ECE Glossary

Early Care and Education Terms

Here are some terms related to Early Care and Education that may be helpful to understand.

In early care and education, the term refers to the availability of child care programs when and where a family needs it.

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 centers. Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) also manages a state accreditation process. The National Association for Family Child Care Association offers accreditation for family child care homes. MSDE has a list of other recognized accrediting bodies.

The degree to which the price of early care and education is a feasible family expense. High-quality care may be available but it may not be affordable for a family with a low or moderate income.

A comprehensive approach for determining a child’s healthy development in all  domains of development that may include observation, teacher reflection and developmental checklists intended to inform teaching practice, curriculum and strategies.

Before/After-School Care
School-Age child care offers care to children enrolled in Kindergarten or above before and/or after school and during school holidays/vacations. Programs are licensed by the MSDE Office of Child Care. Programs may operate from a school building or other licensed facility.

Best Practices
A term used to denote the ways of delivering services that have been found through research or experience as the "best" ways to achieve desired outcomes.

Child Care
The care and early education of a child when the child’s parent has given the child’s care over to another for some portion of a 24-hour-day as a supplement to the parent’s primary care of the child.

Child Care Center
Child care provided in a facility that, for part of or all of the day, provides care to children in the absence of the parent. Centers are licensed by the MSDE Office of Child Care (OCC). Programs are licensed or otherwise authorized to provide child care services in a non-residential setting.

Child Care in Public Space
Child care programs that operate in a space owned and managed by a school or a jurisdiction.  These programs are usually intended as a form of subsidy for child care, with rental payments that are well below market rate.  

Child Care Tax Credit
A federal or state credit for the costs of care for qualifying individuals to allow them to work or look for work.

Child Development
The process by which a child grows, develops and acquires skills in the areas of social, emotional, intellectual, speech and language, and physical development, including fine and gross motor skills. Developmental stages refer to the expected, sequential order of acquiring skills that children typically go through. For example, most children crawl before they walk, or use their fingers to feed themselves before they use utensils.

Child Development Associate Credential (CDA)
A credential earned by an early childhood educator who has demonstrated skills in working with young children and their families by successfully completing an established credentialing process. The CDA process is administered by the Council for Professional Recognition.

A planned sequence of instruction incorporating the planned interaction of students with instructional content, materials, resources, and processes for evaluating the attainment of educational objectives. Curricula may be tightly standardized, or may include a high level of instructor or learner autonomy.

DC Charter School  
Like traditional schools run by DC Public Schools, public charter schools are public, tuition-free, and open to all DC residents. Both traditional and public charter schools are committed to quality education. Traditional schools are run by a central authority — the chancellor of DC Public Schools. In contrast, public charter schools are run by nonprofits, under agreements approved by the DC Public Charter School Board (DC PCSB).

Developmental Milestone
A memorable accomplishment on the part of a baby or young child; for example, rolling over, sitting up without support, crawling, pointing to get an adult's attention, or walking.

Developmentally Appropriate

A way of describing practices that are adapted to match the age, characteristics and developmental progress of a specific age group of children.

Early Childhood Education
A branch of educational theory which relates to the teaching of young children up until the age of about eight, with a particular focus on education, notable in the period before the start of compulsory education.

Employer-Sponsored Centers
A child care center located on-site or off-site which is sponsored by a corporation, business, or other employer. Slots are often reserved for employee children.

Family Child Care
A child care program for children younger than 13 years old or to a developmentally disabled person younger than 21 years old for less than 24 hours a day, in a residence other than the child’s home and for which the provider is paid. Family child care is regulated by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE)/Office of Child Care and has a maximum capacity of eight children.

Head Start
Head Start is a program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. The program's services and resources are designed to foster stable family relationships, enhance children's physical and emotional well-being, and establish an environment to develop strong cognitive skills. Head Start programs are established for three and four-year-olds.  Early Head Start is for children under age three.

Household Income
Household income consists of a family unit of one or more persons living in the same household who are related to a householder by birth, marriage, or adoption PLUS all those living in the household that earn an income and contribute to the monthly expenses of the household.

In-Home Child Care/Informal Care
Child care provided in the child's home by relatives or non-relatives during the hours when parents are working. Non-relative caregivers are sometimes called nannies, babysitters and au pairs.

In the State of Maryland, “infant” means a child under 18 months old. “Toddler” means a child 18 months old or older but younger than 2 years old.

An instructional program for children who are 5 years old by September 1st of each academic year. Programs may be operated by a private or public school. Kindergarten is the year of school which precedes entrance to first grade.

Kirwan Commission
The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (“Commission”), also referred to as the “Kirwan Commission,” named for the Chair of the Commission, William “Brit” Kirwan, Chancellor Emeritus of the University System of Maryland, was created by legislation in 2016. It brings together representatives from across the State to review the findings of the Study of Adequacy of Funding for Education in Maryland, hear from national experts on world class education systems, and make recommendations for improving education in Maryland through funding, policies, and resources that will prepare Maryland students “to meet the challenges of a changing global economy, to meet the State’s workforce needs, to be prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce, and to be successful citizens in the 21st century.”

Large Family Child Care Home
A child care program for children younger than 13 years old or to a developmentally disabled person younger than 21 years old for less than 24 hours a day, in a residence other than the child’s home and for which the provider is paid. Family child care is regulated by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE)/Office of Child Care and has a maximum capacity of twelve children and maintaining same ratios as child care centers.

Letter of Compliance (LOC)/License-Exempt Child Care
Legally operating child care that is exempt from the regulatory system of the state or community. Per state code 13A.17, A letter of compliance is a form of licensure that exempts the facility from having to meet certain staff qualification and program requirements. To be eligible for a Letter of Compliance (LOC) the program must be operated by a tax-exempt religious organization in school buildings exclusively for children who are enrolled in those schools, by whatever name known.

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. States have different levels of regulatory requirements and use different terms (e.g., licensing, certification, registration).

OCC - Office of Child Care
The Office of Child Care's Licensing Branch inspects and licenses all child care centers and family child care providers in the state and oversees Maryland’s subsidized child care program, the state’s Child Care Credentialing System, and Maryland EXCELS – the state’s quality rating and improvement system. The OCC maintains Regional Licensing Offices around Maryland, which are responsible for all child care licensing activities in their geographical areas.

OSSE – Office of the State Superintendent of Schools
DC agency that oversees the licensing, quality rating system, monitoring and compliance,   and city grant opportunities for all Child Development Facilities in the city.  

Parent Choice
Accessibility by parents to a range of types of child care and types of providers. The term often is used to refer to the Federal Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) stipulation that parents receiving subsidies should be able to use all legal forms of care, even if a form of child care would be otherwise unregulated by the state.

Publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs for eligible 4-year-old children administered by local boards of education or qualified community partners with the goal of providing learning experiences to help children develop and maintain school readiness skills. Local school systems shall enroll all 4-year-old applicants from economically disadvantaged or homeless families. Administered by local boards of education and regulated by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).

In DC, free PreK is offered to all 3 and 4 year olds through a lottery system. Students may attend PreK at their in-boundary school or an out of boundary school.

Pre-K Expansion Grants
The Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act in Maryland was fully phased in by FY08. This act significantly increased funding to all local school systems. Local school systems use their General Education dollars to fund the public prekindergarten program. The Prekindergarten Expansion Act provides $4.3 million to fund State Pre-K Expansion to students meeting the income eligibility criteria of 300% or below Federal Poverty Level (FPL) in a half or full-day setting.

The Federal Preschool Development Grant provided $15 million to fund Federally funded Pre-K Expansion to students meeting the income eligibility criteria of 200% or below FPL in full-day settings. Both the State and Federally funded programs require an approved Grant application that meets the respective grant criteria in order to receive funding under these funding sources. Montgomery County currently has eight Pre-K Expansion programs in community-based programs. Most public Pre-K is in MCPS.

Prior Care
The categories of early care and education are considered as they impact on school readiness. Prior care reflects kindergarten students’ enrollment within 12 months prior to starting kindergarten and in Maryland includes child care center, family child care, pre-k, Head Start, non-public nursery, home/informal care.

Quality child care commonly refers to early childhood settings in which children are safe, healthy, and receive appropriate stimulation and early education. Care settings are responsive, allowing children to form secure attachments to nurturing adults. Quality programs or providers offer engaging, appropriate activities in settings that facilitate healthy growth and development, and prepare children for or promote their success in school and life.

Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS)
A system developed by individual states to examine and increase the quality of child care programs based on a set of standards or requirements.  In Maryland the system is Maryland EXCELS and uses a rating scale from 1-5 (5 being the highest).

Regulated Child Care
Child care centers and family child care homes that comply with either a state's regulatory system or another system of regulation. A related term is "licensed child care," which often refers to the standard of regulation.

School Readiness
School readiness is often defined as children possessing the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for success in school and for later learning and life. School readiness starts with health and physical development, social and emotional development and cognitive development. School readiness includes children being ready for school, families being ready to support their children's learning, and schools being ready for children.

School-Based Child Care
Child care programs that occur in school facilities.

Screening Tool
A specific tool used in early education to gain knowledge about a child’s development to identify red flags in development and to inform teaching practice.

Sliding Fee Scale
A formula for determining the amount of child care fees to be paid by parents, usually based on income.

Standards (Learning)
Learning standards are concise, clearly articulated descriptions of what students should know and be able to do at a specific stage of their educational journey.

Subsidized Child Care
Child care that is at least partially funded by public or charitable funds to decrease its cost for parents. In Maryland there exists the State Child Care Subsidy Program and in Montgomery County an additional subsidy exists in the Working Parents Assistance Program (WPA).

Two-generation Approach
A two-generation approach provides opportunities for and to meet the needs of vulnerable children and their families together. The programs build education, economic supports, social capital, and health and well-being to create a legacy of economic security that passes from one generation to the next.

Unlicensed Child Care
Child care programs that have not been licensed and regulated by the state. The term often refers to informal care. In Maryland informal care refers only to care by a relative.

In the child care field, refers to a form of payment for subsidized child care. States often have different definitions regarding the exact nature of vouchers, and sometimes refer to them as certificates/subsidies.

Wrap Around Child Care Programs
Child care designed to extend hours of service between another early childhood program's hours and the hours that parents work.

Case Study

Supporting Work-Life Balance for Working Parents

Chevo Consulting, LLC, in Rockville, Maryland, prides itself on providing a supportive, family-friendly culture. As part of its benefits package, this management consulting firm offers a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA).