You are here

WI ECIDS History: Race to The Top Grant - ECIDS Build (2013-2017)

ECIDS Build:  A Brief History


The three agencies [The Department of Children and Families (DCF), The Department of Health Services (DHS) and The Department of Public Instruction (DPI)], have made it a joint priority to harness the power of the data they are required to collect to help them better understand the impact of the agencies' programs on the well-being of Wisconsin children.  Through a project funded by the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Grant, the Wisconsin Early Childhood Integrated Data System (WI ECIDS) has been built and was implemented in December, 2017.  The WI ECIDS links the three agencies' data and encourages more frequent and beneficial data analyses for the purpose of improving how the three agencies serve Wisconsin's youngest children and their families.

Linking Data from Three State Agencies to Better Support Wisconsin Families

Using the WI ECIDS, agency researchers, analysts and content experts will be able to connect DCF, DHS and DPI data to improve outcomes for Wisconsin children, families, and communities.  The WI ECIDS ensures that data is kept secure and preserves each agency's responsibilities for protecting its data.

Doing More With Our Data

The three departments administer many complementary programs and services aimed at helping families and communities provide high quality experiences for young children.  To get a better picture of how we are serving Wisconsin's youngest children and how these children fare as they grow through childhood toward adulthood, the three departments have taken advantage of their combined wealth of data through the use of the ECIDS.  Keeping data safe and secure is critical.  This means we have established agreements between agencies when sharing data to ensure we uphold those standards.  Prior to the ECIDS, the agencies lacked a sustainable, repeatable process to make data exchanges easy, so every instance of sharing data across departments used to be treated as new.  The barriers to pooling agency information for answering some questions were higher than they needed to be.  The ECIDS has removed these barriers.

The ECIDS Does:                                                                                

  • Make the process of sharing data between our agencies easier, faster, and more reliable
  • Require adherence to all federal and state privacy laws and regulations
  • Enable analysts to use de-identified data to study characteristics and outcomes of groups of participants
  • Strictly control access to data through agency assigned roles and by requiring data use agreements


  • Pool agencies' data together in a centralized data warehouse
  • Abridge agencies and programs ownership of their data or data managers' data security responsibilities
  • Provide data on individuals needed for day-to-day operations or case management
  • Enable interested individuals to view and use agencies data at will

Early Childhood Questions Requiring Integrated Data

Wisconsin developed five Essential Policy Questions during the Feasibility Study. These are based on the Early Childhood Data Collaborative (ECDC) example questions. The Wisconsin Essential Policy Questions incorporated guidance from the Data Quality Campaign and project stakeholders to fit the state's early childhood policy goals. The Wisconsin Essential Policy Questions are:

1)  Are children, birth to 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?

Many underlying questions can be asked, in order to answer these five Essential questions. Below are some of the results-oriented questions that people involved in delivering early childhood services in Wisconsin have asked. 

  • How does Wisconsin Shares funding correlate with early childhood suspensions? The agencies, DCF and DPI, have provided the data to answer this question proposed by DPI. (underlying question for Essential Policy Question #1)
  • What is the behavioral health impact of hearing loss among school age children who participated in birth to 3 special education services? Here, DHS and DPI provide the data for this question from DHS.  (underlying question for Essential Policy Question #1, #3 and #4)
  • Are there differences in 3rd grade reading proficiency for children who receive Wisconsin Shares and were in center-based versus family child care? This question, proposed by DCF, is answered using DCF and DPI data.  (underlying question for Essential Policy Question #1, #3 and #4)

The answers to these questions are underway, as these are the first questions asked using the ECIDS.

What Is Included In The ECIDS?

The ECIDS contains both a technical and policy foundation, which promotes the analysis of de-identified cross-departmental data.

  • Technical Solution:
    • ECIDS Knowledge Base (KB) - Establishes and maintains cross-agency links for client, participant and student records related to the same individual (1/1/1994 to present).  Agencies' program data will not be stored in the ECIDS.  All that will be centrally stored are data elements needed to match records across agencies, and it will be impermissible to disclose that data to anyone.
    • ECIDS File Manager Tool (FMT) - Allows for encrypted file data exchanges and produces metadata reports uploaded to the ECIDS User Portal.  The tool is used within the ECIDS Multi-Agency Data Exchange Process.
    • ECIDS User Portal - A web interface available to researchers/data analysts, allowing them to manage their research projects.  Also, serves as a research repository for past and current research projects, provides for monitoring of the KB, downloading of the FMT, as well as providing documentation and training.
  • Policies and Agreements:  We have developed interagency agreements that ensure personally identifiable information will not be disclosed and that data will be shared securely and only under the terms of a data use agreement.  
  • ECIDS Multi-Agency Data Exchange Process (DXP):  The procedure for making cross agency data requests through the ECIDS User Portal, from the inception of the question to data destruction.  The DXP provides consistency and security in supporting the steps of a data exchange, while also supporting each agency’s internal processes.
  • Agency-Specific Work:  Supporting the ECIDS are data systems in each of the agencies that feed the ECIDS.  DCF purchased a product called Identity Insight to match children across all of their programs.  DCF also created a cross-program data warehouse called LIFT (Longitudinal Information for Family Touchpoints) to provide de-identified research data to internal stakeholders.  The Department of Health Services' Division of Public Health (DPH) created a Customer Hub, which contains identification data for children who have come in contact with the DPH, whether by birth, immunization or some other public health activity.  This Customer Hub helps facilitate requests for de-identified data to meet approved data requests.  DPI already has an extensive data warehouse, WISEdash, which provides de-identified student data for approved research requests.

ECIDS Coverage

The ECIDS currently links the programs and data systems listed below.

The Department of Children and Families (DCF)

  • Child Welfare
  • WI Shares - Child Care Subsidy Program
  • Wisconsin Works (W2)
  • Child Support

The Department of Health Services (DHS)

  • Birth Records
  • Maternal & Child Health
  • Immunizations
  • Early Hearing Detection & Intervention
  • Lead Screening & Remediation
  • Birth to Three:  Developmental Delays

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI)**

  • Student Demographic Data
  • Attendance
  • Enrollment
  • Retention
  • Suspensions/Explusions/Incident Type
  • English Proficiency
  • WSAS Assessments (3rd Grade Math and Reading)

**  DPI collects data to meet all required school, district, state and federal reporting mandates, e.g. Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Title II Higher Education Act.  These data inform education research and data analysis.  Through the DPI dashboard and reporting tools, DPI staff, teachers, administrators, parents and researchers are better able to understand and improve educational outcomes for Wisconsin students.

ECIDS Build Project Documentation

WI ECIDS Home Page    |    From EC LDS to ECIDS      

WI ECIDS History:  Race To the Top Grant - ECIDS Build (2013-2017)     

WI ECIDS History:  Feasibility Study (2011-2012)    |    WI ECIDS Resources