care and Education Data Systems as a guide to evaluate how well their current data systems address their key policy questions, as well as the extent to which the systems provide timely, quality data to other key audiences including parents, teachers, and state and local program administrators. In particular, the ECDC's state analysis revealed that states have more work to do to address data gaps (Fundamentals 3, 6 and 8) and promote data linkages (Fundamentals 1, 4, 5 and 7), but each state should ensure its data collection and coordination efforts are driven by its priority policy questions.
Once states have identified their critical policy questions and related informational needs, policymakers must establish a governance structure to plan and oversee data collection, coordination, reporting and use (Fundamental 9). However, at present multiple state agencies govern ECE data collection and use in nearly every state. While states address data gaps and enhance linkages, they must also ensure that the privacy, security and confidentiality of individually identifiable data is protected at all times. Transparency about why data are collected, how they are being used and who has access to them is critical to ensure public trust in the data and their use. Almost every state has privacy policies that govern the collecting of ECE data, but just half of them make the policies available to the public on the state's website, making it difficult to assess the adequacy of these policies (Fundamental 10).