Glossary of Terms

Apprenticeship: An arrangement between a developing educator and an employer (for example, a child care program) that allows the educator to participate in on-the-job professional learning and related coursework. Apprenticeship programs are often sponsored by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and/or institutions of higher education.

Center-based care: Child care centers provide classroom-like environments where infants, toddlers, and/or preschool-age children are cared for in groups. With one or more teachers for each classroom, a dedicated director, and other staff members, centers tend to be larger and enroll more children than do other types of child care settings. They offer planned educational activities; children may be grouped by age or placed in mixed-age groups. 

Child care centers typically offer full- or part-time schedules and may follow the school year calendar, closing in the summer. They operate in nonresidential commercial buildings and may be owned by an individual, a church, a public school district, or a government agency. Some child care centers operate as  for-profit businesses and are owned by an individual or a chain. 

Child care centers are typically licensed by the state in which they operate, and must abide by a set of basic health and safety requirements. In select cases, states may exempt some child care centers from licensing. Source: Child Care Aware of America. (n.d.). Types of Child Care.

Child care desert: The Center for American Progress defines a child care desert as any census tract with more than 50 children under age 5 that contains either no child care providers, or that has so few options for care that there are more than three times as many children as licensed child care slots. Licensed slots are typically found in center-based early care and education programs, like child care centers, Head Start, and public and private preschool programs, and these programs may have long waiting lists. Child care deserts may also contain unlicensed child care arrangements such as family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care, which many U.S. families rely on, but states generally do not keep records of license-exempt providers. Living in a child care desert may affect parents’ and caregivers’ employment decisions. Source: Center for American Progress. (n.d.). Child Care Deserts.

Consolidation model: Some states have decided to align program administration across state agencies, rather than creating new entities or consolidating existing offices. In these cases, memorandums of understanding or formal agreements dictating each office’s responsibilities can be key to seamless coordination and setting clear administrative responsibilities. Source: Atchison, B. & Diffey, L. (2018). Governance in early childhood education. Education Commission of the States. 

Coordination model: In most states, programmatic authority for early childhood is spread across multiple agencies that are expected to collaborate with each other, often through formal structures. This is the most prevalent approach to early childhood governance and may occur in many ways such as through formal agreements across agencies, a governor’s coordinating office, and/or a children’s cabinet. Source: Atchison, B. & Diffey, L. (2018). Governance in early childhood education. Education Commission of the States. 

Cost estimation model: “Most private industries commonly use cost estimation models or ‘cost models’ to analyze the costs of delivering a good or service. For the child care sector, these basic business tools can help calculate the cost of providing quality care. To design effective government intervention, it’s important to know how it impacts the child care business model and the market. Cost models can be the key to understanding these impacts” Source: Bipartisan Policy Center. (2022).

Creation model: A few states have looked to create new entities responsible for managing all early learning and early childhood programs across the state. These offices become executive branch entities or new departments, and they typically hold most of the early childhood programs and responsibilities. Source: Regenstein, E. & Lipper, K. (2013).

Data Visualization Tool: A tool that makes aggregate data related to early childhood education programs and services available for public view. 

De-identified: De-identified data describes records that have a re-identification code and have enough personally identifiable information removed or obscured so that the remaining information does not identify an individual and there is no reasonable basis to believe that the information can be used to identify an individual. The re-identification code may allow the recipient to match information received from the same source. Source: U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.).

Early childhood integrated data system (ECIDS): Such a system “collects, integrates, maintains, stores, and reports information from early childhood programs across multiple agencies.” Source: Institute of Education Sciences. (n.d.) 

Early intervention: An offering of services to support infants and toddlers (from birth to age 3) who have disabilities or delays in their development.

Family child care (FCC): Family child care providers operate small child care businesses in a residential setting. Typically, this type of care is offered in a provider’s house or apartment, often during nontraditional hours, including overnight or on weekends. FCC educators care for children of all ages, but most commonly do so for infants and toddlers. These programs may be licensed, regulated, or deemed license-exempt by the state, with varying levels of standards and oversight from state to state.

Families may elect to put their child in a FCC program for a variety of reasons, including compatibility with a family’s cultural and linguistic background, geographic accessibility, or a preference for mixed-age groups to allow siblings to receive care together. Source: Administration for Children and Families. (n.d.). Family Child Care Brief. 

Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) care: Family, friend, and neighbor care refers to informal home-based arrangements where child care is provided to a small group of children by a relative, friend, or neighbor. FFN care is often supplied during non-traditional hours by young children’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, elders, or older siblings. It is the most common type of nonparental child care for infants and toddlers in the United States.

Parents choose FFN care for many reasons, including having someone that they know and trust to care for their child, needing care that is flexible and that accommodates their work schedules, or wanting their child to be taken care of in an environment that reflects their family’s culture and language.

FFN providers are unlicensed and not regulated by the state, although in some states they can receive child care subsidies for the care they provide. This contrasts with licensed family child care (FCC) providers, which are licensed by the state and must adhere to specific quality requirements and safety protocols. Source: David and Lucile Packard Foundation. (2020). Centering Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care in the Early Learning System.

Federated system: A sharing system that does not consolidate all data in one warehouse.

Governance: The practice of coordinating institutions, processes and norms to guide collective decision-making and action. Governance provides structure in the form of authority, accountability, and a coherent strategy for achieving a birth-to-age-five system that is aligned with K-3. Source: Regenstein, E. & Lipper, K. (2013).

Mixed-delivery system: Mixed-delivery systems are structured to enable some—or all—publicly-funded pre-K slots to be offered in diverse settings that meet health, safety, and performance standards. For example, in a mixed-delivery system, pre-K slots are offered in child care programs, including center-based child care and family child care homes, that operate for a full day and full year. This means that a variety of settings can meet a parent’s needs for child care that aligns with their work hours. Source: Morris, S. & Smith, L. (2021).

P-20 longitudinal data system (LDS): Such a system “integrates unit-level, high-quality student, staff, and program data that are linked across entities and over time” and spans sectors from multiple early childhood programs to higher education or beyond. Source: Institute of Education Sciences. (n.d.).

Pay parity: Provides community-based early educators with wages (and sometimes benefits) comparable to those received by public-school educators with similar education and experience levels.

Pay scale: A scale (sometimes referred to as a “schedule”) “with clearly differentiated salary increments based on qualifications and years of experience, which provides guidance for salary increases over time.” Source: McLean, C., Austin, L.J.E., Whitebook, M., & Olson, K.L. (2021).

Professional learning: Learning and support activities (e.g., coaching) that help develop educators’ competencies and skills.

Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS): A quality rating and improvement system, or QRIS, is a tool states use to assess and communicate the level of quality in early care and education settings. A QRIS can consider all types of early childhood programs, including family child care centers, Head Start programs, and school-based preschool programs. It typically rates programs using a scale, based on state-defined standards, that assesses program characteristics like staff qualifications and training, curriculum, family partnerships, and health and safety. Source: Center for American Progress

Subsidy rate: The federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, partially funds state-run child care subsidies that lower the cost of child care for low-income families while parents work, go to school, or attend job training. The CCDF does not cover the cost of subsidies for all families eligible under federal guidelines, and the remaining need is not fully met through other funding sources. Source: Chien, N. (2017).

Targeted Pre-K: Pre-K programs in which eligibility is limited by child or family characteristics, most commonly income.

Universal Pre-K: Programs in which the sole eligibility criterion is age.