Bridging the gap between programs with the Texas Early Learning Standards "Crosswalk" tool

Early care and education programs in Texas follow different standards: Head Start Program Performance Standards, Child Care Licensing Minimum Standards, or local school district standards. Programs must also navigate a complex system of options for quality improvement efforts.  Child Care providers serving subsidized children may participate in the Texas Rising Star program, while public schools, Head Start, and child care may all participate in the Texas School Ready! Program. Multiple organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the National Association of Child Care Professionals (NACCP), the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), and others offer voluntary quality accreditation services.  Standards and review processes vary considerably among these quality improvement strategies, as well.

Parents, providers, and policymakers struggle with this confusing landscape of regulations and standards.  For parents, the complicated choices related to selecting quality care are made more confusing.  For providers, knowledge is needed on where standards overlap and where they depart, as the push for collaboration among child care, Head Start, and Public Schools has increased dramatically in recent times.  The future of early care and education is integrated mixed delivery systems, which requires that all sectors have a shared understanding of each other's program requirements. Finally, policymakers must be given the tools to understand the competing definitions of program quality operating throughout early care and education in order to make informed decisions related to program funding.

The Improving Head Start for Readiness Act of 2007 required the Governor of each state to establish a State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care.  The federal legislation requires that each Council:

identify opportunities for, and barriers to, collaboration and coordination among Federally-funded and State-funded child development, child care, and early childhood education programs and services, including collaboration and coordination among State agencies responsible for administering such program

To satisfy this mandate, the Texas Early Learning Council will create an online early care and education comparison tool. Also known as a "crosswalk, " the new comparison tool will allow early childhood stakeholders to readily investigate and compare competing sets of regulations and standards operating in Texas early care and education. The tool will be designed for multiple audiences (Parents, Providers, and Policymakers), and each audience will have the ability to query a database of program standards on key variables such as safety standards, staff qualifications, curriculum, etc.

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