Pre-K in a Mixed Delivery System

Research has shown the critical importance of high-quality early childhood experiences for all children and its positive impact over the child’s lifetime. For parents of three- and four-year olds desiring a high-quality early education experience, Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) can provide a bridge between preschool and Kindergarten.

How is Pre-K different than child care?

In essence, Pre-K is the same as child care. They are both regulated community-based early care and learning programs. Both Pre-K and child care focus on building a child’s social, physical, emotional and cognitive development. thread defines Pre-K as voluntary program for children preparing for transition to Kindergarten with instructional curriculum, activities and goals delivered by a credentialed teacher and following a set of organized quality standards.

thread supports broad access to high-quality, Pre-K programming in a mixed delivery system.

What is a mixed delivery system?

Simply put, mixed delivery means that Pre-K programs can be delivered in any quality early childhood education program. This includes any public, charter or private school; licensed child care center; licensed family child care or Head Start program.

Most people think of child care as serving children and families in a private small business in a full-day/full-year program. While Pre-K is known as a part-day/part-time program provided free through the public school system. When in fact, Pre-K can be delivered in a wide variety of settings which provides such benefits as increased family choice, continuity of care during work hours (not just school hours), and year round services. Additional benefits include leveraging existing local child care, community programs and teacher workforce.

One of the greatest benefits is that a mixed delivery system supports more family choice. Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers and should have a choice as to where to send their children based on family needs and preferences.

From a funding perspective, a mixed delivery approach allows for funding sources to be blended together to create more full-day and full-year programs that best meet the needs of children and families.


Types of Care

Child Care Provider – An organization or individual that provides early care and education services.

Licensed Child Care Providers/Facilities/Program – Licensed child care providers/facilities/program are those facilities that possess a current license, issued by the Department of Health & Social Services or the Municipality of Anchorage, to operate a child care facility in the State of Alaska.

Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) – In-home or center-based child care, Head Start, private preschool, and school district preschool programs serving 3-5 year old children.

Head Start and Early Head Start – A federal program that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income families. The program is designed to foster stable family relationships, enhance children’s physical and emotional well-being, and support children’s cognitive skills so they are ready to succeed in school. Early Head Start works with children birth to three years of age and their families. Head Start works with children three to five years of age and their families. Federal grants are awarded to local public or private agencies, referred to as “grantees,” that provide Head Start services. Currently the State of Alaska provides some grant funds to Early Head Start and Head Start grantees. Head Start is administered by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Preschool – Programs that provide early education and care to children in the two or three years before they enter kindergarten, typically from ages 2.5-5 years. Preschools may be publicly or privately operated and may receive public fund.

Mixed Delivery

Mixed-Delivery System – Programs, providers and settings (such as Head Start, licensed family and center-based child care programs, public schools and community-based organizations) that are supported with a combination of public funds and private funds.

Industry Terms for Reference

Early Childhood Care and Education – Programs and services focused on development of children’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical functions that aim to build a foundation for lifelong learning and well-being. These programs operate in a complex interchange of health, social, child care, and education services that provide a holistic system of support for children and their families.

Quality Early Childhood Care and Education – As defined by the JTF, a program that is licensed, certified, or approved and in good standing with their oversight agency. Such programs include, but are not limited to, Early Head Starts and Head Starts, State of Alaska or Municipality of Anchor-age- licensed child care, public pre-elementary programs, tribally-approved child care, and child care approved by the military.

High-Quality Early Childhood Care And Education – Defined by the JTF, a program that has a Continuous Quality Improvement Plan (CQIP), not in response to non-compliance or enforcement, to which the program is held accountable.