Current Initiatives

Data Design Initiative


Our goal is to improve capacity for using data and evidence to advance the well-being of Head Start children and families.

Our Work?

NHSA is working with practitioners, OHS staff, vendors, and experts to make progress on critical Data Design projects.

Moving Forward

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About the Data Design Initiative

As part of our goal of advancing the well-being of Head Start children and their families, NHSA has undertaken the Data Design Initiative. The Data Design Initiative builds off of the 2016 “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 that Head Start programs generate a significant amount of data, much of it is not used to inform and improve practice. The Data Design Initiative aims to bring down the barriers that are hindering programs’ abilities to collect, analyze, and share data and other evidence. NHSA hopes to help make it possible for every staff member and program to learn from their own and others’ experience and 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.


From the very first Data Design Huddle in Austin, TX, 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. A full summary of all projects can be found in the Progress Update document in the bar on the right side of this page, and highlights can be found below.


  • The Head Start Data Analytics Playbook is live, offering Head Start 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!
  • NHSA launched the Academy, which features the Data Literacy Credential to meet the field's needs for ongoing data training.
  • The Junction, an online consumer review platform for early childhood programs, is live and accepting reviews!
  • 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.
  • NHSA worked with a group of graduate students from Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University to create useful visualizations from the Program Information Report. The work is detailed in a blog post, which links to the two dashboards that were created about teacher turnover and at-risk populations.
  • In partnership with BrightHive, NHSA won the Early Childhood Innovation Prize in 2018 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 is encouraging current and future researchers, vendors, and others to embrace this vision and take needed actions to bring it to life.


NHSA Wants to Know!

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

Have questions, comments, or ideas? Email


Want more regular, detailed updates on the Data Design Initiative? Sign up for our mailing list so we can keep you in the know.

Overview of the first Data Design Huddle, in Austin, Texas, in Dec. 2017.

Progress update on the projects of the Data Design Initiative as of December 2020

Using data, evidence, and evaluation to improve outcomes for children and families

Read Shelley Metzenbaum's inspiring remarks keynoting the 2018 CQI & Research Luncheon - April 2018