Education Opinion

The Woeful State of Early Childhood Data

By Sara Mead — February 19, 2014 1 min read
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Great new report from the Early Childhood Data Collaborative highlights the gaps and disconnections in states’ early childhood data systems. Only one state--Pennsylvania--can link child-level data across all the state’s early childhood programs and connect it to the state’s data system. As a result, policymakers and other key stakeholders often lack the data they need to answer fundamental questions about how well a state’s or community’s early childhood programs are serving children or where the gaps and need are (and are not). As someone who works with both early childood and K-12 policy issues and clients, the gaps in early childhood data are a major source of frustration. Questions that are simple to answer in the K-12 context--Where are children in this community being served? How many children are underserved?--often cannot be answered in the early childhood context, or can be answered only through elaborate extrapolation from existing data sources or intensive on the ground data collection. Moreover, some of the data that do exist cannot be easily accessed or linked to other data sources. While it’s not sexy, addressing this problem is critical to enabling smart policy to improve services for young children.

One particular finding that jumped out to me in the report is that many states aren’t even linking data for students in their own pre-k programs with other state data systems or K-12 data; only 23 states link state pre-k data to other data systems. Even worse, only 9 states link data for children in Head Start.

The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.