The On-Track System (TOTS) Strategic Plan

One of the requirements of the Texas Early Learning Council is to develop recommendations for an early childhood data exchange system.  The Council is moving beyond just developing recommendations for a statewide, early childhood data system; instead, the Council is working towards the actual planning and design of a data system for Texas.  This new information exchange system will be known as The On-Track System (TOTS).  This month, the Council released the Strategic Plan for TOTS, developed by the Council and our consultant on the TOTS project.

It is the Council's goal that TOTS becomes a comprehensive, early childhood data system for Texas, increasing cooperation and collaboration among state agencies and early childhood stakeholders.  The goal for TOTS is to combine data from various Texas agencies into an accessible and useable information exchange system.  TOTS will provide parents, school districts, researchers, and policymakers more complete information about the early childhood system in Texas, and inform decision-making about successful programs and services.

The completion of the TOTS Strategic Plan is a major milestone in this project for the Council and for early childhood stakeholders across Texas.  The TOTS Strategic Plan is various sections, including an outline of the vision for the system, an assessment of the current early childhood data systems in Texas and other states, and recommendations for the future.  Review the full report on our website at: www.earlylearningtexas.org/tots.

Currently, early childhood data collection and storage in Texas is fragmented, available in different context by different agencies.  Early childhood data is inconsistent, often duplicate or redundant, or inaccurate or missing altogether.  Also, there are no statewide guidelines for sharing data between state agencies, otherwise known as data governance.  As indicated in the Strategic Plan, the challenges associated with the current data environment in Texas must be addressed for TOTS to be feasible.  The Strategic Plan also identifies other data governance challenges for TOTS: privacy/security, and regulatory compliance; data usability and functional fit; data sharing across agencies; unique state identifiers for students, programs, and staff; hosting; and, technology.

Looking to the future, the Strategic Plan also lists options for building and hosting TOTS.  There are three options for the architecture of TOTS: an integrated data warehouse; a virtual database; and, a master data management (MDM) hub.  Each of these options has different functionality, and build and buy options.  The type of data architecture that is chosen for TOTS, among other factors, will determine the hosting environment, in-house at UTHealth (the Council's fiscal agent) or with an external vendor.

Finally, the Strategic Plan features short-term (3-6 months), mid-term (6 months-1 year), and long-term (after 1 year) recommendations for initiatives to be completed for successful completion of the development and build of TOTS.  Each of the recommendations is organized into initiatives for 5 important categories to ensure success: people; process and policy; technology; data; and, governance.

The TOTS Strategic Plan is an important resource for the development of TOTS, informing the Council's sessions with early childhood stakeholders and subject matter experts.  In the past few months, the Council has hosted many working sessions on the planning, design, and functionality of TOTS.  In July, we hosted a Data Summit, followed by in-depth sessions with stakeholders throughout the month of August on the user functions of TOTS.  In the coming weeks, these sessions will continue with technical subject matter experts on the design of the system.

Are you interested in The On-Track System and the TOTS Strategic Plan?  Please Save the Date for a webinar on the TOTS Strategic Plan, scheduled for Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 1:30 PM CST. Details coming soon!  Information on the TOTS Strategic Plan webinar will be announced on our website, and to our email distribution list.

For more information on TOTS and the Strategic Plan, please visit the Council's webpage on TOTS, www.earlylearningtexas.org/tots.  In the coming months, the Council will release reports on the design and planning of TOTS on this webpage.  Check back often!

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