Arkansas is unable to connect educational data from pre-K through the K-12 system and beyond, making it virtually impossible to measure the quality and impact of educational investments.
Forward Arkansas initiated a community-based data campaign to evaluate district-provided pre-K programs. We learned that attending a district-provided pre-K program was associated with positive academic and non-academic outcomes – such as kindergarten success and participation in extracurricular activities – and that providing relevant research helped communities make strategic decisions. As a result of our efforts, one community secured continued outside pre-K funding and we secured a small partnership grant to continue our early childhood education advocacy.
We timed the release of these pre-K reports to coincide with the 2019 Forward Data and Policy Symposium. Our work to merge data across systems – as displayed in the reports – showed stakeholders the value of longitudinal data. Since the symposium, the state developed and activated the “Ready for Life” initiative, which is a statewide longitudinal data system (SLDS) focused on connecting data from K-12 to career. Our team was recognized as being instrumental to the development of this initiative.