Why is a high-quality early childhood education so important?

Research shows that high-quality early childhood programs prepare children for future success in school, work, and life. The period from birth through age 5 is the most important time for growth of the human brain. A child’s brain develops in response to the child’s experiences by building neurological networks in reaction to the environment. A child’s experiences in a child care program can significantly contribute to that brain development and the future success of the child.

High-quality child care programs are essential, not only to children, but also to their families and to the communities in which they live. Parents need stable, high-quality care in order to be productive at work. They count on their child care provider to ensure that their child is safe, healthy, and learning during those hours they must be at work.

Indiana school systems want children to enter school prepared and ready to succeed. Hoosier businesses need a high-quality work force both now and in the future. In fact, studies have shown that high-quality early childhood programs increase the graduation rate, reduce the future crime rate, and can save up to $16 for every dollar invested. High-quality child care programs are essential to everyone.

What is Paths to QUALITY?

To improve the quality of child care programs, Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS), such as the one here in Indiana, Paths to QUALITY™, are being used nationally. Quality Rating and Improvement Systems assess the quality of care within a program, work to improve that quality level, and give families an easy-to-recognize symbol that makes the difficult decision of choosing child care easier. These systems also provide an accountability measure for funding and create an alignment between licensing, subsidy, and quality across child care, Head Start, and the Department of Education’s early learning guidelines.

Paths to QUALITY gives families a tool for selecting a child care program. Families can look for the Paths to QUALITY logo to determine what level their provider has achieved. Each level builds on the foundation of the previous one, resulting in significant quality improvements at each stage and in national accreditation. The system validates child care programs for ongoing efforts to achieve higher quality standards; also it provides incentives and awards for success.

What does each level indicate?

Level 1: Health and safety needs of children met.

Level 2: Environment supports children’s learning.

Level 3: Planned curriculum guides child development and school readiness.

Level 4: National accreditation (the highest indicator of quality) is achieved.

Where can I find more information about Paths to QUALITY ratings and providers?

Paths to QUALITY is administered by Indiana’s Family and Social Services and Administration. For information at the local (Marion County) level, contact your regional child care referral agency, the Indiana Association for Child Care Resource and Referral.