Glossary of Commonly Used Terms

  • Early Learning is the most current label for all of the work with children from birth to 3rd grade because it takes into account that children are learning at all times, whether at home, in a center or in a school.
  • Early Childhood is typically defined as children from birth to age 5, when traditional kindergarten begins.  In Dallas, “early childhood” refers to the years through 3rd grade, when reading proficiency is required in order to be successful in school and beyond.
  • Childcare is the term for centers or family day homes that provide a safe and nurturing environment for children so that adults can go to work.  Some child care centers provide quality early learning, but a safe environment is not, necessarily, one that ensures brain stimulation and healthy social emotional growth in children. Child care centers and family day homes are licensed and monitored by Texas Child Care Licensing.
  • Pre-K is the term associated with centers or schools where children ages 3 and 4 enroll with the implied goal of quality, developmentally appropriate education for young children.  In Texas, the state funds half-day public Pre-K for eligible 3-and 4- year olds. In order to be eligible for public Pre-K, a child must meet at least one of the following criteria:
    • Be unable to speak and comprehend the English language.
    • Be educationally disadvantaged, which means a student is eligible to participate in the national free or reduced-price lunch program.
    • Be homeless, as defined by 42 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 1143a, regardless of the residence of the child, of either parent of the child, or of the child’s guardian or other person having lawful control of the child.
    • Be the child of an active-duty member of the armed forces of the United States, including the state military forces or a reserve component of the armed forces, who is ordered to active duty by proper authority; or is the child of a member of the armed forces of the United States, including the state military forces or a reserve component of the armed forces, who was injured or killed while serving on active duty.
    • Be in, or have been in, the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) following an adversary hearing held as provided by Section 262.201, Family Code.
  • Kindergarten has traditionally been the first year that independent school districts begin. All Texas districts offer full-day Kindergarten, but attending Kindergarten is not required in Texas.
  • Quality is a much-argued term, but everyone agrees that the key factor of a quality early learning environment is the teacher (or parent) who understands the need for brain stimulation and interactions which promote healthy social emotional development for children.  What is NOT agreed upon is the level of education needed for early childhood professionals, the most effective curricula or best methods of teaching.