Proceedings of the New England Meeting of the State Child Indicators Projects: Forum on School Readiness and Child Care Indicators. Priorities for Indicator Development



This whole-group session was facilitated by Martha Moorehouse of ASPE and Catherine Walsh of Rhode Island Kids Count. Moorehouse invited each state and municipality represented to respond to two questions: What will you do next? What kind of help do you need? Catherine Walsh added that it would be helpful if those speaking could specify indicators they might add to their projects as a result of discussions at this meeting.

Summaries by Participants

Alaska. Margaret Thomas of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development said that she expected to drop from her list of childcare indicators a count of the number of licensed slots. She said that Alaska would continue to look at the audiences they hope to reach with the indicators and what they can expect to accomplish through their use.

Delaware. Jim Lesko of the Delaware Department of Education said that the Delaware project would be looking at how the indicators across all buckets mesh well together. He said that the state needs to continue looking at addressing the concerns of multiple parties. (In conjunction, he noted the help that Sharon Lynn Kagan had provided on the state’s Not By Chance proposals). He went on to say that Delaware had not yet figured out how to reach consensus on accountability and would like to discuss accountability concerns with other states.

Georgia. Monica Herk of Community Partners said that she came to the meeting with a goal of addressing ways to measure increases of affordable, accessible, quality childcare and she will take back to Georgia the list of indicators generated by the childcare working group. She had a particular interest in looking at the uses of a books-per-child indicator, feeling that such a measure would be valuable to legislators. She said that Georgia already has its school readiness measures, but she expects that they will reexamine them in light of the school readiness ideas expressed by other states and municipalities.

Hawaii. Both representatives of Hawaii, Liz Chun of the Good Beginnings Alliance and Betsy Moneymaker of the state Department of Education, made comments. Chun said that she was pleased to see the people thinking about school readiness indicators paying attention to making schools ready for kids as well as making kids ready for schools. She said that Hawaii is preparing to look at children’s transitions and is working on a staffing study and is still looking for pieces to put into bucket one. Moneymaker said that she is puzzled by some of the questions she is hearing about why states are focusing on readiness indicators. She asked, "Are too many kids being sent to special education because they are not ready for schools? Are too many kids not meeting SAT standards? Are too many kids not finishing high school?"

Maryland. Charlene Hughins Uhl of Baltimore’s Ready at Five Partnership was one of two speakers for Maryland. She said that she was interested in exploring the capacity of communities to collect and use data. She called the current set of indicators developed for Baltimore a "starter set" and looked forward to the development of a richer set to bring to the legislature.

Minnesota. Debbykay Peterson of the Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning said that she came to the meeting to look at other states’ contextual indicators--such as poverty. In an effort to encompass multiple contexts, Minnesota is looking at linking the data in large state agency databases, a step that can support a partnership among agencies. Ms. Peterson noted that Minnesota faces a legislative mandate to present in 2001 a plan to integrate childcare and Head Start. Ms. Peterson went on to say that these meetings had helped her focus on using indicators to express what they want to do for children, what services they need to provide, and in what settings. She also noted that a major goal for Minnesota is to take data and convert those data into information for use in communities.

New York. Deborah Benson of the New York State Council on Children and Families said that there has been an absence of discussion of school readiness indicators in New York State, but that the state has new money and new standards for prekindergarten and, in time, people will realize that more emphasis on school readiness will mean less remediation. Benson said that she expected to see whether some of the indicators discussed at this meeting can be added to those envisioned in New York. She said that, in particular, subsidies for childcare and Head Start funding had both risen, but New York has no real status report on childcare. She also expressed her intention to engage the state Department of Education in addressing some of these issues.

Rhode Island. Sherry Campanelli of the Rhode Island Department of Human Services said that she found a number of ideas raised at the meeting helpful. These included Sharon Lynn Kagan’s grouping of areas to be studied into four categories (see above) or buckets. She also noted her agreement with Martha Moorehouse that indicators should not stand alone, but a balanced set of indicators should be employed to assess a complex system and to avert misuse of data.

Campanelli said that she was eager to do more with administrative data and she has identified some agency data that could be useful to her. She remarked that linking those data might accomplish the same result as a universal identification system for services recipients, in that it would ease the understanding of the service use careers of individuals, but might be easier to accomplish. Campanelli also looks forward to the possibility that Rhode Island may conduct a large-scale survey to supplement its administrative data.

Massachusetts. Three individuals spoke for Massachusetts and the recorder, alas, missed some names. Deb Laughlin said that she found the opportunity to look at indicators across the buckets very helpful. She said that she would like help drafting a set of indicators useful in political circles that would have application to agencies across 15 Massachusetts commonwealth agencies. She sees a challenge in figuring out how to use existing data in ways that are not threatening to agencies, and said that hearing what other states are doing in this area is very helpful. Christine Johnson-Staub stressed the importance of thinking across buckets and datasets. Jason Sachs of the Commonwealth Department of Education added that he sees all the states doing the same kinds of things and moving forward to do the appropriate benchmarking and using data as a common voice.

Vermont. Jim Squires of Vermont said that the challenges states are facing in school readiness is validating in that they help him feel that all states are on the right track. In particular, he is concerned about Vermont’s impending kindergarten survey as Vermont seeks ways to secure the expertise necessary to analyze data, to communicate the results to communities, and to sustain the survey over time. He also suggested that indicators projects think about ways to give parents an ongoing role in designing the transition between pre-kindergarten and kindergarten settings. In Vermont, they need to articulate a set of standards for getting children ready for school that fit naturally with their K through 12 standards. They would also like more technical assistance on helping community members turn data into action.

West Virginia. Commenting for West Virginia was Kimberly Veraas of the Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Families. She said that West Virginia was looking to post some indicators data on their website by early 2000 as part of their process of using data for action. Veraas said that West Virginia may add some indicators of school readiness based on the discussions at the meeting. In the area of childcare, they are already looking at accessibility of home visiting and other programs, how to make programs more widely available and to sustain them, and at quality issues, such as a multistep-accreditation process. She noted West Virginia’s interest in the innovations underway in Florida.

San Francisco. Carol Stevenson of the Mayor’s Office of Children, Youth, and their Families, said that the meeting gave her confidence that San Francisco is not far off the mark in what it is seeking to measure. She said that San Francisco has a new initiative to enhance salaries for childcare workers and that it was important to gather data on the effect of this effort right off the mark.

Colorado. Susan Geisser of Colorado Bright Beginnings said that she was glad to see that some of the challenges faced by Colorado are found in other states. She is particularly interested in public awareness.

Utah. Lois Haggard of Utah’s Department of Health, Office of Public Health Assessment, commented on both school readiness and childcare. In terms of school readiness, she expressed interest in the idea of schools being ready for kids and in the idea of training teachers to observe behavior.

In terms of childcare, she said that Utah has a good interagency council but, because public education staff are the driving force, childcare has fallen through the cracks. She hopes that dialogue on childcare can be initiated when she returns to Utah. Such dialogue might take up the responsibilities for childcare, mapping childcare to low paying jobs, talking to the business community about staff turnover problems, and other issues.

Subsequent Discussion

Martha Moorehouse noted the many references to needs for data, in particular survey data, and suggested that some measures have been developed, including measures for Head Start programs and measures to capture parent and teacher perspectives on school readiness. She asked if conference participants have been able to find federal resources, such as America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Child Well-Being, available from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Well-Being,

Allen Harden of Chapin Hall said that what distinguished this meeting is that participants laid out their work so far and, in doing so, acquainted everyone with what had been done and what was pending—very useful information. He mentioned his responsibility to help design a track for the next Chicago meeting focused on moving from concept to indicators and asked for ideas. He also said that another track at that meeting will address how to deal with indicators in the policy environment.

Mairéad Reidy amplified Allen’s point, noting that Chapin Hall would be contacting states to assess their technical assistance needs. She also noted that a Minnesota meeting on assets-based indicators has been moved to early February. Reidy also said that that projects operate at multiple levels, noting that the Vermont approach, which encompasses surveys of teachers, nurses, principals, and the possibility of parents, is encouraging. She urged states to share their survey instruments with each other, using the child indicators list serve.

Sara Watson of the Finance Project said that she was struck by the resistance by some participants to reporting indicators on child outcomes. She referred participants to a Center for Law and Social Policy report, published by Child Trends, on data sources or child outcome indicators.

Kathleen Bernier of the Frank Porter Graham Center for Child Development said that North Carolina is working on a statewide measure of kindergarten readiness and she will take some ideas from this meeting back to that work.

Karen Tvedt of the Child Care Bureau said that the bureau has a mandate to develop performance measures around the childcare development fund, explaining that the infusion of money into childcare that accompanied the implementation of TANF makes it necessary to better understand what is happening in childcare provision. She asked that those with thoughts about what measures would be of interest contact her at

Lesko warned that events and policies are developing swiftly and the indicators work needs to keep pace. "This is rocket science," he said, "but the people want to know that you got to the moon, nothing else."

Joyce Butler said that the National Child Care Information Center has been working on outcomes in some states and has felt that providers are not engaged in the dialogue. She has been concerned that those to be held accountable — the providers — would not be kept fully in mind. She now feels like this group is keeping them in mind.

Catherine Walsh made a number of observations,

  • Projects need to accelerate progress on child outcomes indicators. Vermont and Rhode Island are among the states that have some tools in this area.
  • Quality is important and we need to find a way to use indicators to drive quality improvements.
  • Now that states know what they want to achieve by linking data across agencies, they need more knowledge of the technical assistance available to them to support this.

Debbykay Peterson of Minnesota’s Department of Children, Families, and Learning underlined the need to continue making information on individual project efforts widely available. She was echoed in the sentiment by Catherine Walsh.

This Summary

This summary is based on the notes of Barbara Burgess, Jeff Hackett, Allen Harden, Ann-Marie Harrington, Toni Lang, Mairéad Reidy, Charlene Uhl, Sara Watson, and Cathie Walsh.