Improving access to data and metrics that matter to children


North Carolina has a long history of collecting and using data to understand needs, demonstrate progress, and guide decisions that improve early childhood systems. Heads of state have made data a priority, including strengthening efforts to make data more accessible and developing important measures for young children.

The NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council (ECDAC) continued its work to improve the quality and scope of early childhood data in the state. ECDAC meets quarterly and includes data managers spanning various sectors and systems supporting young children and their families.

For an overview of what is happening to improve data access and early childhood development in North Carolina, read some highlights shared at ECDAC meetings in December 2021 and March 2022.

New Data Dashboards from DCDEE

Earlier this year, the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) released three new public data dashboards focused on: 1) NC Early Learning and Care, 2) NC Preschool, and 3) Subsidized Child Care Assistance. The DCDEE has collected and shared data in a variety of ways over the years. Now, with dashboards, they are able to publish data in a more interactive and user-friendly way. Dashboards are visual, searchable, and help show trends, such as recent declines in enrollment, staffing, and total number of early care and learning sites, reported by EducationNC. Future versions of the dashboard will provide data at the child level.

Enhancements to NC ECIDS

the North Carolina Integrated Early Childhood Data System (ECIDS), managed by DCDEE, is the main source of integrated early childhood data for selected education, health and social services. For example, if you wanted to know what percentage of NC children participate in the Infant Toddler Program and Food and Nutrition Services, or other combinations of programs, you would use the ECIDS.

The DCDEE is currently in the second year of modernizing the system with funding provided by the Preschool Development Grant. Three new programs are being integrated (ie, Early Hearing Detection and Intervention, Jumpstart, and Home Visits), along with other technical enhancements. Once the final agreements are signed, the updated NC ECIDS and its new data reports will be made public.

Data Sharing Through NCDHHS

Since 2019, the NCDHHS Data Office has been working hard to improve data flow and strengthen data governance in North Carolina. In 2021, with input from hundreds of stakeholders, the Data Office created a new data sharing guide for use by DHHS staff with partners. The guide outlines the process for accessing and using NCDHHS data, including how to request data, how data should be stored and transferred, and the ethical and legal considerations of access and use. The Guide is intended to harmonize processes and define terms across the Department. This work enables NCDHHS to better serve North Carolina residents, mitigate risk, and support its staff. It is a model for other state agencies across the country.

Making Progress with the School Readiness Measure

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Early Learning (NCDPI) worked with UNC-Charlotte’s Center for Educational Measurement and Evaluation and a panel of diverse stakeholders as part of a standards-setting process for the North Carolina Early Learning Inventory (ELI). ; the state’s new kindergarten entrance assessment based on fourteen OR Teaching Strategies dimensions. Over the past year, the committee has developed a process to identify and measure the skills of typically developing students in the first 60 days of kindergarten and determine what would be needed to be on track to meet the standards of kindergarten by the end of the school year.

The State Board of Education requires the panel to review NC ELI data and provide recommendations on how it is interpreted and reported. Once their recommendations are approved by the board, aggregate data will be shared publicly via school report cards on the NCDPI website, hopefully beginning this fall for the 2021-22 school year.

Moving forward with the Early Childhood Data Development Strategy

For two years, ECDAC has been working on the development of priority measures in the Early Childhood Data Development Strategy. To date, they have discussed and developed plans for adult health insurance, preschool suspension and expulsion, children receiving child care subsidies, and families paying 10% or less of their income for child care disaggregated by race/ethnicity and other areas. For the coming year, ECDAC will focus on screening data for the socio-emotional health of young children.

the ECDAC is a collaborative effort between the NC Early Childhood Foundation and NCDHHS. It includes members from the NCDHHS divisions, the NCDPI, the NC Department of Information Technology, and researchers and data practitioners from outside of state government.

Mary Mathew

Mary Mathew is the collaboration and policy manager at the NC Early Childhood Foundation. She co-leads various efforts to improve the well-being of children and families and the early years systems in North Carolina, such as the Pathways to Grade-Level Reading initiative, EarlyWell Initiative, NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council.


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