“’Data! data! data!’ he cried impatiently. ‘I can’t make bricks without clay.’”
-Sherlock Holmes, in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
* * *
In the field of early education, policymakers, practitioners, and researchers are all searching for good reliable data. Indeed, our ambitious, system-building goals require lots of data.
Take a look at K-12. Never before has that sector been so awash in data or so focused on using data to make informed decisions about teaching and learning. And data also fuels discussions about school and district accountability.
However, the data landscape is much different in the birth-5 early education space where simply asking “Where are all the 4-year-olds?” can quickly send you on a wild goose chase.
This lack of data can be as frustrating for local community leaders looking to improve preschool enrollment or kindergarten readiness as it is for state-level policymakers eager to measure the impact of state investments.
Here at Strategies for Children (SFC), we are committed to providing up-to-date, accurate data on young children and families in communities across Massachusetts. We’ve updated our online Fast Facts to include 2015 MCAS and PARCC data, as well as the new K-12 poverty indicator: “economically disadvantaged.” Data is available for all 351 cities and towns, representing a total of 442,592 children under age 6. So please visit our website and see what you can learn about children in your community: http://www.strategiesforchildren.org/FastFacts.html.
We hope that local early childhood leaders will use Fast Facts as a starting point for larger discussions about local populations of young children and about community programs and services that can meet their needs.
We encourage communities to pool multiple data sources to inform early childhood system building and strategic planning — and to periodically use data to measure impacts and adjust plans.
As Massachusetts continues to implement the federal Preschool Expansion Grant and other initiatives, we hope to learn more about best practices in data collection and usage from local and state leaders. And as data becomes increasingly essential for policy, advocacy, and research in the early childhood sector, we will continue to share stories, models, and best practices right here on our blog.