Needs Assessment │ Center for Early Learning Systems
Assessing access to early care and education is a key first step in any policy improvement initiative. In part because of the diverse delivery system for early childhood programs in the U.S., there is no single source of data on the availability of programs much less on the enrollment in those programs. In an effort to address this challenge, for more than a decade AIR has been analyzing data from diverse sources on the supply of public and private programs for children ages birth to 5 in the state of California, and taking into account the various population factors that might affect the demand or need for these programs. In addition, in an effort to identify inequities in access, AIR has developed a methodology to track the supply and estimate the enrollment in early childhood programs by zip code and age cohort. Data analysis also attempts to include some factors related to program quality and affordability.
AIR’s Early Learning Needs Assessment Tool allows subscribers to create custom reports by county and California legislative district, with zip code detail, regarding the supply of and demand for early care and education. Data are available by age cohort for children 0-5, with some information available on school-aged children. Information available through this tool includes, by geographic area and age cohort:
- The estimated number of children, based on births and American Community Survey population estimates
- Number of kindergartners
- Number of children living in low-performing school neighborhoods
- Number of English learners
- Number of children estimated to be eligible for California’s State Preschool/Title 5 Child Development programs
- Number of children enrolled in various early care and education programs, including Transitional Kindergarten, State Preschool, Head Start, Title 5 family child care homes, CalWorks stages 2 and 3, and licensed care in total
These data have been compiled from multiple sources (including the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, California Department of Education, California Department of Public Health, the American Community Survey PUMS data, and an AIR-administered survey of Head Start programs). Data are available for 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and now 2016, selected variables.
Supported by federal funds, California is developing a comprehensive statewide plan for an integrated early learning system, the California Comprehensive Early Learning Plan (CCELP). In support of the development of this plan, AIR compiled a report describing statistics on the condition of children in California, and analyzing existing research and recommendations on the state’s early childhood services.