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Report: Data linking would reveal what's working in early childhood education

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In this data-driven age, a new report questions why states don't compare various pieces of information - like teacher training and Kindergarten success - to find out what's working in early childhood education.

The Early Childhood Data Collaborative, which includes U.C. Berkeley, National Conference of State Legislatures and non-profit groups like Child Trends, said most states cannot provide an overall snapshot answer because “data on young children are housed in multiple, uncoordinated systems, managed by different state and federal agencies.”

“State leaders will have a difficult time understanding [and] answering questions about how many children are being served in high-quality early learning programs and whether they enter school ready" unless they connect those dots said Carlise King, Executive Director of the Early Childhood Data Collaborative.

The 2013 survey of state early childhood data systems, released Wednesday, finds only Pennsylvania links “child-level data” across all early education programs
 and the K-12 system. California was one of only a handful of states that does no data linking and has no plan to do so.

A California Department of Education spokesperson said officials had no comment; they were still reading the report as of Wednesday afternoon.

The report authors said linking data helps “answer key policy questions about all children served in publicly-funded early care and education programs.” Most states, the report found, link none or only some data sets.

If that data has embedded information, like quality of program, range of services provided as part of the education – think health and nutrition – and if it tracks teacher qualifications, a linking of all these data sets could easily provide information on what might be working or not working.

King said that kind of information could led to training and improved quality across the board.

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