Only one state—Pennsylvania—currently links its K-12 data system and data from all of five key early-childhood programs, although 30 states now link some of that information with their K-12 systems, a new report says.
States could—and should—do far more to provide governmental institutions, teachers, and families with a comprehensive view of student populations, according to the study entitled "2013 State of States' Early Childhood Data Systems," released Wednesday by the Bethesda, Md.-based Early Childhood Data Collaborative.
"States really acknowledged the need for this information by the number of states linking or planning to link [information] and developing governancy systems for them," said Carlise King, the executive director of the umbrella advocacy organization. "The question for us is, 'How can we support states in these efforts?'"
The group, which encourages the use of data to improve the quality of and access to early-childhood education, includes six partner organizations: The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at U.C. Berkeley, Child Trends, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Data Quality Campaign, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices.
It asked all 50 states and the District of Columbia in July 2013 to assess how well they link data between their K-12 systems and what the group identified as five major state or federally funded early-childhood programs, including preschool special education, state and federally funded Head Start, state pre-K, and federally funded child care.
Among its findings, the report says that:
- There are 26 states which link early-childhood education data across two or more publicly-funded early-care and education programs;
- 36 states collect state-level child-development data from early-childhood education programs, and 29 states capture kindergarten entry-assessment data;
- States' coordinated early-childhood education data systems are more likely to link data among programs for children participating in state pre-K and preschool special education than for children in Head Start or subsidized child-care programs.
The study argues that if data were collected and housed in one place, it would be easier to track student progress, pinpoint problems, identify underserved groups, allocate resources, and inform instruction.
"Most states cannot answer key policy questions about all children served in publicly-funded early care and education programs because [early-childhood education] child-level data is not linked," the report says. Currently such information typically is stored in multiple, uncoordinated systems managed by different state and federal agencies, it states.
That said, 22 states are working to link health information with early-childhood education records, and 18 states are aiming to link social services program information to early-childhood education information.
In addition, 32 states have set up governance systems to guide the development and use of linked information, the report states.
The information in the study was provided by state education, health and social services program staff.
[CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this post characterized the five programs examined in the report as health and social services, as well as education, programs.]