Data collection and management systems are an everyday aspect of Head Start/Early Head Start programs. The type of data that is collected by programs, and when and how it is used, varies from one program to the next. There are a few key strategies that can be followed to make data work for you and for your program.

Consider, what is driving your program’s data collection? How do you decide what data to collect?

We recommend you start with what is required. For Head Start/Early Head Start programs, those data drivers include the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS), PIR, program goals, self-assessment, and monitoring protocols (which provide useful insight into areas where the Office of Head Start is focusing their efforts to assess program performance).

Once you have developed a plan for collecting the data that is required, we recommend having a continuous program improvement data collection “bucket” for anything else that you need/want to know to ensure you are providing the most effective services for your children, families, and staff. For some programs, this might also include data to support local requirements or QRIS, for example. For programs that have been designated for recompetition through DRS, we further suggest data collection that both tracks progress on action plans and provides valuable data points that can be used to strengthen your application.

Next, what is working well in your data management system and where is there room for growth?

We focus on 6 C’s of data collection: comprehensive/complete, coordinated, correct, clear, constructive, and communicable. With the 6 C’s in mind, and as part of a regular system of reflection about what is working well and what needs to be improved, your program will be prepared for optimal data collection and use. Data management systems should follow cycle such as the one below.

  • Collect (implement coordinated data collection, aligned to data drivers);
  • Analyze (ensure data is clear, comprehensive, and gives you the information you need);
  • Apply (consider how you can use data for children, to support families, and for program staff);
  • Share (who, how, and when data is communicated); and
  • Adjust (evaluate the effectiveness of data collection and whether the result was comprehensive and complete).

Other considerations for data systems might include how ongoing monitoring of those systems is addressed, efficiency of implementation with respect to time and resources, integration into policies and procedures across all content areas, and training provided to staff. Every program is different, and those differences will be reflected in a program’s data management system.

Foundations for Families team members are skilled at assisting programs to analyze, reflect upon, and refine their data management systems. We use a Data Systems Review Tool to examine all areas of a program’s data management system to help you refine and improve data strategies. Please contact us to learn more about our consulting services.

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