Data Design Initiative

Data Design Initiative

The Data Design Initiative improves capacity for using data and evidence to advance the wellbeing of Head Start children and families.

The Data Design Initiative builds off of the Moneyball for Head Start report, which outlined a vision for continuous improvement using data, evidence, and evaluation to improve outcomes at all levels of Head Start. The revised Head Start Program Performance Standards embrace many of these principles, emphasizing the importance of bringing quality improvement to the field.

Despite the fact Head Start programs generate a significant amount of data, much of it is not used to inform and improve practice. NHSA hopes to make it possible for every staff member and program to collaborate to discover increasingly effective and cost-effective practices. This requires readily accessible, understandable, and easy-to-use data systems that, at the same time, protect individual privacy.

Data Spotlights

The What and Why of Child Assessments

Child assessments determine how young children are developing across all developmental domains and evaluate their strengths, progress, and needs. It…


Mapping Teacher Turnover and Student Homelessness

NHSA worked with Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University to create data visualization tools analyzing two critical trends in Head…


Data Design Highlights

NHSA is working with practitioners, the Office of Head Start, vendors, and experts to make progress on critical data projects. From the very first huddle in December 2017, approximately a dozen projects emerged. As the work has continued since then, this list has expanded to include nearly 20 projects, which we expected to continue to evolve even further as the initiative advances and additional insights are gained.

  • The Head Start Data Analytics Playbook is live, offering practitioners examples of data visualizations used by their colleagues to support and improve their work with children and families. We recently launched our first digital play as well!
  • The Academy at NHSA now features the Data Literacy Credential to meet the field's needs for ongoing data training.
  • NHSA has launched the Developing Data Capacity toolkit, a useful resource for those looking to hire or contract someone to do data work, such as questions to ask when interviewing, skills to look for in a candidate for various positions, boilerplate job descriptions, and language for RFPs to retain analytic services.
  • In partnership with BrightHive, NHSA won the Early Childhood Innovation Prize for a multi-site pilot project called, "Helping Children Thrive through Community-led Outcome Metrics."
  • NHSA has drafted a one-page overview laying out the desired characteristics for better, simpler assessments in Head Start and is currently developing a rubric for evaluating assessments against these principles.

NHSA hopes to enlist other partners in making the changes needed to transform Head Start data into the insight-generating, performance-improving resource. NHSA welcomes suggestions, feedback, and involvement from those who see opportunities for refining this content and bringing this vision to life.

Questions, comments, or data initiative ideas? Email:


Better, Simpler Assessments Download

NHSA has drafted a one-page overview laying out the desired characteristics for better, simpler assessments.

Initiative Progress Update

December 2020 report on the projects of the Data Design Initiative.

Report: Moneyball for Head Start

Moneyball recommends ways to use data, evidence, and evaluation to improve outcomes for children and families.