Are We Good At Data??
This is a million-dollar question for Head Start and Early Head Start managers and directors. Literally. Millions of dollars in federal grant money depend on program leadership taking full responsibility for data and being very, very good at it.
In my role as CEO of Acorn Evaluation I travel quite a bit, and I’m privileged to spend significant time with Head Start leaders from around the country. They lead programs that are quite good at data. They describe that their leadership teams are fluently aware of what is supposed to be collected, that they organize efforts to do so efficiently and professionally, that they oversee the entry of that data into a central database, and that they formally and accurately report everything to ensure the continuation of their funding.
This is what Head Start and Early Head Start programs do. And, yes, they are very good at those things. They have to be. Their program is like a complex machine – one that busily and unceasingly hums along collecting, entering, analyzing and reporting on data in the areas of education, family engagement, ERSEA, health, disabilities, etc. This is how families and children get the highest quality services.
We all know something else about complex machines. They have lots of moving parts, and, unfortunately, they often break down. Complex machines need maintenance, they need replacement parts, they need to be carefully and continuously observed and cared for. That is where the largest opportunity for Head Start leaders emerges.
As a director or manager, knowing the “state of your machine” is therefore one of your most important responsibilities. This means assessing the data capacity of your organization – the ability of your program to effectively use data to meet its goals and objectives.
Here are some of the foundational questions about a Head Start program’s data capacity:
- What are staff’s perceptions around data? How do they think and feel about it?
- How do leadership and management practices support or impede a healthy data climate?
- How effectively is data shared across your program, with staff, families, and other stakeholders?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of your current data infrastructure?
- How well-defined are your program’s data workflows?
- Does data serve as a consistent foundation for continuous quality improvement?
Each of those questions can be answered. And these answers can provide a leader with the valuable “state of the machine” information that can answer the next set of questions:
- What does my program need?
- Where should I invest our T&TA funds?
- Who in my program needs what, when, and how?
- Can we successfully make changes to our database(s)?
- Is there anything significant I need be aware of, now, with regards to our data infrastructure?
We can help answer those questions right away with our Data Capacity Assessment. Our team operates quietly, behind the scenes, for a two-month project period that can start at any time during your program year, without any disruption or addition of tasks to your workload.
Our team gathers information in three areas:
- Leadership Interviews: one-hour individual interviews of each of your managers and directors/content leads (ex: Director, ERSEA, Education, FCE, Health, Data, etc)
- Staff Surveys: an online survey about data attitudes, organizational health, and data literacy for your program staff (ex: teachers and assistant teachers, family advocates, home visitors, etc)
- Data Explorations: visualizations of data exported directly from your primary database (ex: ChildPlus, GoEngage, COPA).
We deliver a package of actionable results and matched resources that help you exactly know the “state of your machine”! And we are currently enrolling for Spring, Summer, and Fall 2023.
Contact us to learn more today – and to set up a complimentary 30-minute Zoom meeting to walk through the project and discuss your program in detail. We look forward to connecting with you!