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Building Early Care and Education Capacity


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Ultimately our work is about understanding the variety of ways that education helps people and communities to thrive.

Rupa Datta, VP & Senior Fellow
Methodology & Quantitative Social Science

High-quality, accessible, and affordable early care and education supports parental employment, contributes to a family’s overall success, and can lead children to academic achievement, and eventually, satisfying careers.

NORC’s early care and education work is flourishing. For example, we’ve conducted another round of our groundbreaking National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE). First conducted in 2012, the NSECE was the first study to document the nation’s supply of and demand for early care and education in over 20 years.

One surprising NSECE discovery to emerge is that three-quarters—a much higher percentage than researchers expected—of all U.S. child care centers receive some public funding.

A recent National Academy of Sciences report on financing early care and education used NSECE data to explore possible impacts of different policy proposals. Many presidential candidates used the report and its recommendations as a basis for their child care policy proposals.

The 2012 NSECE sparked such interest that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families decided to conduct a second round of the survey in 2019, again awarding the work to NORC. In addition to its continued exploration of the availability and need for early care and education services, the 2019 NSECE asks a number of new questions, such as how providers blend funding from different sources to provide care to children from households of different incomes.

NORC is constantly investing in partnerships to expand the scope of our early childhood research and evaluations. We recently partnered with Child Care Aware of America, a respected hub for child care information for parents and providers, to create a standardized child care data repository within a selected set of states to ensure that child care systems, policies, and funding decisions are based on the most reliable data available.

Through our Early Childhood Research and Practice Collaborative, we are partnering with early childhood programs, funders, and stakeholders to reduce the achievement gap.

One of the Collaborative’s recent accomplishments is a 15-minute kindergarten readiness assessment that gives preschool programs and policymakers reliable and objective data about key kindergarten readiness indicators.

Funded by the Welborn Baptist Foundation and Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, the Kindergarten Readiness Screener was completed in 2019 and is being rolled out to On My Way Pre-K programs statewide in Indiana in spring 2020.

The Collaborative is also currently evaluating a high-quality preschool program for low-income children in Tempe, Arizona, that aligns instruction between preschool and early elementary grades. Funded by the Helios Education Foundation, the evaluation focuses on whether the program improves kindergarten readiness and third-grade academic outcomes of participating students.