Automatic Data Screening for Collaborative for Children

Niha Pereira on in Data, Education

Investing in quality early childcare is a powerful economic development strategy that directly affects the quality and productivity of our future workforce. The long-term benefits of investing in quality early child care programs, like Texas Rising Stars, far exceeds the yield of return on most public projects that are considered economic development.
Karla Cisneros, Houston City Council Member

We started learning about the intricacies of Texas Rising Star (TRS) certification back when we delivered the childcare deserts map for Children at Risk. The map visualizes the availability of quality child care in Texas. And one of the state-specific indicators we looked at was TRS, a “voluntary, quality-based child care rating system” funded by the Texas Workforce Commission.

TRS certifies childcare providers who outperform minimum child care licensing standards, awarding them with two, three, or four stars. TRS also offers additional subsidies, free resources, mentorship, and training opportunities to eligible providers.

In order for the TRS standard to be adopted widely, there are organizations that proactively look for child care providers that can be TRS certified.

Why screen providers?

While applying for TRS Certification is a painless process, screening providers is a much more extensive one. Under the leadership of the Collaborative for Children, we had the opportunity to build a tool that streamlines the screening process. The tool could potentially help recruit more high-quality child care providers into the TRS program.

How are providers currently being assessed?

Trained childcare assessors screen child care providers one by one each quarter. There are roughly 1,690 providers in the Greater Houston Area, and approximately 270 of them are TRS certified. The assessors use DFPS Child Care search tool to check whether a provider:

  1. Has a permanent license with at least a 12-month licensing history
  2. Is either a licensed child care home, center, or after-school program
  3. Has not incurred specific types or amounts of violations within 12 months

Due to the sheer volume of providers and the different TRS criteria, vetting providers one by one is time-consuming and tedious. Assessors usually have to split a large caseload of providers amongst themselves and manually keep track of provider status.

This tool has been transformative for our program, our staff, and for neighborhoods seeking to understand their TRS participation. It has already improved our efficiency as we move away from manual processes.Christina Triantaphyllis, Chief Officer of Public Policy & Strategic Initiatives at the Collaborative for Children

Automating the screening process

By accessing the same data used in the DFPS Child Care search tool via data.texas.gov Socrata Open Data API (SODA), our application:

  1. Algorithmically determines TRS eligibility status.
  2. Delivers a comprehensive report of providers’ eligibility status.
  3. Provides options for building customized views.
  4. Pinpoints common eligibility hinderances providers face as well as providers at-risk of losing their TRS certification.
  5. Maps child care providers across Texas and visualizes the density of TRS providers.

dashboard screenshots for screening early child care centers

Various screens from the TRS screening dashboard
 

Outcomes

While the tool is new, it is already making a difference in operations at the Collaborative for Children. At the level of TRS assessment, it is being used daily by child-care consultants where it:

  1. Aids them in identifying a pre-certification network, allowing them to reach out to providers not currently certified but who are TRS eligible.
  2. Gives a complete picture of the current child-care provider population. Previously, there was a bit of guesswork when approximating what percentage of providers who offered subsidy were also TRS eligible.
  3. Allows data-driven goals to be set for TRS recruitment. For instance, a consultant can sort the X most promising providers by the number of licensing deficiencies they have incurred.

We hope this tool not only makes a difference locally but can be made available statewide to other child care organizations. Hopefully, this technology can make it easy to screen and recruit high-quality child care providers.

 

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About the Author

Niha Pereira

Niha is a data scientist at January Advisors. She enjoys using data and technology to support her community and local do-gooders. You can read more about her background on LinkedIn