Comprehensive, integrated data is a critical and valued tool for informed decision-making, policy prioritization, and resource targeting. However, in North Carolina (NC) and many other states, existing data and new data collection can often be fragmented, uncoordinated, and inaccessible. For example, NC’s Department of Public Instruction holds student data for kindergarten through 12th grade on individual student performance, while NC’s Division of Child Development and Early Education collects child specific data on early intervention services and the state’s funded NC Pre-Kindergarten program, while data regarding children participating in Early Head Start and Head Start programs is housed in its own system at the federal level. Integrating data together from these three data sources would give a clearer view of what early childhood programs and interventions best support positive outcomes for children and families.
Through philanthropic investment from the Duke Endowment and public investments from North Carolina’s Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE), the statewide Early Childhood Data Advisory Council (ECDAC) was established. The convening of this unique circle of thought leaders helped improve data systems and access through efficient responses to system advancement questions and policy recommendation proposals under consideration. There has been strong appreciation for the role of the ECDAC by state agencies and nonprofit organizations focused on improving outcomes for children and families.
The ECDAC is tasked with providing strategic direction and using its influence and decision-making authority to improve the quality and scope of early childhood data collection, and to support widespread analysis and use of early childhood data by policymakers and other decision-makers. The integration of early childhood data enables policymakers to have a more comprehensive view of children’s experiences and needs, and can inform smarter investment of public resources.
Durable, equitable data infrastructure requires fostering statewide collaborations across all levels of government, as well as with a diverse community of child and family serving organizations. This is best accomplished when there is a formal networking infrastructure such as the ECDAC, which thoughtfully recruited early childhood data owners and users from across the state. NC’s ECDAC serves a critical role in maximizing the utility/usability of the data capacities rapidly growing across the state. It provides a valued circle of experts that can steward the creation of new data integration and visualizations.
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The NC Early Childhood Foundation is driven by a bold – and achievable – vision: Each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for life-long health, education, and well-being supported by a comprehensive and equitable care and education system, from prenatal through third grade. We build understanding, lead collaboration, and advance policies to ensure each North Carolina child is on track for lifelong success by the end of third grade.