Relationship-Based Competencies: Data-Driven Services and Continuous Improvement
The eighth relationship-based competency in our blog series is Data-Driven Services and Continuous Improvement.
Every Head Start and Early Head Start program should be collecting and analyzing data on a regular basis to find new solutions to challenges as part of an ongoing effort to continuously improve services for the community that they are working with. Each program has issues that are specific to their program – whether it is parent involvement, fatherhood initiatives, or even a programs average daily attendance. Data allows you to uncover those unique issues.
Everyone that works in a Head Start agency should have an understanding of the Head Start Performance Standards, the Head Start Act as well as the Office of Head Start family engagement and family services technical assistance resources related to their daily work. If they don’t know the answer or the protocol, they should know where to go to get the answers and the support that they need to be able to do their job effectively. Don’t be afraid to call on your seasoned staff. They might not know all the answers, but they know where to find the answers when the question comes up. That’s a very important skill that typically only comes from experience and is critical to programs.
Each staff person should be able to use family well-being data to make informed decisions when it comes to creating and utilizing methods to support families. For example, going over the findings of community assessments to change the way that we meet the needs of the types of families that are currently living in the area, or possibly creating programs within your own agency, because those types of programs are not being offered in that community. Each year your program should be reaching more families, and becoming more effective… not less effective.
Data that is collected should be integrated into creating individualized service plans for families. That same data can also assist in enhancing the way that we are providing services to families. Streamlining certain processes, and getting rid of others that are not making positive change with the families or the way a program provides services. A great way to collect this data would be by utilizing surveys, doing observations, and collecting different data throughout a program year and comparing it from year to year. An agencies strategic plan can play a huge role in program improvement as well, and if utilized appropriately can be a strong tool for a program to improve the way it services the community.
Accurate record keeping is critical to a program when deciding that they are where they should be. Having systems in place that collect the data is one thing, but making sure that the data that is being collected is accurate is another. To make sure that this happens there has to be a number of systems in place that work to provide a clear view of checks and balances. There should always be more than one person collecting and analyzing the data that is being collected. It leaves less room for errors that could taint the information that is being collected.
Sometimes it is the small changes that are made that make all the difference in how services are provided. Don’t forget to ask for feedback from your families on how they feel services are benefiting them as part of your data collection duties. In the end, data collection and the way that it is utilized can make or break a program. Make sure that you are using it to help serve your community in the best way possible.