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INQUIRE Data Toolkit: A Roadmap for Collecting Data to Improve Early Care and Education Systems

Photo of an early education teacher surrounded by students at a work table.By Ivelisse Martinez-Beck, Ph.D., Senior Social Science Research Analyst and Child Care Research Team Leader, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation

Collecting high-quality data for use in early care and education Quality Rating and Improvement Systems and other quality initiatives is important. To that end, we developed a toolkit to support state and local efforts to build strong data infrastructure for these initiatives designed to measure, monitor and promote high-quality early care and education.

The toolkit contains two linked sections, a Linkages Guide to support effective data collection and a Dictionary of Common Data Elements designed to instruct the selection and use of data to answer important policy and reporting questions.

Follow these steps to use the sections of the toolkit for your efforts to collect high-quality data:

  1. Identify the questions that are a priority for your state/locality.
  2. Review the list of data elements in the Dictionary and compare it to data collected in your state/locality to identify what data you are not collecting.
  3. Develop and implement a plan to collect data needed to address high priority questions or reporting needs.
  4. Perform the suggested or alternative analysis using the recommended data elements.
  5. Use the results of the analysis to answer questions of interest and to help you develop additional questions.

Produced by Child Trends as a part of our ongoing Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis project, the toolkit will receive regular updates as we identify new linkage questions and add more data elements. So check back in the project for future versions.

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