Frequently Asked Questions

Ready for school

Why High-Quality Pre-K?

Research shows that attending high-quality Pre-K helps prepare four-year-old children for success in school and life. Children who participate in high-quality Pre-K have stronger math and reading skills in elementary school. They also have the opportunity to develop foundational social and emotional skills. These children are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. Pre-K is one of the early steps families can take in supporting their child’s educational success.

What do we mean by “high-quality?”

High-quality Pre-K programs focus on academic and social-emotional growth at the child’s level of learning. While all centers follow health and safety guidelines, high-quality programs emphasize positive interactions between children and their teachers, peers, and the environment.

High-Quality Pre-K Indicators

  • Language & Literacy
    • Do teachers speak with a warm tone without using “baby talk”?
    • Do teachers introduce and explain new words to children?
    • Do teachers encourage children to talk about their feelings, classroom activities, and experiences outside of school?
    • Are age-appropriate books available for children and do teachers consistently read to children?
  • Social-Emotional Focus
    • Do teachers encourage children to keep trying when they don’t get something right the first time?
    • Are children encouraged to use their words to express their feelings and solve problems among their peers?
    • Do teachers create a caring community by helping children learn to play, work together, make friends, and solve problems?
    • Do teachers meet children’s diverse developmental, cultural, linguistic and educational needs?
  • Experiential Learning
    • Are children encouraged to get involved in their daily classroom activities, including conversations with classmates and teachers?
    • Do teachers use games, songs, or other activities to encourage learning during wait times between activities?
    • Does every child have the opportunity to interact with their teacher(s)?
    • When children are playing and learning on their own, do teachers observe and assist when children need help?
    • Do children have the opportunity to practice what they are learning with hands-on activities?
    • Do children use materials appropriately and seem to understand what items belong where? For example, gluing paper together and putting books back on the classroom bookshelf.
  • Learning in Steps
    • Do teachers capture each child’s daily progress towards his/her goals?
    • Do children use prior lesson skills to solve harder problems in later lessons?
    • Do materials and activities provide feedback to children without teacher input? For example, a puzzle piece that won’t fit gives direct feedback to a child that the piece is in the wrong place.
    • Do children have access to an assortment of materials that can be used by children of varying interests and abilities?
    • Do teachers have well-prepared daily schedules that include lesson-planning and daily goals?

What are the different types of early education programs?

  • DHS
    • Child Care Centers provide care for 13 or more children. The Department of Human Services licenses over 2000 centers, which care for more than 171,000 children each day.
    • Family Child Care Homes provide care for at least five but not more than seven unrelated children. Up to 5 additional children related to the primary caregiver may also receive care in family child care homes. Approximately 551 family homes are licensed by DHS.
    • Group Child Care Homes provide care for at least 8 but not more than 12 children. Up to 3 additional school age children may receive care before and after school, on school holidays, on snow days, and during summer vacation. Approximately 488 group homes are licensed by DHS.
    • Drop-In Centers provide care for 15 or more children not to exceed 14 hours per week and for not more than 7 hours per day for any individual child during regular working hours, Monday - Friday 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Drop-in centers can also provide up to 6 additional hours of care per week during evening (after 6 PM) and weekend (until 10 PM on Sunday) hours, as long as the total number of hours per week does not exceed 20 hours for any individual child, exclusive of snow days.
    • Additional Note: The number and ages of children present determine the number of adult staff required in a child care facility.
    • Examples of child care which do not require licensure:
      • Care provided in a child's own home
      • Care that operates less than three hours a day
      • Care for fewer than five unrelated children

How are programs rated?

  • Licensed providers are under the regulation of the state of Tennessee. Evaluators regularly inspect facilities and evaluate for health and safety. Use the Tennessee state website to find out more about a particular child care program.
  • Evaluation Report Cards
  • Child Care Star Rating Program

Where do I get more information on licensed providers?

How can I help cover costs?

Additional Parent Resources