New Report Finds Most States Need More Support Linking Education Data to Guide Early Childhood Efforts

February 19, 2014

Bethesda, MD – Although federal and state agencies fund an array of early care and education (ECE) services and collect data documenting those services, a report released today found that most states could do much more to  link this data to guide decision-making for programs serving young children.

The 2013 State of States’ Early Childhood Data Systems, released by the Early Childhood Data Collaborative, is based on a survey of 50 states and the District of Columbia, assessing the coordination of their early childhood data systems. The survey was completed by state education, health, and social services program staff and focused on states’ capacity to securely link child-level ECE data, collect state-level child screening and assessment data, and use of coordinated ECE data.

Data about program participation, program quality, workforce characteristics, and developmental outcomes are often collected by different state agencies and housed in different databases. This makes it difficult for most states to get an unduplicated count of children served or information about how program quality relates to workforce characteristics and child outcomes.

“The ability to link early childhood data is significant because it allows policymakers to understand how children’s collective experiences contribute to their learning and development across ECE programs and over time,”said Carlise King, executive director of the Early Childhood Data Collaborative. “Coordinated longitudinal early childhood data systems can help program administrators reduce duplicative data collection, ECE professionals tailor programs, parents select needed services, and policymakers develop policies to continuously improve ECE programs.”

The main findings from the report show:

  • In 49 states and the District of Columbia, child-level data across different ECE programs are not all currently linked.
  • Only one state – Pennsylvania – can link child-level data across all ECE programs and to the state’s K-12 data system.
  • There are 26 states securely linking ECE child-level data across two or more publicly-funded early care and education programs.
  • States’ coordinated ECE data systems are more likely to link data for children participating in state pre-kindergarten and preschool special education than children in Head Start or subsidized child care programs.
  • 30 states reported securely linking ECE child-level data to states’ K-12 data, compared to 20 states that link ECE child-level data to social services data and 12 states that link ECE child-level data to states’ health data.
  • 36 states collect state-level child development data from ECE programs and 29 states capture kindergarten entry assessment data.
  • 32 states have designated an ECE data governance entity to guide the development and use of a state coordinated longitudinal ECE data system.

Action Steps for Policymakers and Practitioners

Based on these survey findings, the Early Childhood Data Collaborative recommended thefollowing action steps for policymakers and practitioners to build strong collaborative data systems:

  • Strengthen states’ capacity to securely link data on young children across all state and federal programs.
  • Develop more effective strategies to incorporate data from Head Start and subsidized child care data so policymakers and practitioners have a more comprehensive view of children’s learning and development.
  • Expand state efforts to collect, link and use screening and child assessment data, including kindergarten entry assessments, and to use these data to improve program effectiveness, inform parents, and improve teaching and learning.
  • Create and strengthen state ECE data governance entities to enhance the coordination, security, and appropriate use of ECE data. Convene stakeholders (e.g., parents, ECE professionals, program administrators, policymakers) to identify data needed to inform ECE policies, safeguards to ensure privacy, and strategies to build fully coordinated longitudinal ECE data system.

For more information on the Early Childhood Data Collaborative, to read the full report and to access individual state fact sheets, please visit our website at


This report was produced in  partnership with of The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley, Child Trends, Council of Chief State School Officers, Data Quality Campaign, National Conference of State Legislatures, and National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. The Early Childhood Data Collaborative received funding for this report from the Alliance for Early Success.