Head Start DataThe Head Start program was conceived in 1964 to provide equal access to education for low-income families. As part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty, Head Start was intended to level the playing field in education. In addition to supporting families, preparing students for school is one of the primary goals of the program, possible through Head Start data collection. In 2007, Congress passed the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act, requiring Head Start and Early Head Start Programs to turn to data-driven decision-making. Of course, the term “data-driven“ begs some definition. What exactly qualifies as acceptable data and how is it used to improve Head Start programs and prepare children for their educational journeys?Fortunately, the Head Start program has come up with some guidelines for quality data. Let’s look more closely at how Head Start characterizes and identifies quality data.
Guidelines for Data from Project Head StartInfants and toddlers are undergoing a period of rapid growth and development. As such, Head Start data collection is imperative for early education programs to evolve with the changing needs of children and families. The Head Start program uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative data for program direction and evaluation. But what are the characteristics of qualitative and quantitative data?
- Qualitative Data– Qualitative data refers to data collected through questionnaires, interviews, observations, and focus groups. With qualitative data, there are no numerical values. Instead, data collection occurs in the form of a narrative, and reviewers need to look for common links and themes to evaluate it properly.
- Quantitative Data– Quantitative data uses numerical values to quantify a value. For instance, parents in a Head Start program may be asked to rate specific aspects of their experience on a scale from one to five.
- Family referrals
- The utilization of community resources by families
- Safety checks
- Finance and budget
- Program self-assessments
- Pregnant mother, child, and family health (includes physical health, mental health, oral health, and nutrition)
- Attendance of children, staff, and families and the length of time in which they stay in the program
- Developmental screenings and ongoing assessments of school readiness and early intervention outcomes for infants and toddlers with disabilities
- Home child visit and group care quality
- Children and family demographics
- Family partnership agreement goals and the progress made toward meeting them
Assuring Quality in Head Start Data CollectionOf course, whatever data is collected, the process needs to be approached scientifically for the best potential impact on program development. But how does the program differentiate the quality level of the collected data? Head Start has identified six quality data characteristics:
Incorporating Data Collection into Head Start ProgramsIt may be difficult to elicit information if staff and families are reluctant to provide it. Data collection takes time, and it is easy to let it slide in the face of caring for our children. With that in mind, the question is, how can Head Start programs support data collection and create a “Data-Informed Culture” in the classroom? Introducing data-collection is a gradual process, where all parties need to be informed of its importance and committed to continuous improvement. As such, Head Start advocates for the Four “R” approach:
- Responsible: Are you using the data responsibly? Programs need to collect high-quality data. The program defines characteristics of high-quality data as meeting the following criteria:
- It includes information about limitations and the appropriate use of the data.
- Respectful: Are you using the data respectfully? Staff needs to respect the family’s beliefs, values, and culture during data collection. Some things to consider include:
- Relevant: Is the data you are using relevant? Relevant data has the following qualities:
- Your data are equitable, accessible, and culturally and linguistically appropriate.
- Relationship-Based: Are you using data in a relationship-based way? Some things to consider include:
Systematic Head Start Data CollectionData is an essential part of Head Start’s Parent Family and Community Engagement Framework. As such, programs must systematically develop their data collection methods. Head Start structures its data collection activities in four distinct steps:
- Systematic preparing and planning (developing useful questions)
- Collecting family-related data
- Aggregating and analyzing collected data
- Using and sharing the results.
- Family Well-Being
- Positive Parent–Child Relationships
- Families as Lifelong Educators
- Families as Learners
- Family Engagement in Transitions
- Family Connections to Peers and Community
- Families as Advocates and Leaders
Supporting Head Start Educators and Caregivers with Data CollectionWhen discussing data collection, it is essential to acknowledge the needs of educators and the work they perform. Keeping track of data, especially if it is a new program concept, can be a frustrating and challenging process. How can we ease the process of Head Start data collection in the classroom? As mentioned above, web-based software can provide at least part of the answer. In fact, some educational software, like Learning Genie, were specifically developed with the needs of Head Start programs in mind. Learning Genie’s Head Start-specific software includes a data-monitoring module with a dashboard and quick report compiling. Learning Genie software has features that help educators and parents in myriad ways, including supporting communication, portfolio development, and educational tracking. Head Start programs can benefit from the program’s Family Engagement Strategy, which includes language translation software, parental reminders, and tracking in-kind hours. Some other benefits of Learning Genie include:
- The software is available on an app that you can download to a phone or tablet.
- Educators can send pictures, videos, and notes to families throughout the day, allowing families to have insight into the child’s world outside of the home.
- Educators can make books and materials available to parents for continued learning in the home.
- Educators can quickly and easily print portfolios.
- Educators can track data on an easy-to-use dashboard.
- Educators can use voice-to-text for writing and use batch reporting to save time.
- The software can translate 104 different languages.
- Parents can receive parenting tips.