Iowa submitted its application for the Preschool Development B-5 Renewal Grant on Monday, November 4, 2019. There are two files that make up Iowa's application; the application and two supporting appendices. Thanks to all individual that assisted in its development! We appreciate the collaboration to support Iowa's children and families. We hope to hear about our application by the end of 2019.
Project Title: We are ECI: Iowa’s Implementation Plan for Improving B-5 Systems
Applicant: Iowa Department of Management
Address: State Capitol, Room 13, Des Moines IA 50319
Contact: Shanell Wagler: (P) (515) 371-0505; (F) (515) 281-4225
A. PROJECT SUMMARY
For over three decades Iowa has invested in coordinated early childhood services, including a universal state-funded preschool, a comprehensive two-generation program for low-income families, and an integrated data system that includes administrative data in a systematic approach for social problem solving and continuous quality improvement using data-driven decision-making. Capitalizing on these investments, Iowa plans to implement activities aligned with our recently completed Strategic Plan that prioritizes systems coordination informed by a Needs Assessment that included seven comprehensive data collection efforts. This Needs Assessment identified gaps in service access and quality for Iowa’s most vulnerable families, prioritized professional development areas and mechanisms for sustainable quality improvements, and identified needs for statewide communications and workforce investments.
Leading this work is a legislatively established alliance that serves as the State Advisory Council with a mandated charge of program coordination: Early Childhood Iowa (ECI). ECI includes leaders from all state Departments with programs serving young children and their families, and includes private sector stakeholders and local area boards that fund B-5 services in every county. Component Groups charged with strategic plan implementation and coordination across agencies comprise members of the alliance from each early childhood stakeholder group.
The purpose of this three-year PDG Renewal project is to implement collaboration, coordination, and quality improvement activities aligned with our 2019 Strategic Plan: We are ECI. Activities encourage new and improved cross-sector partnerships, improve quality, and engage families in new ways to ensure our system has sustainable approaches that maximize family choice and ensure all children – particularly those most vulnerable – have access to high-quality programs that improve outcomes across developmental domains.
Iowa has no previous Race-to-the-Top funding and used our $2.1M PDG Planning Grant to successfully complete a comprehensive Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan that were approved and adopted by the ECI State Board in September 2019. Activities in this proposal include: (1) periodic update of our Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan with a full comprehensive update during year 3; (2) continued investment in building and using our integrated data system for needs assessments, ongoing program and process evaluation, and continuous quality improvement efforts; (3) implementation of systematic communications plans that include online resource hubs for families and providers to streamline access to information and resources and a statewide media campaign to raise awareness of the value of early childhood investments; (4) family engagement strategies including the expansion of coordinated intake and establishing family leadership academies and a family advisory group; (5) expanding and improving training and coaching models with particular attention to trauma-informed care and care for children with disabilities; and (6) investments in quality improvement, including subgrants for local innovations in priority areas including family navigations and transitions, facilities and workforce, and access to full-day comprehensive ECE.
Iowa PDG Renewal Grant
B. EXPECTED OUTCOMES
Iowa’s B-5 mixed delivery system provides comprehensive services including early care and education, a robust family support network of home visiting and parenting programs, and health/mental health and nutrition services. It includes state and federally funded programs, public and private providers, and makes services available in a variety of modalities and locations to meet individual needs. While efforts reflect shared commitments to comprehensive services, we also share the national challenge of fragmented services that are not well coordinated and do not adequately address the needs of vulnerable families. Our vision for a comprehensive B-5 system is that coordinated services, informed by an integrated data system approach for evaluation and quality improvement, support all children to access quality early care and education and transition to elementary school with the physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral skills they need to succeed. To reach this vision, Iowa proposes to build on what we learned in our PDG Planning Grant by addressing gaps identified in our Needs Assessment and pursuing activities to support our Strategic Plan to advance B-5 quality and coordination.
B1. Logic Model to Advance Outcomes
Our approach to addressing service fragmentation and family disconnection leverages early childhood stakeholders in intentional Knowledge Action Impact cycles across priority areas (Figure 1, p.4). Activities detailed in our Approach (Section C., p.7) are directly aligned with findings from our Needs Assessment and reflect stakeholder commitments to specific actions articulated in our Strategic Plan. Through these activities, short-term outcomes will be realized by the increased knowledge gained from cross-system data analytics and reporting; improved communications with families, providers, and broad system stakeholders; and improved professional development materials and processes. Stakeholders will be better informed about the needs of our population, how our B-5 system works, how families can access services when they need them, and how providers can receive support to implement best practices and advance their careers. Mid-term outcomes are the actions we anticipate executive leaders (e.g., directors, public and private program managers), parents and families, and providers (e.g., teachers, child care providers, home visitors) will make using the improved knowledge. Long-term outcomes (i.e., impact) include that our children, particularly those most vulnerable, will have the skills they need across developmental domains to enter kindergarten ready to learn and be successful beyond their elementary school transition.
B2. Early Childhood Iowa (ECI)
Leading the charge for coordinated, comprehensive services is ECI, a legislatively structured alliance with over $26M in state appropriated funds to support local innovations through public-private partnerships and executive-level program coordination (see Appendix for full organizational chart). Advised by a State Board comprised of Department Directors (i.e., Education, Public Health, Human Services, Human Rights, Workforce Development, and Economic Development) and governor-appointed citizens, ECI is charged with being the only systemic voice to promote wellbeing across domains. The Board is responsible for strategic planning, fundraising, and decision-making, while Local Area Boards representing 38 geographies serving all 99 counties identify local needs and coordination opportunities. These Area Boards bring together leaders from the public, business, faith communities and families to consider community needs, support program collaboration, and “fill gaps” with grants to service providers. Using local needs assessments conducted every four years, these Boards award funds to local programs and track progress on improving key outcomes across their geographic areas.
The ECI Stakeholders Alliance serves as Iowa’s State Advisory Council and provides recommendations to the State Board and Department Directors for policy and program improvements. The Alliance joins representatives for quarterly meetings that attract 40-80 stakeholders, including members from nearly every organization that serves or advocates for children B-5 (e.g., non-profit and for profit child care, Early Head Start/Head Start, public and private preschools, early intervention and special education, parents and teachers, faith-based communities, local health officials, nutrition advocates, child care nurse consultants, and advocacy organizations). The Alliance also operates Component Groups to address improvement in key areas, including: (1) Results Accountability, (2) Governance, Planning and Administration (including Family Engagement and Equity subcommittee), (3) Public Engagement, (4) Professional Development, and (5) Quality Services and Programs. Iowa proposes to use these Component Groups to implement the PDG work. See Appendix for ECI organizational chart.
Iowa PDG Renewal
Proposed activities build on what was learned in our PDG planning year informed by a comprehensive logic model to advance outcomes through an iterative process. Our ongoing approach to data collection, analysis, and use in strategic planning through Activities 1-2 will stimulate a data culture that values the translation of knowledge into action. Activities 3-5 include strategies to foster family engagement and choice, share best practices, and improve the overall quality of our system by targeting state and local community needs and delivering improved services for families that need it most. Activity 6 includes our program performance evaluation plan to monitor activities and intended outcomes in a continuous quality improvement process. We propose some PDG funds for contracted FTEs to provide short-term capacity to accomplish these activities and help build sustainable processes we can maintain without PDG funding after the work is completed: a PDG Director to coordinate and monitor all the work; and a Program Evaluation coordinator to help project teams develop, collect, and monitor indicators.
C1. Statewide Needs Assessment
Collaboration process. In September 2019 ECI completed a comprehensive needs assessment that was adopted by the ECI State Board and Stakeholders Alliance and received PDG Federal team approval without revision in October 2019. It reflected legislatively prioritized statewide emphasis on collaboration and comprised seven data collection approaches2, including use of our statewide IDS (see section D, p.43 for details about Iowa’s IDS) to document for the first time, unduplicated counts of children across programs. It involved collective input from diverse stakeholders including families, community members, executive leaders, private business partners, program managers, and providers. A cyclical process of system learning and feedback helped keep people informed of the goals, drive data collection decisions (e.g., nature and scope of family and provider surveys and focus groups), build infrastructure (e.g., IDS datasets and integration protocols), and refine key results.
A series of 15 inter-departmental meetings, stakeholder sessions, and statewide webinars were conducted to discuss results and future plans. In total, these included nearly 2,000 participants (see Table 15 for partial list). PDG Core Team led by ISU partners shared findings with state Department leaders, then hosted two all-day learning sessions with invited members from the ECI Stakeholders Alliance. A professional facilitator elicited feedback to help surface the most pertinent issues. Learnings were then incorporated into strategic planning sessions where stakeholders discussed how they might use data to (a) refine elements of the current strategic plan and (b) develop new goals and strategies that directly relate to the findings.
Findings. Data collection and analysis for the Needs Assessment were guided by Key Terms (see Table 1). Findings informed our Strategic Plan and are enumerated by the criteria provided in the FOA, below. Gaps in data and research are discussed in the subsequent section and will be addressed by proposed activities to collect, analyze, and report new data and findings as part of an ongoing needs assessment process throughout this renewal period.
Table 1. Key Terms and Definitions
- Vulnerable children: Children experiencing family poverty; homelessness; child welfare involvement; maltreatment; birth to a teen parent; parent without a high school diploma, with identified substance abuse or mental illness, or who is illiterate or incarcerated; with disabilities
- Underserved children: Children who qualify for services but are not enrolled, including disproportionate numbers of minority children (including immigrant or refugee families), those living in rural areas, those with disabilities, and those identified from our 2019 needs assessment to be less likely to participate in quality preschool programs (e.g., those born to mothers without a high school education or with inadequate prenatal care, and those living just above the poverty threshold)
- Children in rural areas: Iowa has 88 rural counties (out of 99), assessed as geographic units outside of urban areas (census block groups that have a population density of 1,000 people per square mile)
- Quality early care and education (ECE): Based on federal and state standards for program accreditation and quality ratings. These often include multiple physical, economic, and cultural dimensions
- B-5 mixed delivery system: comprehensive services across health, mental health, nutrition, family support, and home- and center-based environments that are inclusive of vulnerable children including those with disabilities, offered by a variety of programs and providers supported with a combination of public and private funding.
- Sources:Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE), National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC), National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC), Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS), Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards (IQPPS), Family Support Credential (FSC).
Populations of children who are vulnerable or underserved, and children in rural areas. IDS analyses helped identify groups of vulnerable children less likely to participate in formal, center-based preschool the year before kindergarten including those in rural counties, low-income and minority families, and with identified risks at birth such as low maternal education and inadequate prenatal care. Nearly 60% of Iowa’s kindergarteners experienced at least 1 risk at birth that is known to significantly influence kindergarten outcomes (e.g., poverty, low maternal education, birth to a teen mother, birth to a single mother, inadequate prenatal care, preterm/low birthweight, or smoking during pregnancy). Rural and racial/ethnic minority children experience more individual and cumulative birth risks compared to other children.
Current quality and availability of early childhood care and education. Using IDS and provider survey data, we found programs serving our most vulnerable children were identified as lower quality (i.e., QRIS). Providers in rural areas and those that accept Child Care Assistance reported lower levels of educational attainment. Family survey and focus group data revealed that access to care is a significant challenge and was identified as the #1 concern for families (who also report that they rarely consider “quality” because access is such a challenge). Iowa families face long waiting lists and out-of-reach costs that prevent many of them from receiving the care they need when they need it. This was particularly problematic for families with children with special needs, who felt disconnected with little help navigating complex systems.
Unduplicated number of children being served and waiting lists. Using IDS, we counted children served in multiple programs and unduplicated counts to document that 73% of children (i.e., 19,944 of the full cohort of 27,291) born in Iowa and enrolled in public school kindergarten attended a center-based preschool program the year before kindergarten. While our administrative data systems do not collect identified waiting lists, we did learn from provider survey data that 68% of centers serving infant/toddlers and 49% of those serving preschool children have documented waiting lists comprised of 40-70% of their enrollments, respectively.
Gaps in data and research about quality and availability. Though we included seven intensive data collections, we focused on the most critical questions during the PDG Planning year with the understanding that more work is needed to (a) continue to analyze data we have collected, and (b) collect new data to fill gaps in understanding. Stakeholder learning sessions identified several priority questions that will be included in future work (described in detail below): Why are some families who are eligible for services not enrolled? What characteristics of programs or communities are related to workforce shortages? How does partnership quality in communities relate to child outcomes (e.g., attendance, literacy, health, etc.)? What are characteristics and service utilization patterns for children in other programs across B-5, including those with special needs, in home visiting, or using home-based child care providers?
Key gaps for maximizing parental choice. Our needs assessment revealed gaps in communications, particularly for families who need to know where and how to access services. Families reported their primary source of information about child care is through word of mouth, and for other services is often through referrals from other providers. While some agencies provide lists of certified providers, information about openings or quality or enrollment processes is not perceived as accessible so families rely on informal avenues to meet their needs.
Measurable indicators that align with ECI vision and desired outcomes. As legislatively mandated, ECI annually monitors and publishes reports on statewide indicators. Work during our PDG Planning year updated these indicators and included an additional 29 indicators for consideration that are also used by other state programs (e.g., Title V). Recent work prioritized these indicators for potential inclusion in future statewide reports (see section D, p.43, for substantive details on Iowa’s approach to data collection, monitoring, and quality improvement).
Key concerns or issues related to ECE facilities. Over 40% of child care centers licensed by DHS report facilities concerns, with 50% reporting insufficient indoor and/or outdoor space. Barriers to the funding and provision of high-quality ECE services. Providers primarily identified challenges in wages and benefits. We have shortages in the quantity and quality of our ECE workforce. Staffing challenges are particularly acute in rural counties and in programs serving our most vulnerable children (e.g., those that accept Child Care Assistance). Transition supports and gaps. Families and providers shared disparate experiences with transitions, with many reporting a lack of systematic support. More work is needed, especially between ECE programs and their local school district kindergartens. However, some local innovations in public-private partnerships were identified that we intend to document and support replicating through our renewal (see section C5, p.34, for more details).
Activities to Periodically Update the Needs Assessment
We intend to periodically update our statewide needs assessment by continuing to analyze existing data, adding data to our IDS, and collecting additional survey and focus group data. We first anticipate a series of addendum to the 2019 Needs Assessment comprising shorter updates to share findings from additional analyses of data already collected to address questions raised during our strategic planning discussions. Next, we will engage in activities to expand our IDS and collect new data from families and providers through surveys and focus groups. We anticipate another full, comprehensive Needs Assessment to be completed by the end of year 3.
C1.1 IDS data and analysis capacity. Findings from the Needs Assessment underscored the value of integrated information by focusing on unduplicated counts of preschool and ECE enrollment; we will continue to build IDS capacity over the next three years to include more of our B-5 system. We identified missing information from important systems we want to add, particularly programs serving infants and toddlers, including home visiting, early intervention and special education (i.e., IDEA Part B 619 and Part C), and health (e.g., immunizations, lead registry, and well child visits/developmental screening). Our planning year also included securing legal agreements from Iowa’s Head Start grantees, and data collection from these 18 separate systems is near complete. Discussions with Department of Education are underway to include IDEA data. We anticipate data collection for Head Start, home visiting, and IDEA will be completed soon, and will include these data in analyses during renewal year 1. In subsequent years, we will include additional data systems and analyses as we have capacity and in timelines navigated in partnership with department legal and data teams. We anticipate at least two additional datasets will be added to IDS before our comprehensive Needs Assessment in year 3. These will be determined based on needs identified throughout the first two years.
C1.2 Collect new data from families and providers. We acknowledge continued need to incorporate family and provider voices in routine and episodic data collection. The 2019 Needs Assessment contained important perspectives that could only be collected through surveys or focus groups, as family experiences and barriers are not readily captured in administrative data. Two priority topics are identified for our first year, and we anticipate more opportunities and questions may arise over the three-year renewal period. First, we plan to update existing workforce studies, most notably a 2016, Iowa AEYC workforce study conducted in partnership with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and Child Care Services Association. This study did not include home-based professionals and only surveyed center directors. A new study will provide more breadth and depth of information about the child care workforce as a whole, with particular attention to child development homes (CDH) that continue to experience increasing numbers of closings. We need to understand factors that inform closing decisions and whether changes to state policies or supports for CDHs are needed. To support the lead Child Care and Development Fund agency (Department of Human Services; DHS), we will also include a full market rate survey analysis to address new federal requirements to estimate cost of care at a base level as well as at higher levels of quality to inform CCA reimbursement rates.
C1.3 Comprehensive needs assessment. During the third renewal grant year (2022) we will complete a comprehensive Needs Assessment. This effort will be fully detailed as we learn throughout the next two years what we need to emphasize, and will likely involve another full IDS cohort study utilizing new data systems, family and provider surveys and focus groups, and additional data collection efforts as identified by engaged stakeholders.
Family Engagement in Assessing Learning and Determining Goals and Activities
Family and provider feedback to digest learning and determine goals and activities for our system will continue to be prioritized. We appreciated family involvement and feedback during our Needs Assessment and Strategic Planning process as partners in the Learning Sessions, webinars, and workgroups. We now look to create more formal mechanisms in addition to these opportunities. As outlined in section C3 (see p.20), we plan to invest in the development of a family academy and family advisory group. These mechanisms will enable us to have families as full partners in our system transformation work and will provide routine opportunities to engage with families to share what we are learning and gather their input.
C2. ACTIVITY 2: Statewide Strategic Plan
Strategic Planning Process. Informed by ECI’s mission to advance program coordination, Iowa used funding from an Early Childhood Advisory Council grant to conduct a statewide needs assessment and adopt its first joint strategic plan in 2013 that was updated again in 2016 and 2018 using publicly available data. Utilizing findings from the PDG Needs Assessment that was more comprehensive and used more refined data (summarized above), stakeholders spanning Iowa’s early childhood system engaged in a series of strategic planning sessions to enhance and refine priorities (see Table 15, p.59, for condensed list of participants and their role in the B-5 system). Parents, caregivers, community members, and business leaders participated in the process including creating questions and providing data, discussing findings, and devising systemic strategies to support disconnected and underserved families.
The PDG planning year was an invaluable opportunity to learn from families and providers about what services are needed and how our system infrastructure needs to identify and address priorities moving forward. Using IDS, we identified gaps in service utilization and quality for vulnerable children, especially in rural counties, and shortages in the quantity and quality of our workforce. We tested and developed improved protocols for data integration and learned from stakeholders about needs for training and support in data use. We learned that inconsistent and uncoordinated communications leave families and providers on their own in navigating a complicated B-5 system. We implemented statewide provider training on recently revised Iowa Early Learning Standards and gathered feedback to inform further development of implementation support for best practices. We gathered national examples and formulated a plan for an ECI Resource Hub to connect online training resources, coaching supports, and career development opportunities for providers. Using what was learned, we prioritized themes for our strategic planning goals including significant investments in direct services and quality improvements and, perhaps most importantly, investments in our overall system infrastructure
Iowa PDG Renewal 17
for communications, collaboration, efficiency, and accountability. We intend to periodically update this strategic plan, anticipated for full revision during PDG renewal year three.
2019 Strategic Plan. Adopted by the ECI State Board in September 2019, “We are ECI” includes five goals (see Figure 2, p.16) that fully address FOA requirements including meaningful stakeholder engagement, actionable goals and strategies, identified partnerships and collaborations, activities to improve program quality and transitions, and a strong framework for improving access to high-quality programs. The plan explicitly calls for a legislative scan to identify roadblocks and barriers to future collaboration and efforts to utilize data to assess progress, inform cost and resource efficiency, and support continuous quality improvement. Finally, the plan calls for involving the State Advisory Council in the plan’s implementation in order to achieve collective impact and strengthen the continuum of early childhood programs.
Progress on Strategic Plan Implementation. Progress is already underway to implement the strategies and action steps outlined in “We are ECI,” using the existing vision and mission to drive momentum. Our logic model (see Figure 1, p.4) to improve outcomes in the short, mid, and long term is used to inform continued data collection and strategic planning, including consideration of ECI and other state spending to best address our Needs Assessment. ECI has a tested governance structure that defines decision-making and collaboration processes, and we intentionally incorporated activities in this renewal grant to use this structure for implementation. Co-chairs from each ECI Component Group have outlined work plans, roles, and responsibilities for strategic plan activities. We have also retained expert facilitation support to ensure collaboration across groups and their respective work plans. Progress on the work is shared both horizontally and vertically within our system; the ECI Steering Committee, Stakeholders Alliance and State Board are actively updated and engaged at multiple touchpoints.
Proposed Activities for PDG Renewal Support
Implementation efforts to date have included restructuring how ECI supports serve as conduits for systems change including investing state resources in infrastructure and communications (Goals 1 and 2). The following activities comprise our request for PDG renewal funds to continue strategic planning with a goal of a full revision of our Strategic Plan in 2022.
C2.1 Strengthen cross-systems implementation support. To support funding and programming alignment, we will strengthen cross-systems support for Strategic Plan implementation. In ECI’s governance, each state agency can dedicate personnel to serve on a cross-agency technical assistance (TA) team. ECI TA team currently includes representatives from Departments of Education, Public Health, and Human Services and help support communities, programs and services by providing a direct link to home departments. The TA Team also develops all the guidance that is provided to the ECI Area Boards. In recognition of Needs Assessment findings that providers, community leaders, agency staff, and families need more information and more support to understand how the system works and to navigate connections efficiently, we propose to supplement this existing TA with additional funded time. This approach will leverage expertise of our PDG Core Team3 and data experts within departments contributing to our IDS. We have recently added members to the Core Team from Public Health (Title V) and IDEA Part C early intervention.
To foster more in-depth participation of our Core Team and Component Group co-chairs, we will provide funding for each contributing state agency for additional contributed time and agency-specific supports needed to implement the strategic plan. We also acknowledge a need for dedicated time with agency data partners to support IDS infrastructure building (e.g., data documentation, creating routine programming, and generating sharable data profiles to improve data quality). PDG renewal efforts will include continued investment in our IDS infrastructure through these data experts so it is a sustainable resource at the end of this grant. We will also engage in “systems thinking” training with our Core Team, ECI Component Group Co-chairs, and other invited members of our B-5 system, which includes 2 full-day workshops with expert facilitators and curriculum designed to strengthen collaboration and systems improvement plans.
C2.2 Routine feedback and strategic plan updates. We view our strategic plan as a living document: our efforts to implement the plan will remain responsive to the changing landscape of our B-5 system and the children and families we serve. We anticipate a complete update during year three. However, we will also solicit routine feedback from Component Groups and leaders of PDG grant activities to ensure we are on track and relevant throughout (see also section D, p.34, for progress monitoring details). Building on successful engagement of stakeholders in the PDG planning year, we will expand the breadth and depth of the input we seek, particularly attending to voices of parents, caregivers, and other community members.
We propose leveraging expert facilitation to host a series of at least 10 listening sessions at critical touchpoints as we update the plan. This approach will allow us to engage diverse groups of parents, grandparents, caregivers, and other community members in an iterative, thoughtful manner. As we identify needs and gaps within our system, we will leverage the expertise of those closest to the problem to identify and plan for the solution. We then propose replicating the approach we recently employed to create a final, updated strategic plan in year 3.
C3. ACTIVITY 3: Maximizing Parent Knowledge, Choice, and Engagement
During our planning grant we heard clearly from families that our system is complicated and the information we provide is often disjointed. We also learned that “word of mouth” communication – particularly from trusted friends, family, and providers – plays a critical role in how families make decisions about services. Lacking clear, systematic, and consistent support, families need help connecting to and navigating the system. Work also included investments to better inform families about existing resources and services, improve how we “hear” from families, and support family engagement in shaping decisions about our system. Incorporating what we learned and aligned with our Strategic Plan, we propose activities to be more deliberate in (C3.1) communicating with and learning from families, (C3.2) promoting service coordination and navigation, and (C3.3) engaging with families to foster leadership and peer-to-peer supports.
C3.1 Inform and connect families. Iowa’s plans to maximize parent knowledge and choice involve two system building efforts to better inform parents - including families with English as a second language and those who have young children with disabilities - about existing resources, services, and programs. By the end of the planning grant
will engage families, community members, and system stakeholders in developing a framework for streamlining communications that embody our “We Are ECI” theme of system collaboration. This plan will reach all families in the most appropriate manner (including cultural and linguistic considerations) and support active engagement in their children’s care and education.
a. Family information hub. This work will connect existing websites and resources to a centralized website that communicates in a single, unified voice, while acknowledging the different communication needs and preferences of families with diverse backgrounds, structures, and cultural and linguistic needs. The hub will be hosted by the existing ECI website, and will link (rather than duplicate) information that families need most about the array of services and supports offered, thereby empowering family choice. The hub will offer a unified access point for two key resources: (1) the Iowa Department of Human Services’ consumer education webpage; and (2) the Iowa Family Support Network website, a collaborative effort by Departments of Public Health, Education, and Human Services that meets central directory requirements for IDEA Part C (34 CFR § 303.117) and provides families with information and an entry point for Iowa’s Coordinated Intake effort (see also C3.2, below) for family support programs and early intervention. Both websites include additional links to information about other needed resources, including health and mental health, housing, energy, and food assistance, income supports, and employment or training programs.
b. Family engagement specialist. A dedicated consultant will help us build capacity to ensure we continue incorporating family voices in our B-5 system, keep communications up-to-date and relevant, and support growing partnerships. They will lead efforts to identify and maintain resources for our family information hub, facilitate activities for coordinated intake and provider cross-training (see C3.2), and facilitate family engagement and leadership (see C3.3).
C3.2 Service coordination and navigation.
We will build on current capacities for coordinated intake and expand training to help providers support families navigating our system.
a. Expand coordinated intake. We will expand Nine2Thrive, a local approach based on the national Family Connects4 model that provides universal prenatal screening and targeted supports to prevent maltreatment and poor health outcomes. Nine2Thrive facilitates partnerships between clinical settings providing prenatal, labor and delivery services and a support specialist who assesses social determinants of health that may impact healthy birth outcomes and birth-to-home transitions. Services are tailored to unique needs and preferences of each family, who receive information about choosing childcare, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, abusive head trauma prevention, and early parenting. After a prenatal risk assessment, vulnerable families are offered more intensive support through a combination of office and home visits, group-based parent education services, or early intervention services.
Nine2Thrive is currently being piloted in a large public hospital in an urban area in Iowa with funding from Iowa’s Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. We will replicate this pilot in a rural setting to address challenges raised in our Needs Assessment for rural families, including attention to the lack of resources, barriers to access, social isolation, and intergenerational transmission of adverse childhood experiences. PDG funds will supplement existing MIECHV contributions whereby PDG will help get the pilot started and MIECHV funds will increasingly support ongoing implementation and sustainability. PDG resources will also support implementation of the Integrated Referral and Information Data System, which supports Nine2Thrive and is locally customizable. Family Connects is a community-wide nurse home visiting program for parents of newborns that has significant evidence of reducing health care costs and child maltreatment rates. See www.familyconnects.org for more details.
b. Cross-straining for child care and early intervention. This project will help ensure parents who have concerns about their child’s development are informed about and have access to quality programs. We will offer collaborative cross-training to support parent knowledge, choice, and access for child care and Early ACCESS5 providers to ensure a consistent language and approach for this important population. Through a variety of trainings, providers will be equipped to support families in their care with an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). In addition, early interventionists will receive targeted training to coach providers on how to embed interventions within daily routines for the children in their care with an IFSP (see also C4, p.25).
C3.3. Promote family leadership. Our planning grant year included extensive data collection from families through focus groups and surveys to learn about gaps and needs. It also asked interested family partners to engage in future planning and development for our B-5 system. Eighty percent of parents who participated in our focus groups have agreed to continue involvement, including developing new and revised resources to improve family engagement and leadership across the state. We have continued to share progress on our planning and implementation work and are engaging a working group of families to be involved in the planning and development of the activities identified in this PDG renewal application.
We recognize an opportunity to strengthen a consistent approach to family leadership, which may include exploring, replicating, and adapting frameworks such as the Head Start Parent, Family and Community Engagement Framework; Iowa’s Parent Partner program (a peer-to-peer mentoring and family leadership model in child welfare); and partnerships with organizations engaging families with children with disabilities (including the ASK Resource Center and the University of Iowa’s Child Health Specialty Clinics, which offers the Iowa Early ACCESS is the name for Iowa’s system for early intervention for infants and toddlers (IDEA Part C).
Family Leadership Institute to promote family leadership). We propose three activities to help ensure our system is ready to “hear” families and that families are ready to lead.
a. System training on family engagement and leadership. First, we will work with partners at the National Family Support Network to train providers, program, and policy staff at all levels and across the B-5 system on “Developing and Sustaining Effective Parent Advisory Committees.” This training will prepare our system to effectively receive and respond to family leadership by providing tools and strategies necessary to enhance parent advisory committees. A co-trainer approach models and reinforces the effective staff-parent partnerships that the training focuses on and provides the valuable perspective of a parent leader. We envision training 160 individuals in Year 1 of this renewal PDG, with an additional 40 trained in each subsequent year.
b. Family academy. We will provide ongoing training and skill-building for families to act as leaders for improved child, family, and community outcomes. The family academy will provide support and facilitate peer-to-peer networking for families as they become leaders and advocates for system change. We will recruit a broad range of participants from diverse perspectives, including across geographic regions, families who are culturally and linguistically diverse, and families with diverse structures (e.g., fathers, single parents, foster families). Informed and empowered parents will continue as leaders and advocates as their children enter the K-12 system. We will use the first half of Year 1 to identify and plan our approach, with the first cohort of family academy participants (cohort of 15-20) beginning in month 6. An additional 50-100 participants are anticipated for subsequent cohorts in Years 2 and 3.
c. Parent advisory committee. We will create a parent advisory committee to engage family academy graduates in shaping the direction of our B-5 system through informal and formal opportunities. Leveraging the ECI Family Engagement and Equity Committee, Year 1 will involve exploring strategies for building and maintaining a parent advisory structure and learning from successes in other areas of our system that are already doing this work well.
Families will help define the overall format of both the family academy and the parent advisory committee, guiding decisions about whether to use a local, regional, state, or combination approach to these efforts. We will compensate family participants for their leadership and expertise through reimbursement for time, travel, child care, and related expenses.
C4. ACTIVITY 4: Sharing Best Practices and Professional Development
PDG Planning grant activities identified priority areas for sharing best practices and expanding Iowa’s early childhood workforce. We first identified existing professional development resources and trainings to document provider opportunities across our B-5 system. We learned that many resources occur in a variety of locations, generally managed by the local or regional program, project, or agency that develops or provides the training. Those outside the project or program are, unfortunately, often not able to access them. This approach creates duplication, gaps, and lack of consistency. Needs Assessment findings highlighted some of these gaps, particularly in areas of infant/toddler mental health, special needs and early intervention, and trauma-informed care. We also developed and implemented a training approach to share best practices reflected in our revised Iowa Early Learning Standards (IELS), which were completed in 2018 with extensive stakeholder support for cohesive content and domains that align with national standards. This approach introduces providers to the IELS, its importance, and its applicability to practice. Feedback from providers, however, continued to emphasize a need for more hands-on support for implementation through coaching and mentoring. Across activities and Needs Assessment results, we also identified significant workforce shortages, particularly in rural areas, with the need for pipelines to ‘grow’ the ECE workforce.
We will address these needs by (1) coordinating knowledge about best practices, (2) implementing best practices in priority areas using evidence-based coaching models, and (3) establishing a robust career pathway that connects coursework and supports career advancement. We also have a comprehensive approach to expand our workforce presented in depth in Activity 5 (see C5.2, p.35) as a statewide infrastructure investment to improve B-5 quality.
C4.1 Coordinate knowledge and processes. Establishing consistent opportunities for the early childhood workforce is part of our Strategic Plan. We have identified four cyclical steps to help align provider training and improve our professional development system: (1) identify evidence-based practices in targeted areas (i.e., topics we prioritize from routine needs assessments); (2) develop and deliver training using a common language across the B-5 system; (3) supplement training with a coaching system that supports implementation with fidelity; and (4) measure implementation and outcomes to verify that the approaches are working as intended. This cyclical approach includes the development and use of a comprehensive website to share best practices, connect providers with the resources they need, and allow local innovation using common language and methods to address our most pressing problems.
a. ECI Resource Hub. Our PDG Planning Grant involved development and initial implementation of a website to connect provider resources, ECI Resource Hub. It includes training and technical assistance across the mixed delivery system, such as the Iowa Department of Public Health Child Care Consultants; the Area Education Agencies and their work with state-funded pre-kindergarten; Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral and their consulting with center-based and family child care; and state-based Head Start Training and Technical Assistance supports. As a first step, we plan to add resources and test usability. We will add links to the Iowa Core Knowledge of Child Development, coaching support (detailed in C4.2, below), and career pathways (detailed more in C4.3, below). We envision the ECI Resource Hub as a valuable resource that will be maintained by the ECI administrative office, where the ECI Steering Committee will review site-visiting patterns, how the resource is used, and make suggestions for updates and revisions. We will also seek input from ECI stakeholder groups on ease of finding resources and from coaching teams to recommend resources for the site.
b. Coaching coordinator. A dedicated consultant will help us build capacity for sustainable infusing of evidence-based practices in our system. They will lead efforts to identify and maintain resources for the hub, facilitate activities for training and coaching (see C4.2), and support career development work in C4.3 and Activity 5 (see C5.2, p.35).
C4.2 Improve training and coaching. Training without support for implementation will not effect sustainable outcomes. We will invest PDG renewal resources in implementing, testing, and refining evidence-based coaching models to ensure our providers receive the support they need. This will include enhancing two existing coaching efforts: (1) Coaching for IELS, and (2) Distance Mentoring Model to improve services for children with disabilities. Through these activities we will document what works, develop refined protocols for extended use, and improve implementation of best practices in these specific areas. We will then explore opportunities for additional coaching applications in prioritized areas spanning social-emotional development, supporting transitions, and sustaining business models for care providers.
a. Demonstrate and document coaching models. This work will involve investments in coaching for our IELS and a Distance Mentoring Model used with early intervention to provide training for providers of services for children with disabilities. During our PDG renewal, we will advance these models, document what works, and use what we learn to develop new models across our B-5 system in different topic areas and with different provider groups.
We provided basic training on why early learning standards are important and introduced the IELS to providers during our PDG planning year. We now plan to utilize evidence-based coaching with the IELS as a tool to inform curriculum, practice, environmental enhancements, and assessment. This approach will incorporate five coaching elements from the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning in classrooms and home-based setting. We will also develop fidelity measures, including self-assessments and external observation guides, to measure implementation and use the results to target additional coaching. Using the IELS as the learning opportunity to document what works, we will then adapt protocols to other prioritized areas with communities and agencies poised for coaching supports.
Another coaching model that will be enhanced is the Iowa Distance Mentoring Model (IA DMM) for early intervention. Early ACCESS has been using the IA DMM to build capacity to use Family Guided Routines Based Interventions (FGRBI) – an evidence-based early intervention practice – over the past six years as part of the IDEA Part C State Systemic Improvement Plan. Early interventionists from different disciplines receive training to serve as practice-based coaches, who are internal to each agency providing early intervention services. Employing internal coaches increases the use of FGRBI, promotes sustainability, and increases professional development opportunities for all Early ACCESS providers. PDG renewal support will expand the use of IA DMM, train additional internal coaches, and create a more skilled workforce and improved outcomes for children and families served under IDEA Part C.
b. Partnership and consultation for coaching applications. Simultaneous with the training and coaching for IELS and IA DMM, we will explore statewide opportunities to expand coaching models in other priority areas. This will involve collaboration with our AEAs, the Iowa Department of Human Services as the lead agency for our Child Development Block Grant, Child Care Resource and Referral networks, Community Action Agencies, Healthy Child Care Iowa, and early intervention providers - among many others - to identify communities and agency networks that are most ready to implement coaching models and participate in the pedagogical learning process by evaluating effectiveness and informing process improvements. We will also develop a process for identifying “ready” coaching networks and mechanisms for funding coaching expansions in prioritized areas.
c. Applications of coaching models. After documenting what we learn through the IELS and IA DMM implementations, we anticipate supporting additional coaching applications with identified programs that participate in consultation activities. Four priority areas were identified through our Needs Assessment to target for coaching applications (described briefly below). It is our hope that by testing and refining multiple practice-based implementation projects across the three-year renewal period, we will simultaneously create buy-in and experience using our ECI Resource Hub and professional development supports to ensure increased numbers of early learning care and education settings implement best practices. The following details outline each professional development application we will explore.
Application 1: Healthy social-emotional development, trauma-informed care, and infant mental health. This application will consider coaching expansion for Early Childhood Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (EC-PBIS) and early childhood mental health consultation (ECMHS). EC-PBIS in Iowa includes a network of providers implementing Pyramid Model practices7 (including school-based, home-based, and other center-based programs), but sites lack consistent support for effective implementation and evaluation of effectiveness and insufficient supports are available for preschool and infant/toddler training in Pyramid Model practices. These efforts will be supplemented with access to early childhood mental health consultation (ECMHC), which has been in planning phases with technical assistance from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Implementation would strengthen the capacity of programs to address the needs of children with a history of trauma or exhibiting chronic challenging behavior.
Application 2: Support for Transitions. Needs Assessment findings emphasized gaps in transitions that leave families with the burden of figuring out how to navigate a complex mixed delivery system. This is reinforced through Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requirements for LEAs to establish agreements with Head Start and other early childhood programs for coordinated transition activities. The Iowa Department of Education is currently drafting non-regulatory guidance on partnerships between LEAs and community partners, including Head Starts, and coaching applications could be prioritized to support these transition activities.
Application 3: Healthy Child Care Iowa (HCCI). HCCI is a partnership between Iowa Departments of Public Health and Human Services to support local Child Care Nurse Consultants (CCNC). CCNCs incorporate principles of health equity to provide information, make referrals, and conduct well care planning for children with special health needs. Extra support for coaching toward implementation fidelity of this CCNC approach is needed.
Application 4. Strengthening Business Practices. Local family child care homes and centers need support for making child care a viable and sustainable business option, particularly in light of ongoing trends suggesting increasing numbers of providers are closing their doors. Strengthening Business Practices is a training module provided by the National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance. We propose working with the Iowa Department of Human Services (lead Child Care and Development Fund agency) to identify coaching frameworks that could be used, which may involve funding Iowa coaches/trainers to participate in national training and create a “train the trainer” model for local applications.
C4.3 Advance career pathways. PDG renewal activities will address workforce challenges in two big ways. First, we are investing in two workforce expansion and retention efforts described in greater detail in C5.2 (see p.35) as we believe these reflect systematic quality improvement investments. Second, we intend to strengthen our existing provider capacity for career advancement through additional training.
a. Online support for career development. Understanding and tracking training, certification, and credentialing experiences is complicated. We propose to better align these systems using our ECI Resource Hub to enhance and host web-based applications that support career trajectories including I PoWer and Navigate your Pathway. I PoWer (Iowa Early Childhood and School Age Professional Workforce Registry) is a recently redesigned training registry for early childhood and school age care professionals sponsored by the Iowa Department of Human Services. Participants can use I PoWeR as a personal portfolio of professional accomplishments including degrees, college coursework, credentials, licenses, ongoing professional development, and host their resume and employment history. We will add resources to enhance this site and connect it with our ECI Resource Hub to facilitate use and consistency across providers. Navigate Your Pathway is a website that helps providers develop career goals and identify career ladder opportunities. Revisions are needed to reflect emerging national consensus from NAEYC’s Power to the Profession Initiative. We also want to ensure every setting is capable of being fully inclusive for children with disabilities, and will add this area specialization. We will further advance the website by adding certifications for coaching, local team leadership and site-specific evaluation. These new roles will be necessary to support the implementation of best practices as discussed in C4.2 (see p.28).
b. Essentials preservice and orientation. To address identified needs for families with diverse backgrounds, we will enhance training for regulated and licensed child care providers serving English Language Learner (ELL) and refugee communities. In alignment with Child Care Development Block Grant requirements, Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) recently developed an online orientation training for child care providers to cover 12 federally-mandated content areas focused on health and safety, including Universal Precautions for licensed centers. DHS also has a related orientation for child care providers known as Essentials Preservice and Orientation. With PDG support, we will adapt these trainings to meet the needs of ELL and refugee communities by ensuring they are culturally and linguistically responsive so our services are more accessible for populations where cultural congruency is necessary. This will also address equity by diversifying the child care workforce.
C5. ACTIVITY 5: Improving Quality, Integration, Access, and Subgrants
Iowa intends to improve overall quality, expand access, and develop new programs to address priorities identified through our 2019 Strategic Planning process, specifically focusing on low-income and disadvantaged children living in rural areas. Work will involve infrastructure investments in communications and workforce (Part I) and subgrants to targeted communities that reflect Iowa’s commitments to public-private partnership at state and local levels (Part II).
PART I. Activities to enhance ECE systems and infrastructure
Our Needs Assessment articulated gaps in communications and workforce. Stakeholders across the system – including families, providers, and business leaders – cited the need to communicate in a common language the value of early childhood and the complexities of the B-5 system. Families reported their primary source of information about services is through word of mouth. Providers and stakeholders said they do not have sufficient information about how the B-5 system works, or how different components work together toward common goals. They also stressed a need for timely information on policy or program requirements in formats that best enable them to support family needs. Further, significant gaps in workforce quality and quantity thwart service expansion and improvement; these gaps are particularly acute in rural areas. The following narrative provides details about proposed activities designed to meet these goals.
C5.1 Communications plan implementation. We will implement a plan currently in development that includes a coordinated, comprehensive media campaign to raise awareness that investments in B-5 are instrumental for a healthy and economically thriving state. We will develop new materials and enhance existing ones to communicate with varied audiences about how the B-5 system works, where to find information and services, and how to provide feedback about what is working or needed.
Proposed project period and major activities. We anticipate contracting with one communications firm to implement a phased set of activities across the three renewal years.
These communication efforts seek to change how citizens and stakeholders understand the importance of the B-5 system and how to navigate it effectively. Activities will evolve through cycles that (a) identify primary and secondary audiences and messages (including market research for families); (b) communicate and solicit feedback; and (c) edit/improve and expand our reach. We will collaborate across the B-5 system to develop audience-specific messages that can be tested and altered to meet these goals, and continuously broaden the reach of our communications to wider audiences throughout the renewal period.
Supplemental funding. Though we do have a website maintained by ECI administrative staff, ECI does not currently allocate resources to communications planning or implementation.
C5.2 Expand workforce capacity. Our Needs Assessment revealed significant gaps in workforce education and compensation. Centers serving our most vulnerable children have staff with the lowest educational attainment and are paid the least, resulting in higher turnover. According to center directors, the inability to hire and retain staff - particularly in rural areas - frustrates program quality improvement efforts. Families bear the brunt of these challenges, as many centers are forced to close or face program quality issues.
Activities. We will expand two programs to improve and retain Iowa’s workforce and attract new, untapped labor: Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (T.E.A.C.H.) Early Childhood® IOWA and Child Care (WAGE$®) IOWA. Both are licensed and monitored nationally by Child Care Services Association, which assures programs are implemented with fidelity by requiring semi-annual reports and biannual competency assessments.
Expanding T.E.A.C.H. will ensure all providers, teachers and home visitors have access to coursework that leads to credentials (e.g., CDA, associate and bachelor’s degrees, teacher license). T.E.A.C.H. provides individualized professional development counseling, support for tuition and books, paid time away from work, increased compensation, and requires a commitment to work for the sponsoring agency after completing the program to reduce turnover. T.E.A.C.H. has been available since 2003, and Iowa AEYC has been the administrative home in Iowa since 2007 providing scholarships to over 2,500 early care and education providers; 1,726 have earned credentials, degrees, or licensure, and their turnover rate is less than ten percent annually. Additionally, T.E.A.C.H. recipients receive at least a 6% increase in annual wages related to these advances in credentials. Current program funding supports scholarships for about 400 early care and educators annually.
Second, we will expand WAGE$® to increase provider continuity and retain educated ECE professionals. WAGE$® awards education-based salary supplements to address key issues of under-education, poor compensation and high turnover. Supplement awards are based on education achieved and the continuity of care provided. WAGE$® came to Iowa in 2014 and has expanded annually. To date, 582 providers have received WAGE$® supplements. Current program funding levels support scholarships for about 275 providers annually.
Proposed project period and providers benefiting. We will provide T.E.A.C.H. scholarships to an additional 100 providers, with an anticipated 30 completing degree or credentialing requirements during the project period. We will expand WAGE$® to the 59 Iowa counties that do not currently have funding available to serve up to 750 additional providers. Supplemental funding. This activity proposes supplemental funding for existing programs, and funds will not be used to supplant existing commitments.
PART II. Subgrants for local innovations to improve ECE quality and access
Our 2019 Needs Assessment identified significant gaps in access and quality services, particularly for our most vulnerable children and those in rural areas. Findings identified certain populations of children less likely to engage in preschool experiences, including low-income (below and just above the poverty line), rural, and those born to a mother without a high school education or a teen mother. Families reported that accessing care is complex, requiring overcoming multiple barriers including transportation, housing, and differences in availability across rural and urban settings. Over 40 percent of centers report quality concerns, with finding and retaining staff the primary barrier, particularly in rural areas. Findings revealed strengths in local partnerships, but these were not systematic – suggesting a need to better document and support effective partnerships as a mechanism for sustainable quality improvement.
Activities. Subgrants will capitalize on local innovations to improve access and quality and document “what works” to foster replication. We will improve services in areas identified in our Needs Assessment, including expanding access to care for underserved populations and building stronger partnerships between public and private businesses to expand services, improve transitions, and support workforce training. Subgrant recipients will competitively apply for funds by indicating: 1) how additional funding will address the Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan, 2) partnerships they will build or enhance, 3) how they will target priority populations (e.g., low-income, rural, homeless, in tribal communities, families with children with disabilities, and those that are eligible but not served), 4) intended outcomes, and 5) how efforts will be sustained. We will hire a Community Partner Specialist to help work with local partnerships to assess readiness, apply for subgrants, and administer subgrants in collaboration with the PDG Core team. Recipients will be expected to partner with state-level public and private entities to co-develop an evaluation plan including data collection, integration, and other evaluation activities as appropriate to monitor progress on family and systems outcomes.
ECI has experience administering similar subgrants. The funding infrastructure for ECI’s $26M investments in system coordination relies on Local Area Boards who are responsible for periodic community needs assessments and monitoring competitively-awarded grants. A state-funded Director is responsible for coordinating local efforts with larger statewide ECI-directed initiatives and reports annually on funding allocated and progress indicators. Using what we have learned within this structure, we will build accountability mechanisms across subgrant options and provide targeted priorities for funding additional projects that align with our Strategic Plan.
Serving targeted populations. We will provide bonus opportunities for projects that address target families identified in our Needs Assessment (summarized above), including those in rural areas, homeless, tribal communities, low-income [especially those eligible for but not receiving Child Care Assistance and TANF], and with children with disabilities.
Anticipated funding, duration, and number of subgrants. In addition to the two major infrastructure-building activities outlined above, we will invest $1.9M of the $10M requested to fund three types of projects in our first year. The first 6 months will involve planning, training and collaboration with Community Action Agencies (CAA), ECI Area Boards, and Local Education Agencies (LEA) to identify local needs and address subgrant requirements. The remainder of the first year will involve awarding and administering up to 30 subgrants, including a mix of Two-Generation projects, Local Area projects for facilities or workforce improvements, and partnerships between LEAs and community providers to expand early care and education.
Supplemental funding. All subgrants will supplement existing resources. Subgrants for Two-Generation work (Activity C5.3) will leverage our network of CAAs to expand or develop new programs. Subgrants to local ECI Area Boards will supplement current resources that are formula-funded through legislation and do not prioritize facilities or workforce (Activity C5.4). Subgrants for partnerships between LEAs and community providers will supplement current state annual investments of $85M that provide approximately 28,000 half-day preschool slots. PDG investments will expand available slots and provide wrap-around care to ensure full-day access for families that need it. No PDG resources will supplant existing investments.
Major activities and objectives for each subgrant area. We propose subgrants that will strengthen existing partnership networks and address priority areas: support navigation and transitions for Iowa’s most vulnerable families through partnerships among Early Head Start providers, Community Action Agencies, and our state’s Two-Generation initiative (Activity C5.3); improve facilities and workforce through public-private partnerships reflecting local innovations (Activity C5.4); and improve quality and expand access to ECE through partnerships between Local Education Agencies and child care providers (Activity C5.5). The following sections outline each subgrant approach, including key objectives and deliverables.
C5.3 Subgrants for low-income, two-generation programs. We will expand Two-Generation efforts led by the Family Development and Self-Sufficiency (FaDSS) program administered by the Iowa Department of Human Rights. In July 2019, FaDSS launched pilot programs in five communities to reach TANF-disconnected families (i.e., eligible families that do not access TANF). These pilots emphasize strategies to address complex barriers and challenges for families navigating TANF eligibility, completing workforce training and education requirements, and securing high-quality early care and education for their children. PDG funds will expand capacity for existing or new pilots.
We will collaborate with the Iowa Community Action Association (ICAA), Division of Community Action Agencies, and the Head Start State Collaboration Office to identify priorities and processes to allow local innovators an opportunity to expand or enhance these approaches while leveraging public-private partnerships. ICAA network serves every Iowa county and is uniquely poised to support this work as they represent on-the-ground, local support for families living in poverty, providing needed services and grassroots empowerment. The unique governance of CAAs involve equal representation of public sector, private sector, and low-income community representatives, to ensure local control and accountability. During the first half of Year 1 we will provide training and technical assistance to support CAAs developing local plans for improved coordination and quality. Plans will identify a framework to improve access, navigation, and transitions that is strength-based, family-driven and multi-generational. Using current estimates of similar projects, we anticipate these projects could serve up to 400 children annually.
C5.4 Subgrants for public-private partnerships to improve workforce and facilities. These grants will provide ECI Area Boards flexibility to build capacity and quality of programs to serve more vulnerable families by improving facilities and workforce. Leveraging expertise of ECI Area Boards (comprised of community leaders, families, and public and private business partners), we will identify successful and emerging public-private partnerships that could be expanded. In 2017, the ECI State Board formed a Private-Public Partnership Committee to encourage these types of partnerships and awareness among businesses about the critical role child care plays in retaining reliable and productive employees. One successful example in Jefferson County showed the value of local strategic planning including the business community to identify opportunities, gather invested stakeholders, and make minor capital improvement investments to increase slots in existing centers and make plans to build a new community child care center. Similar partnerships in other areas will be identified and benefit from mentored facilitation for community planning through these subgrant opportunities.
C5.5 Subgrants to expand access and hours of care. These subgrants will facilitate partnerships between LEAs that implement the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program (SWVPP) and community providers in local areas to expand options through activities such as adding classrooms, transportation, or staffing. This work will provide additional slots in existing centers or support transitions between programs by increasing options before, after, or between hours of existing services. Year 1 will include foundational planning, technical assistance with AEAs and LEAs to identify partnership opportunities, and developing requests for proposals. We will invest in collaborative, local strategic planning to identify and strengthen relationships among community partners, examine local data to understand barriers and strengths, seek input from underserved families, and create plans to address gaps. We will develop a formula for prioritizing subgrants for target communities in rural locations, with disproportionate numbers of families living in poverty, and with waiting lists or a significant percentage of children that do not access preschool. Funds in years two and three would support implementation of those plans.
D. ACTIVITY 6: Monitoring, Evaluation, and Data Use for Continuous Improvement
Iowa has made significant investments building a data culture for decision-making in early childhood. Implemented by ECI’s Results Accountability workgroup, Board-approved indicators are reported annually to document progress on prioritized results areas. With PDG planning grant funds, we also implemented an early childhood integrated data system (IDS) that was in development over the last several years with national consultation from IDS experts. Iowa’s IDS includes best practices in data governance, privacy and security, scientific integration, and strategic communications to ensure data are “used” for program and policy decisions. The following describes Iowa’s approaches for data integration, management and use; ongoing monitoring and continuous improvement; and governance and stakeholder engagement.
D1. Data Integration, Management, and Data Use
Iowa’s system of data integration, management, and use involves an established IDS with demonstrated capacity to integrate data across systems, document unduplicated counts of children in B-5 programs, and govern how data are used to inform state and local decisions. Iowa’s IDS reflects a State-University partnership where state departments retain ownership of their data and the land-grant university (ISU) implements the system by maintaining the staffing, legal agreements, technology, and data integration capacities to implement approved projects.
Progress of Iowa’s IDS development. Legislative authority within ECI (Iowa Code 256i) and the Head Start Act of 2007 (H.R. 1429-642b) support B-5 coordination with an IDS. Using recommendations from an independent evaluation of cross-systems data infrastructure from our Early Childhood Advisory Council grant, the development of an IDS was incorporated in the 2015 ECI Strategic Plan. A Board-appointed IDS Taskforce then secured two competitive state training and technical assistance grants to build an IDS plan with national consultants from the Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy Network (www.aisp.upenn.edu). This plan included governance structures, legal agreements, data security standards, data integration protocols, and communications plans to ensure IDS data were used for decision making.
The 2019 Needs Assessment used IDS to calculate, for the first time, unduplicated counts of children with preschool experiences and document how vulnerabilities at birth are linked to school readiness. This expansion of ECI’s data infrastructure transforms how we utilize data to improve operations, service delivery, and decision-making and support rapid dissemination of findings. Through testing and refinement of the IDS we have created a system that promotes ECI principles of equity, quality, privacy, and accountability. For example, to ensure ethical standards that value representation of all children without bias, we tested and improved data integration algorithms. We also established data quality standards that support data literacy and data improvement conversations with departments, programs, agencies, and families. We also improved privacy protocols to ensure our IDS meets or exceeds national standards for secure data use. By carefully documenting IDS procedures and communicating our findings regularly, we are fostering improved accountability for data to be used to support ECI’s mission.
Iowa also has a robust State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) that includes postsecondary and workforce data. With state start-up funds and three grants from IES, this system includes all required elements of an SLDS and provides thousands of monthly reports to empower educators with information for decision making. SLDS leadership has been engaged in the development of our early childhood IDS, and share data with the IDS to connect early childhood with K12. The Director of Research and Evaluation for the Iowa Department of Education serves on the IDS Data Stewardship Committee to ensure connections between systems are clear. We intend to enhance coordination with the SLDS in coming years.
Table 11 and the narrative that follows provide details about the early childhood IDS according to each area of data integration, management, and use required by the PDG FOA, indicating whether areas are not yet planned, envisioned, in development, or fully operational.
Current data elements in the ECI IDS. IDS currently includes data from Iowa Departments of Public Health (IDPH), Education (IDE), and Human Services (IDHS). We have legal agreements from 17 (of 18) Head Start grantees and are collecting Head Start and Early Head start records. To strengthen our capacity to study infants and toddlers and children with disabilities, discussions are underway to include IDEA Part B 619 and Part C in the next data transfer from the IDE. IDPH is also interested in including data from statewide programs including WIC and First Five (a primary care referral and screening program); and discussions with DHS have included consideration of child welfare prevention data. We anticipate at least two additional data sets will be included in IDS during the renewal period, to be determined in partnership with Department Directors and aligned with the needs of ECI.
ECI IDS process for linkages and use. IDS data can only be used for projects approved by a Data Stewardship Committee, as outlined in our legal agreements described below. Once approved, administrative records from each data system are integrated using deterministic and probabilistic matching algorithms. Analytic datasets are created with approved variables and all identifiers (e.g., names, birthdates) are then removed. All findings are vetted by authorized department representatives assigned to project advisory teams throughout an IDS project.
State and local data use. State and local communities have varied approaches to using data to inform practice, but heretofore did not have data or findings from across systems like what we have now with our IDS. We anticipate as our IDS evolves we will facilitate increasing capacity for use by making it easier and more systematic to access integrated (de-identified) information to inform programmatic needs assessments or evaluations. Findings from the Needs Assessment, for example, have recently been translated into local community reports that presented data by region compared to the state as a whole to aid decision-making. A strategic planning session was held in October to test the use of these data for this purpose, and gather feedback from local area board Directors about what additional training or information they would need to be better prepared to act on data presented. We will continue to infuse similar experiences across our system to learn what is needed and how we can best provide data that can be used for program improvement and policy decisions.
Assessing and improving data literacy. This is an area we would like to focus on during our renewal grant. Feedback throughout our Needs Assessment and Strategic Planning processes included desire for more time to discuss and digest data findings, a systematic approach to ensure basic understanding of foundational data sources and statistics, and leveled opportunities for stakeholders with interest and capacity for diving deeper into data work to shape ongoing analyses. Universal needs were expressed in translating data into action, as partners consistently felt both excited and overwhelmed with task of generating actionable steps informed by the findings. We need to invest in understanding our stakeholders’ baseline data literacy skills and then develop effective training and supports to improve skills. As members of the Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy network, we have already begun to partner with other mature IDS’s to seek guidance from national experts and gather models for how to do this in Iowa.
Data governance. ECI’s IDS has a governance structure that includes an umbrella Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) authorizing data use that aligns with ECI priorities and meets federal and state regulations for maintaining data security and privacy standards. We also have 24 data sharing agreements between data-contributing agencies and ISU authorizing data transfers, storage, and use protocols. According to these legal agreements, only data that are approved for specific projects by the ECI IDS Data Stewardship Committee (i.e., authorized representatives of each department) may be integrated and only limited/de-identified datasets are used for analysis and reporting. Data security protocols include encrypted transfers and storage, limited users of identified data solely for the purposes of integration and de-identification, and time-limited and monitored use of approved de-identified files that is currently constrained to off-line air-gapped computing in a restricted access lab on the campus of ISU.
Unique identifiers. Each of the data systems included in the IDS have their own unique identifiers that allow records for individual children to be linked over time and with their families or programs. Some systems share identifiers with each other for the purposes of case management, but these are governed by strict data sharing agreements where families have provided permissions for data sharing (e.g., between health and education for the provision of early intervention services). There currently does not exist a plan to share these unique identifiers across programs in a universal or systematic way. However, within the IDS all identifiers is captured and coded to support linkages across programs for the purposes of policy research.
Unduplicated counts. Our 2019 Needs Assessment demonstrated the capacity of our IDS to generate unduplicated counts of children in ECE programs by focusing on center-based experiences during the year before kindergarten entry. We intend to continue this work as we incorporate additional programs and systems in future iterations of our IDS, to identify unduplicated counts of children across the B-5 system. Such work will include analyses of patterns, trajectories, predictors, and outcomes related to children’s participation in programs to inform coordination and program improvement efforts.
D2. Monitoring, Evaluation, and Continuous Improvement
Current methods of accountability. Each state system and local program has unique sets of accountability structures that inform the types of data they collect, when they collect it, and how they use it. For example, LEAs collect data about student enrollment and outcomes for reporting to the IDE about the success of Statewide Voluntary Preschool; local community action agencies collect indicators of home visiting program enrollment that they are required to report to state departments and national program model sponsors – sometimes in different formats or using different definitions. While these accountability structures are important, they often focus on reporting to maintain funding and accreditations and would benefit from stronger connections with on-the-ground decision-making and use for tracking impact on child outcomes.
ECI, as the backbone for program coordination across B-5, has also established a cross-systems accountability structure which we will use as a starting point for our PDG program evaluation efforts. Through legislation, ECI establishes accountability indicators that are adopted by the State Board every two years and used to generate annual state reports that outline commitments to five results areas: healthy children, children ready to succeed in school, safe and nurturing families, safe and supportive communities, and secure and nurturing early learning environments. These indicators have historically been tracked using disaggregated national data (e.g. Census or American Community Survey) or univariate percentages from state data system (e.g., kindergarten literacy rates or child maltreatment rates). With the establishment of our EC-IDS, however, we anticipate increasing use of integrated state data to provide more rich understanding of child and family needs over time (see Data and indicators, p.53, for more details). ECI Local Area Boards also have annual reports that detail how their investments to support B-5 programming address local needs in response to results areas. These reports are then aggregated at the state level to document accountability for state appropriated funds.
Fragmentation and overlap and plans to address it. One of the primary areas of fragmentation identified by our Needs Assessment was the lack of access to child care, particularly in rural areas. While some statewide programs exist (including Statewide Voluntary Preschool), families are often forced to choose patchwork child care experiences to enable full-time employment. Through a targeted approach to subgrants in Activity 5 (see p.33), we hope to build public-private partnerships in local areas to address this gap and create streamlined experiences for families that include transitions between programs.
Another area of fragmentation is with our home visiting services. Currently, we have home visiting programs funded by Departments of Public Health (through MIECHV federal funds and state funds), Human Services (through child abuse prevention funds), Human Rights (using TANF funds to support a two-generation approach), and ECI (state-funded family support programming). This disparate funding approach means that providers are challenged with serving families across funding streams, required to report program enrollments and outcomes in different ways and at different frequencies, and often have different accountability mandates for programming quality. Families similarly experience frustration as they often do not understand differences in programs or requirements, making transitions between programs challenging. We will begin to address this by first including all the disparate data systems in our IDS so we can study the nature of the overlap and make recommendations for efficiencies and coordination. Similar to how we used our 2019 Needs Assessment to inform coordination in child care, we will use IDS to study home visiting so we can inform program improvements in the future.
D2a. Program Performance Evaluation (PPE)
Our PPE will monitor activities aligned with the Strategic Plan to ensure we implement activities as intended (i.e., process evaluation) and influence short, mid, and long-term outcomes prioritized (i.e., outcomes evaluation). We developed a preliminary PPE for the PDG planning grant, which was revised with the completion of our Strategic Plan. We anticipate continued revision as we implement activities, evaluation strategies, and data collection efforts over time.
There are three primary audiences for our PPE. First, the PDG Core Team will regularly use data collected to monitor progress and use results to redirect resources, staff, and priorities in response to system needs. This will ensure we are on track with our proposed milestones and connecting with all stakeholder groups to ensure we influence intended outcomes. Second, ourstakeholder “implementation” groups that are on-the-ground will receive and use PPE information to facilitate their work (e.g., ECI workgroup co-chairs, program administrators, providers, etc.). These teams will need information about how the activities they are implementing are coordinating with other activities across the system and influencing outcomes of interest. Third, we anticipate communicating findings from our PPE regularly with statewide stakeholders including citizens, families, and business leaders to support transparency and raise awareness of B-5 systems improvement outcomes and needs.
Aims and alignment with Strategic Plan. We aim to measure programmatic progress on ECI’s Strategic Plan objectives across activities using an a-e-i-o-u framework (Kemis and Walker, 2000)9. Accountability refers to the operational and programmatic structures that will ensure we are tracking progress on project milestones and course corrections are implemented when needed. Effectiveness includes monitoring the quality of our implementation activities and our ability to reach intended stakeholders. Impact will be measured by the nature and extent of changes in behavior and outcomes of leaders, providers, families, and other stakeholders as a result of our activities. Organizational context includes qualitative assessments of how well our project management approaches are facilitating or impeding progress. Unanticipated outcomes will also be monitored, as we will deliberately incorporate mechanisms to monitor and address issues that may arise despite detailed planning efforts.
The primary questions driving data collection align with the Strategic Plan by asking if we are making progress on (Goal 1) advancing systems change, (Goal 2) enhancing communications, (Goal 3) expanding and strengthening our workforce, (Goal 4) improving equitable access, and (Goal 5) improving overall quality. We will seek input from families, providers, and stakeholders for each goal using surveys, focus groups, and our IDS.
Key personnel and responsibilities. Our mixed-method, multi-phase evaluation framework (see Table 12) articulates specific roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders. The PDG Director and ISU/IDS team will lead the work throughout the grant, and an evaluation coordinator will help implement the evaluation process. Each of the stakeholders identified is responsible to work together to uphold a set of shared evaluation objectives that ensure ECI Area Boards, providers, and families have a channel to provide direct feedback to ECI and program leaders through focus groups, surveys, town halls and other formats; that the IDS will create a more unified understanding of families’ experiences across the B-5 system; and that feedback processes can be replicated to drive iterative improvements to the system as a whole.
Data and indicators. We will collect both process (Table 13) and outcomes (Table 14) indicators. Process indicators align with Strategic Plan goals and will help us determine if we are on track with our planned activities and make corrective course actions if needed.
The intentional collection and monitoring of indicators supports our understanding of needs across diverse groups and contexts over time. ECI’s annual report includes a collection of approved indicators, as do our Title V and MIECHV reports (see Table 14). Historically, these reports used national data or state department reports of aggregate population-level data that is sometimes available by county or school district. As noted in our IDS development, however, limitations of aggregate reporting are that connections cannot be made across systems and we need more information about subpopulations of vulnerable families. As a predominately rural state (i.e., 88 of the total 99 counties in Iowa are designated as rural places with fewer than 1,000 people per square mile), aggregate population-level data collected from US Census or other national tracking systems is often suppressed, precluding use to inform local efforts.
The most recent Results Accountability Component Group review of indicators also highlighted high-priority measures that are currently not collected. Some are collected in state systems that could be added to IDS, and others do not have a population-level data system that allows for routine monitoring. We will continue to explore opportunities to address these gaps.
Data use for continuous quality improvement. We will strengthen processes for state and local leaders to make data-based decision cycles part of their regular work. We will hire a full-time program evaluation coordinator to facilitate this work with each project team (led by ECI Component Groups) across Activities 3-5 (i.e., family engagement, coaching and career pathways, and program subgrants to raise quality). Using best practices from implementation science (National Implementation Research Network, see www.nirn.fpg.unc.edu for more information), we will test, document, and refine supports for Plan Do Study Act (PDSA) improvement cycles across PDG activities. These cycles help programs make quick, incremental improvements in their work by generating immediate feedback that is then used to course correct. Our early intervention Part C (Early ACCESS) partners have been using these implementation frameworks for the last 6 years and are beginning to see systematic changes in how providers and program leaders discuss and use data in continuous quality improvement. We will continue this work across the B-5 system through PDG.
Plans to update Program Performance Evaluation Plan. We view our PPE as a living document that will be routinely updated based on new needs assessment findings, ongoing process evaluation results, and evolving project needs across the three years of this renewal. Before implementing each new or revised activity, we will develop a plan for data collection, reporting, and evaluation that aligns with our larger PPE. After completion of an activity, we will evaluate our PPE process to see if adaptations need be made before new activities commence to ensure we are collecting the right types of information and using it in helpful ways that inform our goals. As we develop a fully revised Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan during our third year of this renewal, we also anticipate a full revision of our PPE to align with the revised goals.
Building on progress from PDG planning grant. Findings from our comprehensive Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan (approved October 2019) have informed departmental plans for spending and funding alignment. Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), for example, has used findings to change funding to align with Child Care Development Fund requirements. As DHS moves to implementing the new QRIS, other agencies are aligning their programming as well. Findings are informing statewide efforts to engage in coaching aligned with existing trainings to support efficiency and quality improvement. Looking forward, our plans also include (a) using data from our IDS to understand patterns of child and family enrollment across programs where recommendations can be made for stronger service coordination and funding alignment; (b) using needs assessment findings to prioritize ECI spending in key areas including professional development, filling service gaps for low-income and vulnerable families to support school readiness; and (c) coordinating professional development trainings across systems to reduce duplication with hopes of then saving resources that could be reallocated to other needs.
D3. Meaningful Governance and Stakeholder Engagement
Governance Structure and Map. The legislatively-created oversight and governance structure of ECI presents a unique opportunity for B-5 systems coordination and decision-making (see Appendix for map). Housed in the Department of Management, ECI has access to the Governor’s office and offers a neutral space for agencies to consider family needs. Department directors on the State Board guide ECI’s work and have ultimate decision-making authority over departmental changes that impact the system. Agency leadership recommends representatives for each Component Group that carries out the work of ECI. These Component Group members consult with their leadership on decisions to be made and share cross-systems perspectives, which benefit ECI collaboration. The incorporation of public and private members on local and state boards further facilitates “top-down, bottom-up” communication to facilitate shared decision-making. These structures supported ECI’s success, including recent revision of the Iowa Early Learning Standards, which now align with the Iowa Academic Standards.
While this overall structure has not changed with PDG, we have seen stronger connections and more openness among agency leaders as a result of the rich discussions and improved data-driven opportunities provided. We have also seen an increase in membership of ECI Component Groups and committees. We anticipate further strengthening the ECI governance structure by providing more concrete definitions about roles and responsibilities of all stakeholder groups that align with our newly revised Strategic Plan.
With respect to specific program improvement changes, ultimate authority resides within departments or agencies implementing the programs; this has not changed, nor do we intend for decision-making authority to be altered. Nonetheless, we have seen increases in collaborative discussions informing program decisions as a result of recent work. With our strengthened capacity for data-based decision-making, ECI will continue to be a space for collaborative problem-solving that generates efficiencies and ultimately improves outcomes across B-5.
Stakeholder involvement. Given the breadth of stakeholder engagement across ECI and for our PDG, it is beyond the scope of the current document to list every member of every department team or community agency that has been involved – as that list would include over 1,500 stakeholders from the past year alone. Table 15 identifies some key representatives that have participated in the assessment, planning, and implementation of PDG work to date. We anticipate each member (in addition to others) will continue to be involved during our renewal.
E. ORGANIZATIONAL CAPACITY
ECI will be responsible for coordinating and implementing the PDG, with support from Iowa State University (ISU) and each state department providing services for children B-5. Agency and University representatives have solid histories in successful system building, program planning and coordination, management, and rigorous evaluation. This section summarizes the roles and responsibilities of contributing organizations.
ECI State Office, Iowa Department of Management. ECI is the “right home” for PDG as the state leaders with legislative authorization to recommend program and policy changes in service of a coordinated system. The State Office coordinates the work of ECI, including State Board, Stakeholders Alliance, Component Groups, and all 38 Area Boards. The State Office manages an annual budget of $26M, including $25M allocated to local Area Boards to improve the B-5 system and $825,000 for statewide professional development. State staff have a history of successful organization and management of externally-funded grants, including the PDG planning grant and 2010 State Early Childhood Advisory Council Grant to strengthen the alignment of state and federally funded programs through the Stakeholders Alliance.
ECI leaders Wagler and Winslow have extensive histories of system transformation work both within their current roles and through prior work in Iowa departments. Wagler has been ECI Administrator since 2004, having previously served as an ECI community liaison and coordinator with local Workforce Development boards. She will serve as the PDG PI, overseeing all project deliverables and coordinating across departments to ensure we meet our goals.Winslow joined the ECI office full-time in March 2019 as the ECI System Coordinator, after serving as an early childhood education consultant with the Iowa Department of Education, where she specialized in comprehensive services for vulnerable young children and families and served on several collaborative and partnership efforts.
Iowa State University. Iowa’s land-grant university will support the management and organization of activities related to implementing the IDS, conducting analyses for the needs assessment, and coordinating the performance evaluation plan.10 ISU has a strong history of managing large grants, including a national laboratory and five federal research labs. In FY2018, ISU received 1,347 external contracts and grants totaling $509.3M, with individual projects ranging up to $7.8M. ISU faculty Heather Rouse and Cassandra Dorius have been leading IDS development to date and bring expertise and shared commitments to early childhood systems coordination. Collectively, they have been research partners with state and local departments of education, human services, and public health for over three decades. Rouse is a child clinical and school psychologist with expertise developing and using IDS for social policy research in early childhood. Dorius is a family demographer with expertise in data harmonization and substantive research examining family level inequalities in health, wealth, and education.
ECI Organizational Structural Support. Each element of the ECI organizational structure (see Figure 3, p.62) will support this PDG. The State Board and Stakeholders Alliance will provide overall feedback and guidance as decision-makers and implementers (respectively) of activities aligned with our strategic plan and articulated in this proposal.
Each Component Group (see Appendix for a map) will support PDG activities and provide leadership in revising elements for the strategic plan, informing the ongoing needs assessment, supporting family engagement, ensuring program quality, and strengthening the infrastructure. The IDS Resource Center at ISU will lead needs assessment and program evaluation efforts, and will be supplemented with two positions to help with coordination and implementation. ECI Area Boards will use their local network and family connections and grant-making capacities to help with Activities 3 through 5, with support of a Community Partner Specialist. A Family Engagement Specialist and Coaching Coordinator will help facilitate Activities 3 and 4 in collaboration with Alliance Component Groups.
F. SUSTAINABILITY PLAN
The work of this PDG uses ECI’s longstanding, collaborative structure with a wide range of stakeholders and executive leaders all sharing a unified goal of supporting young children and their families.11 We will use the collaborative structures within ECI and across our B-5 system during the PDG to strengthen and build sustainable capacities to leverage additional future resources. Importantly, the ECI structure is legislatively mandated with over $26M in annual dedicated resources that provide a strong foundation for future growth and sustainability.
Sustainable capacities and resources. The infusion of PDG funds will enable Iowa to establish processes and products for ongoing program improvement beyond the grant period. First, fully operationalizing the IDS policy research, strategic planning, and local knowledge → action → impact loops will strengthen this system so it can be sustained by individual analytic projects over time. Business models from existing IDSs that have been similarly built estimate up to 90% of these systems budgets can be sustained through grants and contracts to conduct
11 ECI has been in place for over two decades; its structure is described in more detail in Sections B and E.
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analytic work such as the needs assessment and reporting analytics for PDG. We anticipate building the IDS client base over time and see considerable value in this PDG demonstrating effective and efficient use to inform program quality improvement and systems change.
Thanks to our successful capacity building efforts, Iowa will be able to leverage additional resources for continuous quality improvement. Federal grant initiatives increasingly look to IDS capacities to facilitate population-level research, including the National Science Foundation’s Data Science portfolio. The IDS can be leveraged in future statewide needs assessments that have dedicated funding and also increase the likelihood of Iowa’s obtaining resources for such work (e.g., MIECHV, Title V). Local funders, including the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation, Iowa Women’s Foundation, and United Ways of Iowa, have also expressed interest in using IDS for enhanced evaluation and needs assessment.
Developing family engagement and professional development communications materials and processes for sharing will also be a sustainable resource. PDG allows us to invest in an enhanced communication plan that engages stakeholder “implementers” (e.g., ECI Area Boards, AEA and Child Care Resource and Referral coaches) to continue the work post-PDG.
Changes in funding and efficiencies. Because we are bringing together stakeholders with existing commitments to professional development with dedicated funding (e.g., $825,000 in ECI professional development funding), we anticipate building upon existing resources in new and refined ways to support sustainability and continuous improvement.12 These funds can support the ECI Resource Hub, strengthen common coaching models, and reduce redundancy across efforts so we can more efficiently manage state and federal resources.
12 Existing dollars within ECI, MIECHV, Statewide Voluntary Preschool, Head Start, and DHS’s contracts with Child Care Resource and Referral are committed to B-5 professional development.
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G. DISSEMINATION PLAN
Written, oral, and online communications are a key part of our 2019 Strategic Plan. As a result, we will invest resources to ensure we have a thorough plan to communicate about this project with both internal and external components. Internally, we will include PDG updates as a regular agenda item at all ECI monthly and quarterly meetings of the State Board, Stakeholders Alliance, and Area Boards. We will also keep our Area Boards well informed, so they can provide feedback and share information with their communities.
Externally, we will host a series of “Learning Sessions” to engage with stakeholders in bi-directional conversation about the strategic direction of our early childhood system, similar to what we completed with our 2019 Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan. These Learning Sessions will serve to disseminate findings and examine opportunities for program quality and coordination improvement across our B-5 system. Through our provider networks and at health and community fairs, we will also disseminate information in local communities to gather feedback and inform next steps. We will also discuss our PDG efforts at the annual ACF PDG grantees meetings and at national conferences such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the ACF National Research Conference in Early Childhood.
H. BONUS POINTS – Coordinated Intake, Infants/Toddlers, and Transitions
Iowa has included each of the three bonus points sections in our renewal activities.
H1. Coordinated Intake. As detailed in section C3.2 (p.22), we intend to expand a current pilot of coordinated intake and triaging for services following the Family Connects national model. This effort is currently underway in one urban area, and we will expand this to a rural area in partnership with a local rural hospital. We intend to learn from families in the existing pilot what is working and how we can best navigate the expansion to a rural site.
H2. Infants/Toddlers. We have three efforts that focus on infants and toddlers during this renewal period. First, we are prioritizing data systems for inclusion in our IDS that collect information about infants and toddlers (see sections C1.1, p.12 and D, p.43, for details). This includes home visiting records, Early Head Start, and explorations to include immunizations and well-child visit data (including early developmental screeners). Second, we are conducting an extensive workforce survey that includes specific attention to child development homes, who serve a large number of infants and toddlers in care. Third, we are expanding coaching models for IDEA Part C (early intervention for infants/toddlers) as part of Activity 4 (see C4.2, p.28).
H3. Transitions. Our subgrant efforts to improve quality (see C5, p.37) draw attention to local community partnerships to improve transitions for vulnerable families in two-generation programs, among ECE programs, and also between ECE programs and the elementary school kindergarten programs they serve. By supporting local innovations through subgrants to community providers who work in partnership with LEAs, for example, we anticipate learning more about what innovations support smooth transitions and the alignment of services for children and families across ECE. We are also investing in cross-training for child care and early intervention providers (see C3.2, p.22) to support family transitions among programs.
I. PROJECT BUDGET AND BUDGET JUSTIFICATION
Iowa requests $10,000,000 to support PDG renewal year 1, including allocations for each activity and overall support (i.e., project management, technical assistance) that includes funds for 4 team members to attend an annual grantee meeting in Washington, D.C.