Head Start programs are a critical component of early care and education in our country. They serve more than one million young children and employ more than 230,000 staff members. When linked to other early care and education data systems, data collected by Head Start programs on their children, program services, and workforce can inform key decisions by state policymakers and guide efforts to improve early childhood program responsiveness and effectiveness. However, although Head Start data are a vital component for any comprehensive early childhood data system, only a handful of states are presently linking Head Start data with data from other early care and education programs.
A fully coordinated early childhood data system, inclusive of data from Head Start, state pre-k, child care, early childhood special education, and other publicly-funded early care and education (ECE) programs, provides a comprehensive picture of a state’s early childhood systems. State policymakers gain a full picture of the status of young children and their progress over time, early childhood services, program quality, and the early childhood workforce. Armed with this knowledge, states can reap many benefits, such as enhancing access to high-quality programs for all children, improving program quality, building a more effective ECE workforce, and ultimately, improving child outcomes.
At present, there is no requirement for local Head Start programs to link or share their data with other state data systems. However, several states are making advances toward linking and/or sharing data across their state’s K-12 data system or other services’ data systems. In this process, states have encountered some challenges and have had to tackle issues related to data privacy and security, among others. To better understand some of the challenges, successes, and strategies behind this work, the Early Childhood Data Collaborative (ECDC) contacted and interviewed a sample of Head Start and state early childhood leaders in a dozen states.
Source: The Early Childhood Data Collaborative