What's the Deal on
WHY DEVELOP AN EARLY CHILDHOOD DATA SYSTEM?
The Data Development Work Group of the New York State Early Childhood Advisory Council has been working to determine structure and data needed for an early childhood data system. The Work Group's long range goal is to develop a data system that includes health, education and other relevant data to support state and local program and policy development, as well as provide information to programs and professionals working with young children and their families. The Work Group also hopes to link their data system to the State Education Department's student longitudinal data system. Given the complexity of that task, the Work Group chose to begin with early learning data systems.
The Work Group, co-chaired by Carol Saginaw, Lee Kreader and Bob Frawley, is comprised of data analysts, policy makers, researchers, and others from many different New YorkState and New York City governmental agencies and private organizations. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about the work to date and the plans for the future.
WHAT IS AN EARLY CHILDHOOD DATA SYSTEM?
An early childhood data system will collect information on children from birth until five years of age, the early learning programs in which they participate, and the professionals who work with them, with the ultimate goal of expanding to include health and developmental data. The Work Group also hopes to link their data system to the State Education Department's student longitudinal data system.
In the last year, much work has been done in preparing background information and documents needed to begin planning the early learning pieces for the system. In January, 2011, the Data Development Work Group published Putting the Pieces Together which provided an overview of the early care and education data systems and recommendations to achieve that goal. A number of other documents have been released by the Data Development Work Group in the past six months which continue the preparation work towards the creation of the data system. In addition, the New York State Education Department is working to establish a P-20 Data System (pre-kindergarten through college and into the workforce), as a result of Race to the Top and other federal and state grants. We are working very closely with the New York State Education Department on this project and to encourage the P-20 data system to encompass children in all early childhood programs, not just pre-kindergarten.
OK, BUT WHY WOULD WE WANT TO DO THIS?
There are a number of program, administrative, research and policy reasons why we would want to have an early childhood data system --- from something as simple as knowing how many children receive various early childhood education services to which type of child care program and workforce characteristics provide the best outcomes for children leading to high school graduation and beyond. In the first column of the Policy and Program Questions, the Data Development Work Group outlined a number of questions they would like answered from an early childhood data system.
WHAT DATA IS NEEDED TO BUILD THE SYSTEM?
There is no one size fits all data system. In New York State, there are 12 different data systems being used in 7 different public and private organizations that are involved in early childhood education. Unfortunately, even with all of these disparate data systems, there are a large percentage of children in New York State for whom we have no information.
Based on the Data Elements Analysis and the ECAC Data Elements Crosswalk, we have outlined what data in which data system is available and the ease or difficulty of including that data in the system. Using these documents, the Scored List of Policy and Program Questions was created which outlines the:
- Quality and quantity of current data
- Level of difficulty to combine the data
- Timeframe to complete the task.
Finally, another document, Data Elements Needed was created which makes recommendations on other data that will be needed in the future to help develop an early childhood data system.
We think that in fairly short order (1-3 years), we could have a data warehouse that would be able to link data from a number of different systems which would allow us to get information on:
- Regulated and licensed child care facilities and family homes
- QUALITYstarsNY ratings on these facilities and homes
- Legally exempt providers who serve children receiving subsidized child care services
- The demographic, education and training history of staff providing early childhood education services
- Demographic, attendance, testing and assessment data on children receiving some sort of publicly funded early childhood education services:
- Subsidized child care
- Early Intervention
- New York City Head Start
- Preschool Special Education
- Universal Prekindergarten
WHAT'S HOLDING US BACK?
Currently, the data systems that provide early learning data are not collecting all the data that they need to collect for New York to have uniform data across systems. To get all data systems collecting all the data needed will require funding and other resources. In addition, technical, legal and confidentiality issues need to be addressed.
Also there are a large number of children on whom there is no data because they are not being served in publicly funded early childhood services (i.e., subsidized child care, Early Intervention, New York City Head Start, Preschool Special Education and Universal Prekindergarten). This includes families who care for their own children, or do not get subsidized child care services. Though we do not have accurate numbers of these children, it would be over 60% of children ages 0-5 in New York State.
HOW DOES THE EARLY LEARNING CHALLENGE GRANT AFFECT THIS WORK?
The current draft priorities of the Early Learning Challenge Grant expressly call for:
Building or enhancing an early learning data system to improve instruction, practices, services, and policies.
Our work on building an early childhood education data system will only be enhanced and the visibility increased by the Early Learning Challenge Grant.
HOW ARE UNIQUE IDENTIFIERS USED AND WHY?
Unique identifier is a term used to describe a group of letters and/or numbers that uniquely identifies an entry in a database table. Best practice is that the unique identifier is meaningless, does not use any identifying information, cannot change and is assigned by the data system. Though social security number is one unique identifier for an individual, there are a number of issues with using a person's social security number:
- The privacy and confidentiality concerns
- Not everyone has a social security number
- In certain circumstances, a person's social security number can change
One of the big hurdles in linking data from different early childhood data systems is that each system has its own unique identifier. We propose using algorithms to link data from many different systems to create state-wide unique identifiers for children, programs and workforce.
These hurdles represent some of the challenges we are working to meet in creating an early childhood data system.
Stay tuned as we develop the system!
For more information on this project, please contact Jeff Luks, email@example.com or 518-486-9533