Recently, The Early Childhood Data Collaborative at Child Trends released a new report that found that states are using Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) funds to address data integration needs and advance the use of early childhood integrated data systems (ECIDS) to guide early childhood policies and practices. Child Trends found that many PDG B-5 awardees discussed ECIDS activities, with the majority of states working on an ECIDS plan to link them with other data systems. The brief discusses the ways in which grantees are linking ECIDS to state longitudinal data systems (SLDS), with a current or planned coordinated application system, and with workforce data, as well as how states are addressing data governance. However, states noted that funding, the impacts of COVID-19, and a lack of support were all barriers to ECIDS development.
PDG B-5 is a competitive federal grant designed to improve states’ ECE systems. In 2023, 21 states were awarded Planning Grants, and 21 states were awarded Renewal Grants. While the scope of work for planning grantees is to conduct comprehensive needs assessments and draft strategic plans, the renewal grantees focus on implementing their strategic plan. The 21 renewal grantees are using this infusion of federal funding across a wide range of content areas in their ECE systems, and in a variety of ways, including to develop ECIDS and coordinated eligibility and application systems.
Unlike elementary and secondary education, state-level administration of ECE services are often delivered across multiple agencies and programs. While this mixed-delivery approach has some benefits, it can make the integration of data across programs challenging. State agencies delivering early childhood services typically have system(s) in place to collect data in order to analyze their programs and gain a better understanding of the participating families. Unfortunately, these systems are often not linked, creating a barrier to access to essential data between the agencies overseeing critical elements of the ECE system and the families they serve.
In their PDG B-5 applications, grantees are required to include information on the extent to which they are able to link information about early childhood programs in the Monitoring, Data Use, Evaluation and Continuous Quality Improvement section. Child Trends analyzed the most recent round of applications and found that PDG B-5 creates an avenue for grantees to link or integrate various sources of early childhood data, improving states’ access to the information needed for a quality early childhood system.
Key Highlights from the Brief:
- 79% of grantees discussed ECIDS activities.
- 43% were in the planning phase, 17% were in progress, and 19% were expanding already existing ECIDS. 21% did not discuss information about ECIDS development in their applications, although some may be supporting ECIDS work through previous PDG B-5 grants or other sources of funding.
Source: Child Trends
- 60% of grantees are working on an ECIDS plan to link them with other data systems.
- States can link early childhood data to other systems, such as state longitudinal data systems (SLDS), which span from early childhood to workforce entry, coordinated application processes, which facilitate and streamline families’ access to early childhood services by helping determine eligibility across a range of programs, as well as workforce data, which encompasses a range of compensation, education, and training data related to professionals who care for children.
- All of these linkages can help state leaders and policymakers better understand the needs of children and families holistically. In 18 states ECIDS data is linked to SLDS, in 10 states it is linked to coordinated applications, and in 10 states it is linked to workforce data.
- Several states noted that data linkages were conducted or planned through a previous round of PDG B-5 funding or through another funding source.
- 64% of grantees discussed developing unique identifiers.
- A unique identifier (UI) is a single, unduplicated number that can be assigned to a child, program, or individual and can be used to link data within or across data systems. Many states have particularly developed UI’s to access an unduplicated count of children and better understand factors that affect early childhood education participation.
- 59% of grantees discussed addressing data governance.
- Data governance is considered best practice in data management and can help facilitate the integration of early childhood data across state agencies.
- Dedicating a staff member to these efforts can be especially beneficial. Of the 25 states that addressed data governance in their applications, 17 mentioned having or planning to hire designated data integration or data governance staff.
- Most grantees planned to use ECIDS for an unduplicated count of children served (91%) and to obtain program information to support evaluation and quality improvement (88%).
Funding opportunities like the PDG B-5 grants offer a unique opportunity for states to design and implement data systems that can better help policymakers answer critical questions about equitable access to early childhood programs, workforce development needs, and school readiness.
This is part of a larger blog series, find the rest of our PDG series here.