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State of Connecticut

Building a data collection tool that supports young children

Summary

The Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC) wanted to improve their existing data collection systems to better understand and evaluate the impact of their work with young children and their families. As a first step in that effort, we're building a pilot data collection tool to help OEC gather data from early care and education providers that would ease the burden on users and improve data quality.

"The amount of paperwork I have to submit is overwhelming, sometimes. Honestly, this would be a blessing. We're supposed to be running centers and helping families."

Anna Ruggiero, Executive Director, Children's Adventure Center, Sandyhook, CT
A teacher sitting with a young child at a table and a computer screen in the background showing a green checkmark.

The challenge

OEC works towards a vision where all young children in the state are safe, healthy, learning, and thriving. They do this through early childhood policy development as well as critical program and service support for families, educators, child care providers, and communities. With over 70% of families with young children in the state in need of some form of child care, understanding the effectiveness of OEC's programs is critical to the well-being of Connecticut's children and families.

In recognizing that accurate data is at the heart of truly understanding the impact of existing programs, making funding decisions and planning for the future, OEC decided to focus on improving their existing data collection tools and systems starting with the Early Childhood Information System (ECIS). ECIS is used by early care and education providers to gather and store important data about children in their care. However, it poses a number of usability challenges to providers including barriers around updating or correcting existing data, the existence of duplicate records and identification (ID) numbers per child, and unused reporting features due to inaccurate data.

The challenge for us was to decrease the burden on early child care and education providers as they enter data into the system and to improve the quality and utility of ECIS data for all users.

The solution

Together with OEC, we're piloting a data collection tool to improve the data collection process for early child care and education providers who currently use ECIS. This new tool will offer a more user-friendly interface, designed to consolidate providers' monthly reporting tasks and allow for more control over the data they enter. This pilot will also make better use of existing data to link and consolidate records, reducing manual entry errors and eliminating the need for providers to create a unique ID for each child. With a data collection process that works better for early child care providers, OEC will have more reliable data to better evaluate outcomes.

Additionally, in an effort to get useful working software into the hands of users as soon as possible, the design and development of the pilot integrates successful agile and iterative practices described in the U.S. Digital Services Playbook.

OEC envisions that this project will be used as a model for collecting and matching better data about the early development and education of every young child who has received funding from the state, and a starting point to better integrate existing data systems across other OEC programs and agencies.

The results

  • Completed design of a minimum viable product (MVP)
  • Deployed the MVP in a January 2020 pilot
  • Continually onboarding child care programs and iterating on the MVP
  • Helping OEC move the needle towards better understanding the well-being of the children and families they serve