Previously, I wrote about the problem of EC funders wanting better data on early learning programs and the children they serve. Fortunately, the call for more and better data has not gone unheeded. In Oklahoma, the state's early childhood education council recognized a need early on for a comprehensive system that unified data sources across agencies and early childhood programs. Now, they have funding to pursue such efforts, thanks to a Kellogg Foundation grant.
Kellogg, one of the country's top EC funders, awarded the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness Foundation (OPSR) $516,435 to work toward implementing just such a data system that would connect data across early childhood programs and state agencies. The three-year grant extends through February 2018.
A comprehensive system that connects data across multiple agencies and programs would tackle one of the biggest obstacles to a working statewide early learning system: the problem of data silos. Like most states, Oklahoma has multiple early learning programs and service providers. These include public school systems, state health and human service agencies, and nonprofit educational service providers. Data siloing impedes service coordination and stifles efforts to monitor the progress of children in the system. A system that unifies these separate data sources would enable, for example, educators in Oklahoma City's public schools to see what programs and services a particular child received through other programs and agencies.
OPSR was created in 2010 through legislation crafted by state lawmakers and signed by then-Gov. Brad Henry. As the state's early childhood council, OPSR advises the state on various issues related to early learning. In the early months of OPSR's work, a committee identified a unified data system as a critical need for fostering greater cooperation and coordination of early learning services. A 2011 report from this committee found that more data collection would enable the state to make policy and changes to improve outcomes for young children.
Developing the kind of unified comprehensive data system envisioned by OPSR and funded by Kellogg is easier said than done, and numerous issues and obstacles—technological, legal, and otherwise—will have to be overcome. Nevertheless, we continue to be encouraged by the moves toward better data and analysis that will help drive policy and program decisions that set a foundation for children's future success—in K-12 education, college, and the workplace.