I should have said this earlier, but, given the outlines of the Early Learning Challenge program announced yesterday, ensuring high-quality evaluation/research for this program is really important. There’s a big emphasis right now in the early childhood space on systems-building and coordination. That makes sense: The early childhood sector today is a total mishmash of unaligned programs, providers, funding streams, and policies--and that creates gaps in services, tremendous frustration for parents and providers, and inefficiencies. But--there is very little evidence about the various strategies states are currently using, and early childhood advocates are encouraging, to build systems and improve coordination. We don’t actually know which design choices “work” better than others in a practical sense, or are more likely to lead to better results for kids. These are important questions. By instigating changes in state policies in these areas, the Early Learning Challenge can create real opportunities for high-quality research into the impact of different system building approaches and policy design choices on achieving our longer-term goals for the system and the kids and families it serves. Obviously, the evaluation strategies we use to measure the impact of structural reforms is different from the way we measure the impact of specific interventions. But that doesn’t mean we can’t study their effectiveness and we certainly shouldn’t miss the opportunity to do so here.
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.