More Mississippi students than ever before are gaining access to high-quality early learning this year thanks to increased funding for the state’s pre-K program.

One big reason is the strong data on education outcomes that we have collected and shared in our state.

Since we began our first state-funded pre-K program four years ago with $3 million, compelling data gathered on kindergarten readiness from our Early Learning Collaboratives has demonstrated the impact and importance of high-quality early childhood education for Mississippi’s littlest learners.

We’ve learned that each year, students in our collaboratives achieve higher kindergarten readiness rates at the end of pre-K than students in other public pre-K programs.

Combined with earlier outside research showing that students who attended other publicly funded pre-K programs in Mississippi were 50 percent more likely to be proficient in reading by third grade — and had higher eighth-grade proficiency and graduation rates than students who attended private pre-K programs or none at all — this data has been essential to the state legislature deciding to increase funding for our program to $6.5 million by this school year.

This is one recent example of how access to timely and reliable education data can help us better understand which classroom practices, programs and policies can benefit children throughout their educational experiences.

Now that all 50 states have longitudinal data systems in place under requirements in the Every Student Succceds Act (ESSA), everyone — from leaders in state departments of education to teachers and parents in their daily interactions — is using education data to make more informed decisions.

Read the full article about education data for early childhood learning by Carey Wright at The Hechinger Report.