Portland State University

High quality early childhood programs have an “ROI” of $4-9 for every $1 of investment. Countless studies show that public investment in early learning can have a range of benefits to the child and to society.

Starting in 2017, dozens of early learning organizations came together as the Oregon Early Childhood Coalition. Years of advocacy followed, and that led to the Oregon state legislature allocating $200 million to fund early childhood programs and services.

This funding also allowed Portland State University to gather data from across the state and make it available to researchers and practitioners in Oregon. After a public procurement process, PSU selected January Advisors to help them work with the Oregon Early Childhood Coalition to collect data and create a dashboard to help them plan.

Based on our work with Children at Risk, Good Reason Houston, and Collaborative for Children, we knew how policy and technology impact the availability of early childhood data in Texas. We were ready to see if those lessons also applied in Oregon.

Taking inventory of the data

PSU had a vision for their dashboard. They had been collecting and evaluating data from programs across the state. Using that data as a starting point, we explored trends, gaps, and identified methods for keeping the data up to date.

Ultimately, we developed five categories of data for the map that contained 50 different indicators. This included community assets, such as QRIS-ceritified child care centers, as well as calculations like the overall “demand” based on Census/ACS data and workforce centers, and demographic data such as race, ethnicity, and income.

Built for researchers and practitioners

Next, we had a series of meetings with the members of the Oregon Early Childhood Coalition to understand their needs. The members of this coalition are the primary users of the dashboard. They wanted to use the tool to understand the distribution of early learning resources by various geographies, such as school district or county. Our feedback sessions made it easier to build a dashboard that was easy for users to understand and run their own analyses.

animated image showing user interaction with the portland state university early childhood education dashboard

On-the-fly data analysis

Perhaps the biggest success story of the dashboard is how it helps Oregon’s early childhood education community use data to answer research questions. We set out to bring critical datasets together and design a dashboard around stakeholder questions. The dashboard makes it easy to configure the inputs, filter the data, and generate a map.

static image of the portland state university early learning dashboard

Over the years, we’ve continued to collaborate with PSU on this dashboard and other interactive tools for the early childhood community in Oregon.