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WI ECIDS History: Feasibility Study (2011-2012)

What Came Before the Race To The Top Grant?  A Brief History

Initial Steps:  Feasibility Study

In 2009 Wisconsin was awarded a grant which included a proposal to conduct a feasibility study around Early Childhood data and make recommendations for a future build of an Early Childhood Longitudinal Data system (EC LDS).   As noted in the 2010 ECAC Early Childhood System Assessment, "despite the multitude of data collected by individual early childhood programs and services, the State of WI remains unable to answer basic questions about child well-being and program effectiveness.  The need for an EC LDS is evident."  The cross-agency collaborative team accomplished all objectives listed in the 2011-2012 Feasibility Study Project Charter within the grant time period.  More information about the grant can be found at SLDS 2009 ARRA Grant Info.  The Feasibility Study Project Charter describes the work which was completed in detail.

Feasibility Study Notable Outcomes

Essential Policy Questions Identified

An important first step in the development of the EC LDS was the identification of Key Policy Questions that will guide the State's system building efforts, so as to answer these overarching questions.  The Early Childhood Data Collaborative (ECDC)** has identified a group of example key policy questions which a well-crafted EC LDS can help to answer. 

  1. Are children, birth through age five, on track to succeed when they enter school and beyond?
  2. Which children have access to high-quality early care and education programs?
  3. Is the quality of programs improving?
  4. What are the characteristics of effective programs?
  5. How prepared is the early care and education workforce to provide effective education and care for all children?
  6. What policies and investments lead to a skilled and stable early care and education workforce?

The feasibility study project team recommended a broader set of essential policy questions which fit the state's early childhood policy goals.  These were confirmed by public feedback garnered during the Early Childhood Collaborating Partners video conference on August 11, 2011.  The outcome was the following list of Key Policy Questions for the state of Wisconsin:

  1. Are children, birth to age 5, on track to succeed when they enter school and beyond?
  2. Which children and families are and are not being served by which programs/services?
  3. Which children have access to high-quality early childhood programs and services?
  4. What characteristics of programs are associated with positive child outcomes for which children?
  5. What are the education and economic returns on early childhood investments?

Data Roundtable Held:  Driving Out Underlying Questions and Involving The Extended Group of Stakeholders

A Data Roundtable was held on February 22, 2012.  The Data Roundtable served as a gathering of this project’s extended group of Wisconsin stakeholders.  It included a presentation by national experts Elliot Regenstein, Susan Illgen, and Missy Cochenour and also provided an opportunity for the attendees to join with other professionals who manage programs designed for better outcomes for young children and influence the direction of the use and governance of this data.​  

With the identification of Wisconsin's Five Essential Policy Questions, it is realized that there are many underlying questions which arise in order to answer the Key Policy Questions. A list of Underlying Questions was developed as well during workshops with the extended group of stakeholders.

The Report of the Wisconsin Data Roundtable  outlines the outcomes of the day and includes recommendations for moving the project forward.  

Data Survey was Conducted:  What Data Elements Must Be Accessed by the EC LDS to Answer the Underlying Questions?

A Data Survey completed by data experts across various state agency programs/source systems was developed and used to gather the information on availability of various data elements available within the Current WI Landscape.  Guidance from the ECDC, which has identified potential Fundamental Elements of a Coordinated State ECE Data System, were considered in developing the data survey. Guidance from the WI School Readiness Indicator Initiative Steering Committee was also incorporated in the development of the data survey, through the use of the indicators recommended in The Status of School Readiness Indicators In Wisconsin.  The data elements which will answer the underlying questions uncovered in the February 22, 2012 Data Roundtable sessions have been be incorporated into the survey, as well as public comments gathered during the August 11, 2011 WECCP Video Conference Survey.

Please see the WI Data Survey Summary Spreadsheet for the results of the survey to see what data is available across the DCF, DHS and DPI Programs/Systems.  This WI Data Survey Summary Spreadsheet identified all the possible Early Childhood data available across the programs within various agencies, as well as some data identified outside of state government.  At the beginning of the Race To The Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant (WI ECIDS Build Effort) the programs to include in the initial WI ECIDS were selected out of this list.  The participating agencies (DCF, DPI and DHS) selected 11 programs across the three agencies to be included in the initial WI ECIDS.  For a list of the current programs sharing data into the current WI ECIDS please see WI ECIDS History: Race To The Top Grant - ECIDS Build (2013-2017).  Once on that page, scroll down to ECIDS Coverage.   

Recommendations Made

The topics of Capacity, Unique identifiers, Data Governance, Stakeholder Involvement, Potential System Architecture and Sustainability have been studied by various Project Team Workgroups.  Recommendation papers on these topics have been prepared and approved by the feasibility study project team members, as well as some papers requested by and circulated to the Governor's ECAC for comment.

Work Plan Developed For Build of EC LDS and RTT-ELC Grant Awarded to Wisconsin ($10.4M) For Build of EC LDS

The last deliverable for the Feasibility Study was the development of a work plan to begin building the EC LDS.  With the successful award of the Second Round of the Race To The Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Grant, the team fulfilled the last deliverable of the Feasibility Study and at the same time fulfilled the first deliverable of the RTT-ELC Grant.  With the work plan in place, Wisconsin was ready and well-equipped to begin the build process.  See Current WI ECIDS Project Information (2013-2017) for information on the build process.

Additional Feasibility Study Project Documents

**ECDC  -  The Early Childhood Data Collaborative, a consortium of national organizations working to help states build, link, and use early childhood data systems, has developed guidelines defining a well-crafted EC LDS.  Partner organizations in the Early Childhood Data Collaborative include the Council of Chief State School Officers, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley, Data Quality Campaign, National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University’s School of Public Health, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Governors Association for Best Practices, and Pre-K Now at the Pew Center on the States.

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