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Helping Children Thrive Through Community-led Outcome Metrics

Develop and deploy the necessary legal, technical, and incentive infrastructure to drive continuous improvement and pay for success.

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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

This proposal is based upon the feedback and interest of local early childhood education practitioners. The National Head Start Association hosted a design session along with support from BrightHive and others in Washington DC. The session convened providers from across the country who had expressed the desire to develop a shared infrastructure for continuous improvement. The interested and continued participation of these local stakeholders will contribute significantly to its success.

Name or Organization

National Head Start Association and BrightHive.


The National Head Start Association works with early childhood providers across the country. Communities that have already expressed interest in participating in the multi-site pilot include Tulsa, Arkansas, Santa Clara, Connecticut, Dayton (OH), NJ/WI/PA/NV, Houston, Riverside (CA). Second tier: Cleveland, San Diego, Florida, and the Twin Cities (MN).

What is your stage of development?

  • Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD


  • Team

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Describe your submission in one clear sentence

We will define, measure, and improve the selection, collection, sharing, and analysis of key indicators, including essential outcomes indicators, to inform Head Start and other efforts to help low-income children and their families thrive. We propose to do this by creating an open source toolkit that increases local practitioners’ ability to use their own and others’ data to measure and improve program quality continually and to strengthen accountability to parents, the community, and funders.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

Early childhood programs have long struggled to shift to a performance-based culture because of significant technical hurdles, misaligned incentives, and capacity challenges. There is a unique opportunity right now to revolutionize how ECE uses data. Given the recently revised federal Head Start Program Performance Standards, there are now also external incentives and opportunities to use data to inform and drive continuous improvement. In this project we will be working with local ECE providers to develop the tools, technologies, and shared outcomes that support improvement across the sector.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

The National Head Start Association (NHSA) and BrightHive are joining forces to develop the measurement and data infrastructure needed to support learning and action to improve outcomes on the Head Start front line and in central offices. There are three major parts to this project: 1) Identify a small set of useful, shared outcome indicators; 2) develop the data infrastructure that enables local providers to track, use, and share indicators easily; and 3) begin development of a shared set of analytic tools local providers can use to harvest valuable insights from their own and peers’ data. The drive for this project is coming from the field. Early childhood education programs need a new data infrastructure to be able to find what works well to continue, brainstorm smarter ways to fix problems, benchmark performance with their peers, evaluate the curricular and other programs they buy or develop, and achieve better outcomes for children and families. This approach has never been accomplished in the early childhood education space. It would radically change the ability of providers to deliver high quality, outcome-oriented programming that also points to more cost-effective ways to operate.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

Current methods for collecting, sharing, and analyzing ECE data make it impossible for grantees to benchmark the performance of their curriculum and practices, making it infeasible to identify better practices. Funders, including the federal government struggle to identify common problems and fairly weed out weak providers. Lastly, federal funding requires programs to demonstrate the effectiveness of their services to improve outcomes, but the current data systems struggle to deliver.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

The goal of this project is to pilot shared data and outcomes infrastructure that will help early childhood education program sites and their networks of service providers increase their capacity for data-informed decision making through improved data infrastructure and supportive capacity building. This multi-site project will leverage the best practices and current successes among program sites and network partners, and build on the site-specific successes to develop and test a shared, modular, open source data infrastructure toolkit aimed at solving data infrastructure challenges common across the early childhood education field. Since localities have different strengths and challenges when it comes to the collection, management, analysis, and sharing of data, the toolkit will be completely modular and interoperable so that program sites and providers can use the infrastructure tools they need for problems they haven’t solved, while keeping existing infrastructure solutions in place that are already working well. This pilot follows a successful model for developing shared data infrastructure that the BrightHive team has demonstrated in partnership with the Workforce Data Quality Campaign and others in improving the data infrastructure of adult education and training programs through the Training Provider Outcomes Toolkit (TPOT). NHSA and BrightHive will be supporting three to four pilot sites. In addition to the pilot sites, a technical working group consisting of program site partners will convene by phone monthly to provide guidance and feedback on tool development. The pilot sites will play a critical role in the development of the tools by serving as testbeds for identifying design needs and technical requirements, testing assumptions and recommendations from the technical working group, prototyping toolkit components, and testing tools in the field. Each site will have an initial focus area for tool development in partnership with the site’s stakeholder group. Tools initially developed at individual sites during this first phase will then be tested at the other pilot sites during the second phase to refine them and ensure generalizability. The primary outputs of the pilot will be new, interoperable data infrastructure tools and technologies that can be used by all NHSA program partners, along with associated technical assistance, capacity building, and change management support. As examples, these may include: -Web-based provider data ingestion tool built on a standard participant record data format that is locally customizable -Data link module with a runtime environment and API that allows for authorized queries by program sites with data sharing agreements -Extraction, Transformation, and Loading (ETL) package with connectors to common CRMs -Open source integrated data warehouse with a core common schema, documented APIs, and secure authorization layer for managing permissioning -A distributed individual record authorization system that digitally manages child record permissioning across the network -Default provider dashboards that are live and customized to program site needs -Default funder-facing dashboards that are live and fully customizable -Default public data dashboards build on census data that are live and fully customizable -Site-specific training with management and technical staff -The development of shared training modules for non-pilot sites -Detailed technical documentation for each component of the toolkit This project won’t solve all technical problems, however, and it is important to be clear about what this project won’t be accomplishing. This won’t be an end-to-end solution that will replace all current early childhood education provider technology. It will make current data infrastructure more valuable by making the connections between each tool work better. It won’t have slick interfaces that everyone, regardless of technical capacity, can use. We are building core shared infrastructure, which is mostly piping, and pipes aren’t always pretty. However, they will work and you’ll be grateful you have them. When thinking of these kind of infrastructure investments, it’s important to consider what they enable as much as the infrastructure itself. Because of the open nature of this infrastructure investment, other software providers will be able to come along and build slick interfaces, researchers will be able to more rapidly test their hypotheses, and policymakers will have access to better data more quickly to make better informed decisions. It also enables the possibility of bringing pay for performance contracting into ECE at scale.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

The ultimate beneficiaries of this project are the children and families that will receive higher quality programming from their community early childhood education programs. The children and families served by Head Start in particular are among the most vulnerable in our nation and the better and more targeted the programming they receive, the better the outcomes we expect them to see throughout their lives. Providers are also a beneficiary in that this allows them to better manage their performance to improve outcomes, as required by the federal government. Being able to benchmark their performance with other locations using common measures will allow individual programs to identify their strengths and needs as well as colleagues to learn from. It will allow analysis of differences in effectiveness across the country in order to identify positive outliers linked to replicable program practices, and then disseminate information about those better practices, once identified, through training and technical assistance for adoption by and adaptation to the needs of each community. One of the exciting things about an investment in infrastructure like this is that others can come along and develop on top of it for the benefit of a variety of stakeholder groups. Having better access to outcome data will help researchers, policymakers, parents, providers, and ultimately young people. It will help all of us seeking to improve the lives of children to row in the same direction.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

By 2025, every early childhood education provider should provide and have access to transparent information about the outcomes they are generating for children and families, as well as a good sense of how those outcomes are influenced by different curricular programs and practices. In addition, this project will support the creation of a continuous learning and improvement culture among early childhood education providers, resulting in continuous quality improvement on multiple dimensions benefiting children and families. We also expect this project to change the motivational mechanisms not just for early childhood education providers, but also and especially for the vendors selling to them, including the readiness of private companies to share data from their proprietary systems.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

One of the most exciting aspects of this project is its potential for helping the million children in poverty served by Head Start programs every year. There is great disparity in the quality of care that young people receive in early childhood education. Unfortunately, these disparities often fall along socio-economic lines, even though we know that early childhood education is one of the best ways to help young people improve lifelong outcomes. This project will give parents, funders, policy makers, programs, and more the information they need to drive better outcomes for the children and families Head Start serves. It is also likely to be instructive for other early childhood education programs across the country. While data infrastructure might seem like something far removed from preschool classrooms, this project has enormous potential to lead to improvement in the outcomes for young children. We know that behind the data are real lives, real people, real opportunity. We are driven by the knowledge that we have the opportunity to use data to have a dramatic beneficial impact on their lives. In truth, without this project to bring about essential changes to the data infrastructure, progress is likely to be slow even with the recent changes in federal performance standards.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (1500 characters)

This kind of shared, community driven data infrastructure is an entirely new model of how organizations can relate to one another. We will look for and start to implement legal structures to manage the data in new ways that allow community ownership of data while protecting privacy. We will be delivering technology into environments where it will be very new. We will be changing the incentives facing early childhood providers across the country. At the same time, we will build these innovations upon success we have seen in other areas like workforce development and homelessness. As transparent data were brought to these areas, they have helped drive greater outcomes for program participants. The members of this collaborative represent the skills, experiences, and relationships necessary to make this kind of innovation successful in early childhood education.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

The partners involved in this project will lead to its scale. The National Head Start Association works with all 1600 Head Start grantees across the country. BrightHive has worked on numerous data sharing projects at scale and has developed open-source technologies ensuring that partners aren’t locked into a single vendor.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

The success of the pilot hinges on the commitments by an essential group of stakeholders in each pilot site. These commitments include: -Commitment of one technical staff member from each program site to serve as point person on all technical aspects of the project and participate in biweekly meetings -Commitment by program site leadership to the pilot by participating in the initial kickoff and design session, and expressing a willingness to have a dedicated technical staff member work with the development team to test the toolkit In order for each individual pilot to be successful, each pilot team must be able to provide the following data to the BrightHive project team for development and testing: -Sample participant data from a cohort of representative service providers -Access to sample administrative data on outcomes from a subset of participants -Overview of current tools used for data collection, storage, analyzing, and reporting participant data -Data schemas for current participant data systems -Current processes for getting data into and out of participant data systems -Technical capacity of participating organizations (data maturity of organizations) BrightHive has already been working with NHSA to validate sites that meet the above success requirements. Additionally, design sessions have already begun with possible partners including Riverside County Office of Education (CA), Miami Valley Child Development Centers, Inc. (OH), Guilford Child Development (NC), Family Resource Agency, Inc. (GA and TN), AVANCE-Houston, Inc. (TX), Child Care Resource & Referral (MN), Catholic Charities Community Services (AZ), Arkansas Early Learning, Inc. (AR), Acelero Learning (NJ, WI, NV, PA), CAP Tulsa (OK), and GETCAP Head Start (TX). This also builds on previous success of developing similar shared infrastructures in other fields like workforce development. There is now a playbook for the kind of technical, legal, and capacity infrastructure that needs to be utilized to make these kinds of projects successful.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (1500 characters)

Given the incentives now facing early childhood education providers in the face of new federal reporting requirements, there is the likelihood of providers being willing to bear shared costs of accessing the infrastructure given the benefits it provides in competing for federal funds. Additionally, given the reach and leadership of NHSA, there is the ability to push partners increasingly towards this kind of infrastructure. Often what is needed to get these kinds of shared infrastructure projects going is the initial capital to demonstrate the value. Once that hurdle is crossed, the projects become self-sustaining through shared cost structures. Additionally, the infrastructure and developed tools will be built on open-source technologies. This means that others can come along and continue the development of this work. BrightHive will also continue working with any interested parties to host and continue to develop these solutions, ensuring that this isn’t a develop once and walk away kind of project.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (1500 characters)

The National Head Start Association began this data systems improvement project, as with all its others, with input from the field. In early December 2017, NHSA convened nearly 50 stakeholders, from Head Start practitioners to the Office of Head Start to experts like BrightHive, to address the field’s needs around data and systems. The group identified the users and uses of Head Start data, the current pain points and barriers, and the levers of opportunity for improvement. With the help of vendors and data systems experts, the group then identified more than a dozen possible projects to improve the way Head Start generates, organizes, shares, and analyzes data, and complementary measured trials and other research to make the data more useful. One of these projects is the proposal we submit today. This project, much like the others, began with the input of Head Start practitioners and is designed to improve their capacity. It will rely on their input and contributions all the way through development and its expansion field-wide.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

This idea came from the collective work of NHSA and its members, BrightHive, and performance measurement and management experts over the better part of a decade in collectively identifying hurdles to data-driven decision making and outcome measurement and improvement in early childhood education. NHSA hosted a series of roundtables and design sessions with partners from across the country, listening to the challenges they were facing and opportunities they saw. Additionally, BrightHive spent 9 months interviewing communities from around the country and discovering the data infrastructure needs they had and challenges they faced. The National Head Start Association supports approximately 1600 Head Start grantees serving approximately 1 million children in poverty. BrightHive is an impact-driven data technology company using data trusts to transform the way social services providers, government agencies, and funders share data, make decisions, and affect the outcomes of beneficiaries that has developed shared data systems in other contexts (workforce development, human services, etc.) Together, we all care deeply about the success of young people and the research continues to show the importance of high quality early childhood education. It is one of the best, most cost-effective interventions we can offer. Our goal with this project is to push the quality of programming we offer these children to the next level.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (500 characters)

Absolutely. Having the National Head Start Association and BrightHive coming together on this project is very exciting. We have skills, networks, and experiences that are very complementary and will help ensure this project’s success.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

We could benefit from the creativity and ideas of the OpenIDEO community. What kinds of data would be most beneficial to see? What kinds of tools, analysis, applications could be developed if this data was made accessible? We view this infrastructure building as the beginning, not the ultimate goal. Getting concrete ideas of other use cases is hugely beneficial in demonstrating the value of this work and of creating more change.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information


Join the conversation:

Photo of Melody Aizenberg

Thanks for the article! Few years ago at my high schooI had to write an essay on the topic of pedagogy and social metrics, just something like Andrew writes about. Вut my dog got sick, weekend was a complete waste of time, I didn’t even sleep at all. While Buddy got droppers, I remembered the essay, but it was too late((( luckily I found guys who were able to write an essay for me while I was sitting near the Buddy and dropper in his vein. I'm still nervous when I remember this. Lickily everything worked out, my work was accepted and my fluffy bro is still with me)))
BTW here s the link for that essay service

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