There has been a growing interest in using data to drive change, but how is it actually used in the early childhood field to improve outcomes for children and families? To answer this question, CSSP and the National Institute of Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) partnered to get a first-hand view of the strategies communities are using to make the most of their data collected. We checked in with existing Early Childhood networks to select three communities to visit: Ventura County, CA; Philadelphia, PA; and Indianola, MS. In a new report released jointly by our two organizations, Early Childhood Data in Action: Stories from the Field, we present the case studies from the communities. We learned that all are working to strengthen their early childhood system and improve outcomes for children and families, and they use data in different ways to help achieve their goals.
- Indianola, MS, a Promise Neighborhood, is using data to organize its community around a common goal: ensure that children are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. When community stakeholders came together to assess how they would increase kindergarten readiness, they realized that they needed better data to understand the challenges the community faced and to develop solutions. Together, they developed and employed several Kindergarten Readiness Strategies. For example, early childhood providers across the community aligned implementation of the same evidence-based curriculum and assessment, and created data sharing agreements to allow for better leverage of resources and services.
- Ventura County, CA, an EC-LINC community, is using data collected from parents to improve the quality of early childhood services. They conducted several quality improvement projects across the early childhood system and with neighborhood partners. For example, a local organization running a parenting program used enrollment and attendance data to determine when and why participation was dropping off. The data helped them realize that building cohesion with families and consistently getting their feedback was important, so they began to employ new strategies to encourage participation.
- Philadelphia, PA, an ECCS-CoIIN community, is using data to inform public policy decisions about the allocation of pre-kindergarten slots. With a long term goal of universal, publicly-funded pre-kindergarten, the city needed to decide which neighborhoods would get the initial allocation of new slots. Philadelphia’s integrated data system allowed the city to create a research-based risk index that identified neighborhoods with both a high concentration of young children at risk of poor outcomes and a low supply of quality pre-kindergarten. The result was a widely supported plan that allowed the first phase of the Mayor’s new initiative to focus primarily on the places where it had the potential to do the most good.
We learned that each of the communities is not only collecting, analyzing, and using data for a specific purpose, but overall creating a “culture of data” that will continue to help them create positive outcomes for children and families. Read the full report to delve into stories and voices from the community members and organizations behind the work, and to learn key takeaways and methods for effectively using data to advance early childhood goal.