Real-Time Data: Necessary in Every Stage of the Pandemic

When I first wrote about real-time data as an ECE necessity during the pandemic, we approached it from a shortened time-scale – looking solely at the month of March and how quick data can inform immediate reactions. In the following installment, we widened that lens to look backwards on the pandemic’s effects on child care providers during the worst stage of the pandemic – during a time when there was a consistent trend upwards towards pre-COVID enrollment.

I had hoped, back then, that this third real-time data post would serve as a bookmark, as the final installment of this series, but that will not be the case. We are seeing an increase in cases across the country and an increase in child care outbreaks in Colorado. Thus, it is time to again look at how this pandemic is affecting the 300+ Colorado child care providers across the ELV network, and at how real-time data remains the best informant for a shifting landscape.

Data-Backed Industry Recommendations

First, however, I want to highlight Child Care Aware of America’s groundbreaking Fall report, “Picking Up the Pieces: Building a Better Child Care System Post COVID-19.” Utilizing data from dozens of states and industry stakeholders – including Early Learning Ventures – the CCAoA team identified the stresses of this environment and highlighted three explicit needs required to buttress the industry:

  1. Public Investment – A recommendation of $50 billion in dedicated funding is recommended by the CCAoA team to stabilize child care providers, and, in fact, the entire ECE industry.
  2. Solid Data Foundation – The CCAoA team highlighted the difficulty in collecting data from states in a timely, standardized, systematic, and efficient manner. They encourage the creation of more automated systems to ensure efficient data collection and dissemination.
  3. Resources and Supports for Families, Children, and Child Care Providers – As of the release of the report, in early Fall, over 75% of Child Care Resource and Referral agencies had plans to help child care providers reopen. That number is hopefully higher now.

It was a pleasure working with the CCAoA team. Their entire report is worth reading and disseminating – in fact, we recently had the CCAoA team on a webinar doing just that (you can view the webinar recording here). Also, in the PDF version of the report linked above, two ELV case studies are highlighted on pages 11 and 21.

As for their takeaways, I am sincerely hopeful that the state of Colorado moves forward with plans to address all three of these recommendations. To focus specifically on the “Solid Data Foundation” recommendation, I must highlight that, currently, our state’s understanding of how the pandemic is affecting Colorado providers is reliant on point-in-time data collected via survey and provider submission.

I am deeply appreciative of the hard work and quality data put together by the Early Milestones Colorado team, who conducted and built a fantastic report that helps inform state stakeholders. However, I do feel that, in the years to come, a shift to real-time data collection would greatly behoove our state’s child care industry.

An example of this is the easily accessible real-time data present within ELV’s Alliance CORE child care management system. With only a few minutes of my time, I can see how our providers are doing – who is open, who is closed, who has low enrollment – up to today.

Year-to-Date Attendance Data

With the aforementioned increase in outbreaks in early childhood education centers, we are seeing the beginning of another decline in daily openings / daily attendance as of the end of October.

It is worth mentioning that we saw a similar dip in early August for our Colorado providers, and this was quickly remedied back to an upwards trend. The cases were not as high then, however.

This beginning of a new slight downward trend is the exact reason I am an advocate for a shift to real-time data processes throughout early childhood education. We know now – from real-time data like my blog post in July, from the industry-wide approach like CCAoA, and from the statewide surveying done by Early Milestones Colorado – what happened to our child care providers in summer and early fall 2020. But what about November? December? 2021?

Having real-time data allows for quick action. We may be entering another period of lowered enrollment and attendance – or we may bounce back out of that like we did in early August. Real-time data is the fastest, most cost-effective approach to knowing which way these next few months will go.

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