Monday, June 15, 2015

Data Collection and Use in Early Childhood Programs

The purpose of this study is to describe what data preschools in a mid-sized city in the Northeast collect, how they use that data, and the challenges they face. The study focuses on three types of data: early learning outcomes, dosage (i.e., the amount of exposure to early childhood education), and classroom quality. The report further demonstrates how preschools could use data to inform program-level decisions.

Administrators and teachers at seven preschools in a convenience sample of preschools were interviewed using a structured protocol. The transcripts were coded using hierarchically organized codes and then analyzed to determine the main themes. The report also includes descriptive analyses of early learning outcomes, dosage, and classroom quality data provided by two of the preschool programs. Participating preschools assess children's early learning outcomes through a variety of systems to inform instruction and for parent outreach. Preschools report various processes for collecting and storing attendance data for compliance purposes, but some want to link them to learning outcomes. Participating preschools conduct observations of classrooms to provide feedback to teachers.

There are some challenges to combining and analyzing individual programs' early learning and dosage data to inform program-level decisions. Further research is needed to determine which systems for collecting and using data lead to better outcomes for children. Early childhood programs may benefit from guidance on effective methods for presenting information about children's progress and the importance of attending preschool to parents and other relevant audiences.

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