Building Capacity to Use Linked Data for Program Improvement and Research Initiatives

The project, Building Capacity to Use Linked Early Childhood Data, was funded by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, in partnership with the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The goal of the project is to build the capacity of early care and education programs to use linked administrative data for program improvement and research purposes. Linking administrative data, and then using these linked data, can greatly benefit early care and education (ECE) programs by supporting continuous program improvement. But linking administrative data is can be difficult to do. The Building Capacity to Use Linked Data project highlights the opportunities and challenges in linking data, and has developed several short, easy-to-read resources to help program leaders work toward linking their data with data from other agencies, and use these data to improve quality of services for children and families.

  • Strength In Numbers: Supporting Quality Improvement in Early Care and Education Programs through Linking Administrative Data is a research brief that highlights opportunities and challenges in linking data and offers ideas for overcoming the identified challenges.

  • Five Case Studies highlight real-world examples of ECE programs that have successfully used data linked with health, early intervention, TANF and other social services data:

    • Case Study #1 – Tulsa, OK ECE program linked to public schools data to understand transitions to kindergarten and support teacher effectiveness (CAP Tulsa)
    • Case Study #2 – Utah and Arizona ECE program linked health and early intervention data within their program and with other external programs to better serve children (The Learning Center)
    • Case Study #3 – North Carolina Head Start program partnered with a TANF agency to improve enrollment in both programs and coordinate family services across programs (Telamon)
    • Case Study #4 – Rochester, New York ECE program partnered with The Children’s Institute of the University of Rochester to use linked data to support classroom instruction and teacher professional development (Rochester Childfirst Network)
    • Case Study #5 – Houston, Texas Head Start program partnered with the school district to understand children’s literacy and math skills in early elementary school and how they compared with other children from low-income families (AVANCE Houston)
  •  “Data Directions” that serve as a guide for programs to deal with issues related to linking data, highlighting best practices for addressing these common challenges, including:

  • Data Linking Planning Guide – designed to help programs and TA partners assess their capacity to engage in data linking efforts, and identify next steps to accomplish data linking goals based on six areas of practice.

  • Compilation of Existing Resources on topics related to linking and using administrative data, building from existing federal efforts and external resources.