Glossary

  • Accommodation

    Refers to adjustments or adaptations made in standards and assessment tools to allow children with Special Needs or English-Language Learners to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Accommodations help provide children with equal access to education by meeting the child's individual learning needs and capabilities. Accommodation addresses how the child is expected to learn and demonstrate learning, not what a child is expected to learn. Compare with: Modification.

  • Accreditation

    A process through which child care programs voluntarily meet specific standards to receive endorsement from a professional agency. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Accreditation Commission for Early Care and Education Programs (NAC) are among the organizations that offer accreditation programs for child care.

  • Adult-Child Ratio

    Refers to the number of qualified adult caregivers relative to the number of children in a child care program. In determining the regulatory adult-to-child ratio, the ages of children served are also considered. In high Quality programs, there is typically a low adult-child/staff-child ratio.

  • Center Based Child Care

    Child care provided in nonresidential group settings, such as within public or private schools, churches, preschools, day care centers, or nursery schools. See related: Community Cased Child Care/Community Based Organization (CBO).

  • Certification (Staff)

    The process by which an individual or institution attests to or is shown to have met a prescribed standard or set of standards.

  • Child Care Assistance

    Any public or private financial assistance intended to lower the cost of child care for families. See related: Child Care Subsidy.

  • Child Care Provider

    An organization or individual that provides early care and education services.

  • Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (CCR&R)

    Local and statewide entities, usually funded by CCDF, that provide a range of services to the community, such as guidance and referrals to parents seeking child care; professional development and trainings for early childhood professionals; as well as parenting and other educational resources for families. Some CCR&R agencies also administer child care Subsidies.

  • Child Care Subsidy

    A type of Child Care Assistance primarily funded by the federal CCDF program.

  • Child Development

    The process by which children acquire skills in the areas of social, emotional, intellectual, speech and language, and physical development, including fine and gross motor skills. Developmental stages describe the expected, sequential order of gaining skills and competencies that children typically acquire. See related: Developmental Milestones; Approaches to Learning.

  • Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential

    A widely earned Credential administered by the Council for Professional Recognition.

  • Community-Based Child Care/Community-Based Organization (CBO)

    A nonprofit organization that provides educational or related services to children and families within their local community. CBOs that provide child care may be associated with faith-based organizations or other nonprofit organizations. CBOs are subject to section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. See related: Center-based Child Care.

  • Credentials

    Academic degrees, licenses or certificates awarded to individuals who successfully complete state or national requirements to enter specialized roles in the early childhood Workforce. See related: Certification (Staff).

  • Curriculum

    A written plan that includes goals for children's development and learning; the experiences through which they will achieve the goals; what staff and parents should do to help children achieve the goals; and the materials needed to support the implementation of the curriculum.

  • Developmental Domains

    Refers to the five domains of Child Development: Physical, the development and growth of the child's body, muscles, and senses; Social, how the child relates, plays and talks to others; Emotional, the child's awareness of self, how the child feels about himself, expression of feelings and how he helps care for himself; Cognitive, the way children think, reason, solve problems, and understand and use language and; Adaptive/Self-help, how children adapt to their environments. Developmental domains are interrelated; what happens in one domain influences development in the other domains.

  • Developmental Milestones

    A set of functional skills or age-specific tasks that experts agree most children should be able to do within a certain age range. Milestones enable families and professionals to monitor a child's learning, behavior, and development and can signal when there might be a developmental delay or cause for greater concern.

  • Developmental Outcomes

    Describes the condition of a child's developmental health and life trajectory that can be impacted by determinants such as: family income and education level, access to health and child care services, choice of neighborhood, social support networks, and genetics, among others.

  • Developmental Screening and Assessment

    The practice of systematically measuring a child's development across multiple domains and looking for signs of developmental delays. Screening and assessment tools are typically administered by professionals in healthcare, community, or school settings with children and families and can consist of formal questionnaires or checklists that ask targeted questions about a child’s development.

  • Developmentally Appropriate

    Practices, behaviors, activities and settings that are adapted to match the age, characteristics and developmental progress of a specific group of children. Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) in early learning settings reflects knowledge of Child Development and an understanding of the unique personality, learning style and family background of each child.

  • Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)

    Specialized instruction that is provided by trained early childhood Special Education professionals to young children with disabilities in various early childhood settings such as Preschool, child care, Prekindergarten and Head Start, among others. ECSE is mandated by the federal Part B of the IDEA.

  • Early Head Start

    A federally funded program that serves low-income pregnant women and families with infants and toddlers to support optimal child development while helping parents/families move toward economic independence. EHS programs generally offer the following core services: (1) high Quality early education in and out of the home; (2) family support services, home visits and parent education; (3) comprehensive health and mental health services, including services for pregnant and postpartum women; (4) nutrition; (5) child care, and, (6) ongoing support for parents through case management and peer support. Programs have a broad range of flexibility in how they provide these services.

  • Early Intervention (EI)

    Services that are designed to address the developmental needs of infants and toddlers with disabilities, ages birth to three years, and their families. Early intervention services are generally administered by qualified personnel and require the development of an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). Early intervention is authorized by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C.

  • Early Learning and Development Guidelines/Standards

    A set of expectations, guidelines, or Developmental Milestones that describe what all children from birth until kindergarten entry should know and be able to do as well as their disposition toward learning. These standards/guidelines must be developmentally, linguistically, and culturally appropriate and cover all Developmental Domains.

  • Early Literacy

    Refers to what children know about and are able to do as it relates to communication, language, reading, and writing before they can actually read and write. Children's experiences with conversation, books, print and stories (oral and written) all contribute to their early literacy skills.

  • English Language Learner (ELL)

    Refers to a child who is learning English and comes from a home or environment where the primary language is not English. ELLs are generally proficient in their own language but are usually unable to read, write, speak or understand English at a level comparable to their English proficient peers and native English speakers. See related: Dual Language Learners (DLL); Limited English Speaking/Limited English Proficiency (LEP); Bilingual.

  • Evidence-Based Practice

    A practice, regimen or service that is grounded in evidence and can demonstrate that it improves outcomes. Elements of evidence-based practice are standardized, replicable and effective within a given setting and for a particular group of participants. See related: Best Practices.

  • Family Child Care

    Child care provided for one or more unrelated children in a provider's home setting. Most states have regulatory guidelines for family child care homes based on the number and ages of children they serve as well as the number of hours their business operates. See related: Home-based Child Care; Kith and Kin Child Care; Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) Child Care; Informal Child Care.

  • Fine Motor Skills

    Actions that require control of the small muscles of the body to achieve skillfulness. Examples of fine motor skills include drawing, cutting with scissors, handwriting, and playing a musical instrument. Compare with: Gross Motor Skills.

  • Gross Motor Skills

    A child's development of large muscle movement and control. Examples of gross motor skills include crawling, running, and jumping. Compare with: Fine Motor Skills.

  • Head Start

    A federal program that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income families. The program is designed to foster stable family relationships, enhance children's physical and emotional well-being and support children's cognitive skills so they are ready to succeed in school. Federal grants are awarded to local public or private agencies, referred to as "grantees" to provide Head Start services. Head Start began in 1965 and is administered by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

  • Home-Based Child Care

    Child care provided in a caregiver's home setting. Home-based child care may be regulated or unregulated, paid or unpaid, listed or unlisted. Narrower terms for specific home-based Child Care Arrangements might include Family Child Care, Informal Child Care and Family, Friend and Neighbor Care.

  • Home-Visiting Programs

    Programs that aim to improve child outcomes by helping high-risk parents who are pregnant or have young children to enhance their parenting skills. Most home visiting programs match trained professionals and/or paraprofessionals with families to provide a variety of services in families' home settings. Examples of home visiting services can include health check-ups, developmental screenings, referrals, parenting advice, and guidance with navigating community services.

  • Inclusion

    The principle of enabling all children, regardless of their diverse backgrounds or abilities, to participate actively in natural settings within their learning environments and larger communities.

  • Income Eligibility

    Refers to one's ability to qualify for a program or service based on household income and related criteria, like family size.

  • Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

    Outlines the special education and related services that a child between the ages of 3 and 21 years must receive if they have been identified as having a disability. The IEP represents an agreement between the school or child care provider and the parent/family and is required based on the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B. A child has to be reevaluated every three years to maintain eligibility and continue to receive support services.

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

    A federal law enacted in 1990 that makes free appropriate public education (FAPE) available to eligible children with disabilities. The IDEA, previously known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), governs how states and public agencies provide Special Education, Early Intervention, and related services to eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. See related:Part B of the IDEA;Part C of the IDEA.

  • Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA)

    Assessments developed by states and aligned with states' early learning and development standards to assess what children know and are able to do as they enter kindergarten. KEAs are sometimes referred to as kindergarten readiness assessments (KRAs).

  • Learning Disability

    A general term that includes specific kinds of learning problems or impairments that affect one's ability to learn and use certain skills.

  • License Exempt Child Care

    Legally operated child care that is exempt from regulatory requirements set forth by the state or the local licensing agency. To receive subsidies, license/legally exempt child care must comply with the requirements of the Subsidy system (e.g., mandatory criminal background checks, healthy and safety inspections, etc.).

  • Licensed Capacity

    Refers to the maximum number of children allowed to be in a licensed or regulated child care program or setting at any one time. Capacity is based upon the number of children for which adequate facilities and teachers/caregivers are provided, in accordance with supervision and space requirements.

  • Licensed Child Care

    Child care programs operated in homes or in facilities that fall within the regulatory system of a state or community and comply with those regulations. Many states have different licensing and regulatory requirements.

  • Licensing Inspection

    Onsite inspections of a child care program to monitor compliance with licensing or other regulatory requirements. Once a child care program has been licensed, it will receive inspections to ensure ongoing compliance. See related: Monitoring.

  • Licensing or Regulatory Requirements

    Refers to requirements that providers must meet to legally operate child care services in a state or locality, including registration requirements established under state, local, or Tribal law.

  • McKinney-Vento Act

    The primary piece of federal legislation related to the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness. The Act authorizes the federal Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Program which entitles homeless children and youth to a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), including a Preschool education.

  • Military Child Care

    Regulated child care supported by the Department of Defense (DoD) to children of military personnel.

  • Mixed/Multi-Age Grouping

    Grouping children or students so that the chronological age span within a group is greater than one year. Multiple age grouping is most prevalent in Family or Home-based child care settings.

  • Modification

    Refers to a strategy that changes or modifies what a child with Special Needs is expected to learn. For example, a child with a cognitive impairment may only be expected to learn and demonstrate comprehension of a portion of the material taught to a Typically Developing Child. Only children with IEPs are entitled to modifications. Compare with: Accommodation.

  • Monitoring

    The process used to enforce child care providers' compliance with licensing rules and regulations. States use "differential monitoring" as a regulatory method for determining the frequency or depth of monitoring based on an assessment of the child care facility's compliance history and other quality indicators.

  • Nashville Area Association for the Education of Young Children (NAAEYC)

    Membership based organization that provides advocacy, leadership and professional development opportunities for early childcare providers of children birth to eight. Part of a national organization, National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). NAEYC also provides voluntary accreditation consising of four steps to ensure continuous quality improvement in school sites. NAEYC Accreditation is vais up to five years.

  • Native Language

    The language that a person learns at home as a child, typically from a parent. Native language is sometimes referred to as one's "mother tongue."

  • Observational Tools

    Refers to instruments that are used to observe aspects of the quality of a learning setting or environment. Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) commonly use the Environment Rating Scales (i.e., ECERS,ITERS,FCCERS, SACCERS) and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) to measure and improve the quality of the learning environment and teacher effectiveness, respectively.

  • Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K)

    Programs designed for three and four year olds that focus on School Readiness. Though sometimes used interchangeably with “Preschool” and "Nursery School," Pre-K programs are typically government funded and stipulate compliance with quality and accountability standards that exceed regulatory requirements for other types of early learning settings (e.g., by requiring specific advanced qualifications for teachers). Pre-K programs are commonly operated in conjunction with public school districts, but also exist in various early education settings. See related: Mixed Delivery Systems.

  • Preschool

    Programs that provide early education and care to children before they enter kindergarten, typically from ages 2.5-5 years. Preschools may be publicly or privately operated and may receive public funds.

  • Professional Development (PD)

    Refers to a continuum of learning and support activities designed to prepare individuals for work with, and on behalf of, young children and their families, as well as ongoing experiences to enhance this work. Professional development encompasses education, training, and Technical Assistance (TA), which leads to improvements in the knowledge, skills, practices, and dispositions of early education professionals.

  • Quality

    The characteristics of learning environments that promote the physical, social, emotional and cognitive development of young children. High quality programs typically exceed state regulatory requirements, utilizing Developmentally Appropriate curricula and prioritizing adequate teacher and administrative qualifications, ongoing Professional Development, and Family Engagement strategies, among others qualities.

  • Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)

    A system typically administered by a state or local jurisdiction used to assess, improve and communicate the quality of early care and learning settings. Most incorporate some variation of the following elements: quality standards; a system for rating/measuring and monitoring program quality; resources to improve quality such as grants for classroom materials and staff scholarships; and outreach services to educate and communicate with key stakeholders about choosing high Quality early education. QRIS may also create a range of financial incentives to motivate programs to achieve higher levels of quality. See related: Tiered Reimbursement System; Quality Initiatives.

  • Redetermination Period

    The period of time that a family can receive assistance before having to reestablish that they are still eligible for benefits (e.g., a child care Subsidy).

  • Regulated Child Care

    Child care facilities and homes that are required to comply with either a state's regulatory system or another system of regulation. There is considerable state variation in the characteristics of the homes and facilities that must comply with regulations, as well as in the regulations themselves. See related: Licensed Child Care.

  • Reimbursement Rates

    Refers to the amount of money that child care providers who accept CCDF Vouchers (Subsidies) are reimbursed by the state to care for low-income children. The amount Providers are reimbursed depends on a variety of factors, such as whether their program participates in the state's QRIS. A program or provider's reimbursement rate may also depend on characteristics of the children they serve, such as whether they care for children with Special Needs.

  • School Based Child Care

    Child care programs that occur in school facilities.

  • School Readiness

    A term to describe the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to successfully transition to, and perform well in, the early school years. School readiness is typically determined based on children's developmental status and progress in the following five domains: language and literacy development, cognition and general knowledge, Approaches to Learning, physical well-being and motor development, and social and emotional development.

  • Sliding Fee Scale

    A formula for determining the child care fees or Copayments that families are required to pay their child care provider, usually based on family income. Families that are eligible for CCDF-subsidized child care pay fees according to an income-based sliding fee scale developed by the state, territory, or tribe.

  • Special Education

    Instruction that is designed to meet the unique needs of children who have identified learning differences or disabilities. To be eligible for special education services, the child's disability must adversely affect his or her educational performance and require specially designed instruction that cannot be addressed through general education classes alone, with or without individual accommodations. Per the IDEA, special education and related services are provided at no cost to families, and can include special instruction in the classroom, at home, in hospitals, or in other institutions or settings. See related: IEP; IFSP; Special Needs; ECSE.

  • Special Needs

    A term used to describe a child with an identified learning disability or physical or mental health condition requiring Special Education services, or other specialized services and supports. See related: Early Intervention (EI), IEP; IFSP; Special Needs.

  • Subsidy

    Private or public assistance that reduces the cost of child care for families.

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

    A federally funded grant program, created upon the enactment of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) in 1996, that provides funds to states, territories, and tribes to design and operate programs that help needy families achieve economic security and child and family well-being, including through the provision of child care services. States vary in how they administer CCDF and TANF. Lead agencies may operate the two programs jointly or may align particular policies and practices across programs. In some states, families interact with both programs as the operation of particular functions of child care assistance (e.g., eligibility determination, authorization, Redetermination, etc.) may be distributed across programs. States can utilize several methods for using TANF funds to pay for child care, such as by commingling and/or transferring a portion of their TANF funds to their state’s CCDF, or spending TANF directly for child care. TANF replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS).

  • Tennessee Early Learning Developmental Standards (TN-ELDS)

    State-developed learning standards for children ages birth to five based on research about the processes, sequences, and long term consequences of early learning development. Department of Education licensed sites follow TN-ELDS, but all school sites, providers and educators can use the standards as a resource.

  • Transitional Child Care

    Child care subsidies offered to families that are no longer income eligible for public assistance, generally due to employment, as they transition to greater financial independence. The Family Support Act of 1986 established a federal Transitional Child Care program, which was later replaced by the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF).

  • Two-Generation Programs

    Programs that provide comprehensive services for both parents/families and children in order to simultaneously promote healthy child development and economic self-sufficiency. In two generation programs, services such as job training, parent education and housing assistance are provided along with early education programs. See related: Dual Generation Strategies.

  • Vouchers and Contracts

    Refers to forms or mechanisms of payment that income eligible families can use to help pay for child care. Vouchers are issued to eligible families to pay for any legal child care they select that accepts state payments—including unregulated Informal Family Child Care, Family-based Child Care and Center-based Child Care. By contrast, contracts are pre-negotiated arrangements made between jurisdictions and child care centers and/or networks of family child care homes to provide subsidized care to blocks of eligible children that they enroll.

  • Waiver

    Permission granted by a regulatory agency that allows an individual or entity to forgo or delay the implementation of a requirement, usually temporarily. For example, states and territories can apply for temporary waivers to defer implementing certain CCDF program requirements.

  • Wrap Around Child Care Programs

    Child care program in which a team of providers collaborate to improve the lives of the children and families they serve by creating, enhancing, and accessing a coordinated and comprehensive system of supports. Supports might include formal services and interventions, such as enrichment and academic supports outside of regular child care programming, community and health services like doctor visits, and interpersonal assistance such as family counseling. Wrap-around programs also sometimes refer to care provided before, after or outside of Nontraditional Hour Child Care to accommodate family schedules.