Historically, Head Start’s efficacy has long been debated, perhaps such debate has been framed around a confounded premise. Numerous research, both federally and non-federally funded have shown Head Start improves children’s learning at kindergarten entry, period. The predicament lies on how the program’s short and long-term impact can be maximized.
“Not everything than can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted”
With the first major revision of Head Start Performance Standards in September 2016 since 1997, and the first complete overhaul since their creation 40 years ago, the emphasis placed on a data-driven culture is more than evident. Effective data collection systems and analyses that support data-driven decision making, to improve program quality and promote continuous improvement are imperative. The effective usage of this information will require a high level of planning and intentionality as well as expertise in translating derived data into actionable insights.
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
There is no doubt data is important, but the right data is essential, is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by the constantly increasing amounts of data being collected. Understanding what’s important, with clear program goals, is a fundamental step to reduce this white noise, a successful data analysis is able to further remove the noise and isolate what matters most to the organization.
Ultimately, fostering a data-driven leadership culture within Head Start will require a paradigm shift, which essentially translates into a significant investment of time, effort and new knowledge acquisition in order to make of this processes the norm rather than the exception. As a result, all the factors that affect the lasting positive impact Head Start has on children will become, in time, more easily identifiable, measurable, and unambiguous. An extremely high payout on that investment if you ask me.