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 Study Highlights Approach, Benefits to Connecting Early Childhood and Elementary School Data

Cover of studyThe San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), First 5 San Diego, and Harder+Company Community Research recently released a study that highlights how San Diego County successfully linked student data between preschool and kindergarten, something no other county in the state has done with efficacy.

“A Successful Approach to Connecting Early Childhood and Elementary School Data” outlines SDCOE’s approach used to track preschool-age children into elementary school by linking their preschool record to the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) records established for each child upon Kindergarten entry. It also discusses the benefits for children, schools, and school districts of sharing data between the early care and education system and the K-12 system.

Only students enrolled in preschools participating in the Quality Preschool Initiative (QPI) were tracked since that data was readily available to SDCOE. To access elementary data, SDCOE established data sharing agreements with 12 elementary school districts in San Diego County, five of which were engaged in the entire process. Those districts included Cajon Valley Elementary School District, La Mesa Spring Valley School District, San Ysidro School District, South Bay Union School District, and Vista Unified School District. 

The report offers a model for identifying and tracking children across educational systems, and sets the stage for a longitudinal study of the CA Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) to examine primary school outcomes for children who attended a quality rated  early care and education setting and the characteristics that contribute to student success in elementary school.

“The report also includes lessons learned on approaches we took that were unsuccessful or too time-consuming to produce effective results,” said Lucia Garay, executive director for SDCOE’s Early Education Programs and Services. “This work could help inform any future investments the state makes while developing the California Cradle-to-Career Data System that will eventually link student data from preschool to college.”

While the report does not offer ideas on how to create the new statewide system, Garay feels it could be helpful to those creating the system because it “provides insight on how people work within the current student data management systems.” 

There are countless benefits for data sharing between local schools and SDCOE, the report outlines. These data provide actionable steps for districts to improve their student retention, demonstrate the importance of high-quality preschool settings to children’s learning and development, help to optimize classroom curriculums and improve the learning environment, and can be used to secure state and federal funding for early care and education programs. 

To fully realize these goals, the report states that county offices of education need to be funded to provide this level of assistance to school districts as they seek to address early learning and transition in their Local Control and Accountability Plan and other district strategic actions addressing enrollment, attendance, family engagement, and academic achievement. 

SDCOE and First 5 San Diego embarked on this visionary effort 12 years ago as a critical starting point to better understand the impact that investments in high-quality early care and education programs are having on children in the long-term, and which aspects of those investments are most critical to creating positive outcomes for students and families.

Garay, Juan Carlos Torres, senior program specialist for SDCOE Early Education, First 5 Executive Director Alethea Arguilez, and Nia Gordon of Harder+Company Community Research contributed to the study, which was funded by a grant from the San Diego Foundation. To read the report, please click here