States Should Do More to Link Early Childhood Education Data, Report Finds

States could do more than they are to coordinate the collection of data on publicly funded early childhood education (ECE) programs and inform policy and practice, a report from the in Bethesda, Maryland, finds.

According to the report, (35 pages, PDF), data on program participation and quality, workforce characteristics, and developmental outcomes are collected by different agencies and housed in separate databases in most states, making it difficult to obtain accurate information with respect to the number of children served or how program quality affects outcomes. For example, in forty-nine states and the District of Columbia, child-level data are not currently linked across all ECE programs, while only thirty states link data from two or more ECE programs to their K-12 data systems. The report also found that only Pennsylvania currently links child-level data across all ECE programs and to its K-12 data system.

Funded by the , the report calls for strengthening states' capacity to securely link child-level data across all state and federal programs and better incorporating data from Head Start and subsidized child care data; expanding state efforts to collect, link, and use screening and child assessment data; and strengthening state ECE data governance entities to enhance the coordination, security, and use of  data.

"The ability to link early childhood data is significant because it allows policy makers to understand how children's collective experiences contribute to their learning and development across ECE programs and over time," said Carlise King, executive director of the Early Childhood Data Collaborative. "Coordinated longitudinal early childhood data systems can help program administrators reduce duplicative data collection, ECE professionals tailor programs, parents select needed services, and policy makers develop policies to continuously improve ECE programs."

"." Early Childhood Data Collaborative Press Release 02/19/2014.