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Explaining the Impact of High-Quality Early Education

high-quality care

What does “high-quality” mean?

There is a big difference between babysitting and high-quality early learning programs. High-quality programs actively engage parents and provide a safe, healthy, learning environment for children, led by trained professionals. Through planned, age-appropriate activities, high-quality programs help young children develop social, emotional, cognitive and physical skills that are the foundation for future success.

Why does high-quality early learning matter?

From years of research and practice, we know a child’s brain develops more rapidly in the first five years of life than in any other time in one’s life. So, the quality of care a young child receives in their early years significantly influences their long-term growth and development. High-quality early learning opportunities build the brain and keep it developing.

How do you measure high-quality programs?

In Indiana, to rate programs we use a voluntary child quality rating system, which is known as Paths to QUALITY™. This system consists of four levels, and each level builds on the foundation of the previous one. They are:

  • Level 1: Basic 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

Of all known early education programs in Indiana only 24% have a high-quality rating.

How many in Hoosier children are currently in high-quality early learning programs?

Out of the more than 500,000 Hoosiers age 5 and under, only about 64,000 are enrolled in high-quality programs. This is because there are too few high-quality seats available in communities across the state and those high-quality seats often come at a cost that is out-of-reach for many working families.

Are all child care facilities licensed by the state?

No, the state only requires licenses for child care centers that operate full-day programs or home-based child care that have more than six unrelated children. Ministries and smaller home-based settings are not required to be licensed by the state to operate, but they may choose to do so.

Information in this document was retrieved from the following sources:

  • Brighter Futures Indiana. Retrieved from
  • Early Learning Advisory Committee. Retrieved from
  • James Heckman. (2018). The Heckman Equation. Retrieved from

This is the third in a series of fact sheets Early Learning Indiana will be releasing on issues related to funding early education in Indiana to help better arm advocates like you with the latest information and arguments. If you would like to print a copy of this fact sheet, please click here.

1 Comment

  1. A child care facility need not be rated on paths to quality to be a quality facility. Your information is only on those that are rated by the ptq system. There are plenty of quality programs out there, we just don’t all agree to being rated by the ptq system.

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