Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care    

What are Center- and School-Based Programs?

This type of early education and care is delivered in a community or school based setting.

Types of Center- and School-Based Programs:

Center- or School-based early education and care programs can serve children of infant, toddler or preschool age, and include Head Start programs. 

The definitions of the age groups are as follows:

  • Infants: birth up to 15 months
  • Toddler: at least 15 months but younger than two years and nine months
  • PreSchool: at least two years and nine months up to Kindergarten

Center- and School-Based Early Education and Care Licensing

In Massachusetts, we are able to elevate our focus to the developmental needs of children because of a strong foundation of licensing. An EEC License indicates that a program and its facilities have met standards for health, safety, supervision and staff training. It is the first-level standard that should be considered when choosing any program.

An EEC license means that: 

  • Programs must be healthy safe and offer activities that help your child develop and grow.
  • Providers have training in first aid and are CPR certified.
  • Providers have specialized training in child development and curriculum implementation.
  • Programs must maintain appropriate ratios of teachers to children.
  • All employees are required to undergo a criminal background check.

Almost all child care provided outside a child’s own home, whether it be in a center-based program, an after school program, or in a family child care home, must be licensed or authorized by EEC.   (Programs operated by a school district are not licensed by EEC.)

The current license for all programs will be posted in a prominent location.

One of the most important parenting decisions you can make

Choosing a family child care program means more than selecting a safe and nurturing environment that works with your family’s needs and schedule.  A quality program can also play an important role in your child’s social, emotional and brain development. As the latest science shows us, early experiences literally shape how the brain gets built. When babies, children and youth are given a strong foundation, the benefits are life-long.

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care is dedicated to helping all children build the strong foundation for healthy and productive lives that is essential for the commonwealth’s future economic prosperity. By partnering with educators and helping parents become informed consumers, we are working to go beyond the standards for licensure to take our community-wide understanding of quality to the next level.  Quality early education and care and out of school time programs are key to fostering the next generation of citizens. 

A “quality” program is defined as one that is aligned with the developmental needs of all children. In the past decade or so, scientists and practitioners have been drawing on vast amounts of research to define the key components of quality. As a parent, you can utilize this knowledge to find the program that best nurtures and supports your child’s social, emotional and brain development.

There are various types of programs that are part of Massachusetts’ mixed delivery system of early education and care, including family child care, center-based programs, public preschool and out-of-school time programs, and Head Start.  Across all of the types of programs, the components of quality are the same:

  • Curriculum, Assessment and Diversity
  • Safe, Healthy Indoor and Outdoor Environments
  • Workforce Qualifications and Professional Development
  • Family and Community Engagement
  • Leadership, Management and Administration

The Five Key Quality Components to Look For:

1. Curriculum, Assessment and Diversity

This includes the development and assessment of curriculum, the “serve and return” interactions between teacher and child, and attention to children with special needs and diverse language and cultures. Because all staff members that work with children are key partners in learning, we refer to all of them as “educators”.

 

Key questions: 

  • Have the educators received formal professional development in curriculum that is aligned with Massachusetts guidelines for Preschool Learning Standards and the Infant/toddler Learning Guidelines?
  • Are educators trained in using screening tools to detect developmental delays? Does your program monitor each child’s progress? 
  • Will they use screening tools to set goals for your child and provide regular progress reports? 
  • Does the staff model proficient language and literacy skills in English or your child’s language? 
  • Are the materials used reflective of your child’s background and culture and the diversity of the community?

 

2. Safe, Healthy, Indoor and Outdoor Environments

Program environments should support the implementation of the curriculum through the use of space, materials and opportunities for children to experiment and practice skills. They also support health, safety and nutrition.

Key questions: 

    • Are there stimulating indoor and outdoor spaces, with access to sinks in the classrooms? 
    • Are vision, hearing and dental screenings available? 
    • Is there an annual consultation by a Health Consultant to monitor records, update health care policies and assist the program in complying with health and safety requirements? 
    • Are educators trained to work with special diets, allergies and/or specialized feeding issues?

 

3. Workforce Qualifications and Professional Development

To ensure healthy development, the workforce must have formalized training, content knowledge and ongoing professional development.

Key questions:

  • Does the program administrator have the minimum of a bachelor’s degree OR is enrolled in a program leading to a degree in early childhood education or related field?
  • Is the program administrator trained in the MA Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences, the Infant/Toddler Learning Guidelines and has received professional development in supervising and working with adults?
  • Do all educators receive professional development in assessing and screening children for additional services/Special Education?
  • Do all staff members working in the program have a high school diploma or GED?
  • How many of the classrooms have full-time educators with a Bachelor’s degree or higher?
  • Do all educators have a minimum of three college credits in early childhood education or a related field?
  • Do all educators have an Individual Development Plan?

 

4. Family and Community Engagement

High-quality programs recognize the interconnection between the child, the family, the community and the program itself. These programs involve parents as full partners while providing them with information, resources and support.

  • Is there a Parent Advisory Board that is actively involved in policy and decision making?
  • Is there a daily two-way communication system available between educators and families?
  • Is there an opportunity to meet with classroom staff at least monthly?
  • Does the program maintain ongoing communication with the school/early intervention program, mental health providers and others to coordinate services that support children and families?
  • Does the program participate in local events and community group work related to early childhood and/or family support?
  • Are parents encouraged to volunteer to assist in the program and share their culture and interests?

 

5. Leadership, Management and Administration

High quality programs require effective leadership with management and administrative practices that ensure a stable environment, fiscal accountability, evaluation of the program’s practices and policies and the development of relationships within the community.

Key Questions:

  • Are communications updates sent to educators and families?
  • Does the program have a written business plan and admissions policy that promotes awareness and respect for differences among children and families?
  • Are the program director, staff and families surveyed on an annual basis in order to evaluate the program and develop an improvement plan?
  • Are there programs and policies in place that support retaining staff?

Information provided by the Department of Early Education and Care. Created: September 27, 2011