(A)(4) Building or enhancing an early learning data system to improve instruction, practices, services, and policies

(A)(4) Building or enhancing an early learning data system to improve instruction, practices, services, and policies

The extent to which the State has in place, or has a High-Quality Plan to build, an extension to the State's existing Statewide Longitudinal Data System or a separate, but coordinated, early learning data system that aligns and is interoperable with the Statewide Longitudinal Data System, and that such system --

  1. Enables uniform data collection and easy entry of the Essential Data Elements by Participating State Agencies and Participating Programs;
  2. Facilitates the exchange of data among Participating State Agencies by using standard data structures, data formats, and data definitions such as Common Education Data Standards to ensure interoperability among the various levels and types of data;
  3. Generates information that is timely, relevant, accessible, and easy for Early Learning and Development Programs and Early Childhood Educators to use for continuous improvement and decision-making;
  4. Is supported by high-quality professional development for Early Childhood Educators on the access and use of data; and
  5. Meets the Data System Oversight Requirements and complies with the requirements of Federal, State, and local privacy laws.


Currently, many states are creating duplicative data systems in various departments, for example creating an education data system and a separate health and human services child and youth data system which are not interoperable. Therefore we recommend:

  • (A)(4) after: “…and is interoperable with the Statewide Longitudinal Data System,” add “and with other statewide data systems that collect information about children”
  • (A)(4)(b) after: “…data definitions such as Common Education Data Standards,” add “and other statewide data standards regarding children”

The state data system should be intentionally connected to state licensing data. States should show how their data plans for program sites will incorporate licensing information.

The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is appreciative of the hard work reflected in the development of the criteria for this competitive grant process. Given our work with selected states in partnership with the Early Childhood Data Quality Campaign, CDF submits the following comments and recommendations with respect to the definition of “Essential Data Elements”:

Data collection can only lead to improvements in the classroom if it is routinely reviewed and utilized by stakeholders. In order to maximize the value of the data collected under RTT-ELC in impacting state systems, CDF recommends that the following language be added as a new paragraph (A)(4)(f):

(f) Provides a defined system of on-going communication to all stakeholders on how to access the data collected for various audiences and purposes.

Moreover, uniform collection and easy entry of Essential Data Elements in early learning data systems are critically important if improvements are to be made in early learning instruction, practices, services and policies. In addition to the data points already listed under the definition of “Essential Data Elements,” CDF recommends the following:

(1) Amend point (c) in the definition to read “Child and family demographic information including whether the child is in foster care or considered homeless;”

(2) Elaborate on the meaning of “child suspension and expulsion rates” under point (f) by explaining what this phrase means in the early learning context; making clear how this data will interact with any unique child identifier so as to ensure suspension and expulsion data do not travel with a child throughout his/her school years; and clarifying that this data is to be used to identify problems that need to be further analyzed and addressed.

(3) Clarify whether the Department intends states to utilize a unique child identification number under point (g) in order to report child-level program participation and attendance data.

Cathy Grace
Children’s Defense Fund
Director, Early Childhood Development

On behalf of the Office of the Governor of the State of Illinois, the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Human Services:
The Illinois Early Learning Council is committed to developing a unified early childhood data system, and we strongly support the inclusion of the criteria under (A)(4), Building or enhancing an early learning data system to improve instruction, practices, services, and policies. Illinois is one of the states that has already sought to take advantage of federal opportunities to develop a unified system, including the use of IES Longitudinal Data System grant funds and the commitment of State Advisory Council grant funds. We hope that the scoring criteria for (A)(4) will include both some recognition for the states that have already made a commitment to unified systems, and an incentive for all states to build on their existing work through plans that address the next important steps in the design and construction of a unified early childhood data system.

States’ early learning data systems must facilitate information sharing and coordination between and among school systems and the social, health, and safety services that support children.

The data systems should give both a comprehensive view of how children are supported throughout the state and an individual view of young people, without forcing policymakers and the public to go from agency to agency to piece together how well children are being served.

Such data sharing will help ensure seamless support and successful development of the whole child.

from RTTT - One helpful component of that grant application was the concept of a seamless education system supported by a common and robust data system. Though we absolutely appreciate state control and flexibility, this is one area where we can commend US ED and ask that the grant prioritize opportunities to continue that work, linking early childhood data systems with K12 and building proper assessments for early childhood. It is the foundation of making valuable student-centered decisions and all improvement and reform efforts need it for proper evaluation.

First Things First

(A)(4) Building or enhancing an early learning data system to improve instruction, practices, services, and policies

In Illinois we are fortunate to have the Student Information System used statewide. However, we need insure that this system and any system that collects data, allows us to track, integrate, and share in formation about a child that covers a birth-20 system. Allowing for a comprehensive system wide data collection as part of being a user of publicly-funded services, will provide critical information for the following purposes: longitudinal measures of the services and/or program impact on their clientele; effectiveness of the services; access to services and where the needs are being or not being met; collaboration and coordination of services as children move through the state educational system allowing for a study of the vertical transitioning supports which follow the child as they change institutions and research possibilities to study the efficacy of such programs and assessment measures, the effectiveness of programs and assessment measures in determining academic performance, social/emotional and health supports accessed, monitor and evaluation of outcomes and the population’s demographics .
Within that data system, there is a need to include a measurement which looks at the learning environment of the students and how that environment and the relationships built within, impact the outcomes we see from the children in their care.
There should be a consistent use of assessment tools, not only the state required ones, but those identified by a collaborative effort of experts and practitioner which agencies and institutions could use that are considered appropriate, valid, reliable and specific to the population being studied and shared knowledge of what the tools measure and a shared knowledge base of all the stakeholders so the data may be used and shared appropriately, effectively, and judiciously.
It is imperative that all stakeholders are not only well- informed but knowledgeable about the significance of the data, what the data is interpreted and for what purposes can the data be sued. This information must be included statewide and disseminated to all stakeholders through professional development opportunities for those who serve in the agencies and institutions, but also, to the parents, communities, legislators and the media so that this data is understood and can be acted upon to improve, strengthen and deliver the kinds of services our children require to be successful in their academic careers and ultimately as productive citizens in their communities and in our state.

Several states, led by the national Early Childhood Data Collaborative (including NGA, Data Quality Campaign, Council of Chief State School Officers, NCSL), have been working on this critical issue for the past several years. Much of this work is online at the Data Quality Campaign as well as captured on various state sites. See the MA Department of Early Education and Care as one striking example.

The development of an Early Childhood Information System (ECIS) is essential if a state is to become successful in assuring that all of its children (including the most vulnerable) are "ready for K". Right now, many states and many agencies believe that HIPAA and FERPA are significant barriers to cross-agency data development and data sharing, whether this position/perspective is correct or not.

At the federal level, cross-agency work between HHS and DOE can lead and must support the state level work, and should sponsor a "community of learning" related to ECIS development. Several of our states have met with federal officials to advance this idea.

This iteration of RTTT can serve as a launching point for this vital work across all states, not just the ones who are far enough along to field a competitive application.

Dr. J.M. Gruendel, CT

The early learning data system must be accessible to all interested parties. Therefore, an electronic version of all data should be signed off by a member of each state agency. Due to the school year being only 9 months, a pre and post assessment should be done in a timely manner, leaving time between for early childhood educators to address gaps. Although informing parents of results of testing can be tricky, it is imperative that they be informed of not only of how their child did, but what can be done at home. Leaving the home element out of the equation can place limitations on results.