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Colorado Moves toward an Interagency Early Childhood Data System
Colorado has made significant progress toward creating a unified, interagency early childhood data system to measure improvement and inform policy development, planning, and funding of early childhood supports. Data-sharing legislation passed by the General Assembly over the past four years laid the groundwork for the system, establishing the Governor’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT) to oversee all data efforts, and setting clear expectations for agencies’ participation and roles going forward. The early childhood data systems work is taking place under Governor Hickenlooper’s office and is integrated with broader birth-20 education policy development overseen by Lieutenant Governor Joseph Garcia.
Legislation in 2008 mandated the creation of a unique early childhood identifier to be used by all agencies administering early childhood programs, including Head Start/Early Head Start and child care. A year later the Government Data Advisory Board (GDAB) was established to determine how to collect, share, use, and release data. The GDAB has members from multiple agencies and state, local, and private sector partners. The subcommittee responsible for early childhood works in partnership with the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, a public/private body housed in the Lieutenant Governor’s office that helps plan and coordinate early childhood initiatives in the state.
Most recently, legislation was passed to create a GDAB subcommittee responsible for developing recommendations for implementing a universal application for use by all agencies and programs related to early care and education. A common application would ensure programs collect consistent data, making it easier to compare outcomes over time. The subcommittee remains in effect until July, 2013.
These efforts are taking place in parallel to the statewide Results Matter outcomes system administered by the Colorado Department of Education. The purpose of Results Matter is to promote the assessment of child learning and developmental progress, the collection of family outcomes information, and the use of child and family data to inform program and policy decisions. State-funded preschool, early intervention, and preschool special education programs are required to participate. Head Start/Early Head Start and child care programs can also input data; more than 95 percent of Head Start programs use Results Matter. Results Matter also assigns children a unique identifier which can be matched to the Colorado Department of Education’s student K-12 identifier.
The ultimate goal of OIT is to create an integrated, collaborative, and agile data management system for all state services. The early childhood data system is one part of this process. Work is underway to implement universal data standards and link data across domains where information-sharing is crucial. Efforts are being funded in part through the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems Grant Program.