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Information for School Districts

“We are seizing this once-in-generation opportunity to transform Maryland education…”

The words above are from MSDE’s website. We’ve highlighted the text in bold to emphasize what you already know, that the Blueprint presents huge opportunities…and challenges for LEAs across the state. 

As you consider how to expand Pre-K seats and coordinate with private providers as outlined in Pillar 1, we can help. The ASPIRE Pre-K program was created in 2020 by the Family Child Care Alliance of Maryland (Alliance), with funding provided by MSDE. The primary goal of the ASPIRE program is to build the supply of high-quality Pre-K programs in family child care (FCC) in support of Pillar 1. While we have a variety of other goals for the program and our educators, the end result of our efforts will be a statewide network of FCC Pre-K programs that help children grow, thrive and get ready for kindergarten.

A Very Brief History

The ASPIRE Pre-K program was developed by the Family Child Care Alliance of Maryland (the Alliance) to help Maryland realize the aspiration of a true mixed-delivery system for Pre-K. Created in 2020 with the support of MSDE, the ASPIRE program develops high-quality Pre-K programs in home-based child care programs (commonly known as family child care).

In a first for Maryland, the Alliance serves as the Pre-K Expansion Grant grantee and then recruits eligible family child care (FCC) programs to participate under its umbrella. The individual programs do not have to apply to MSDE or sign an LEA MOU. The Alliance serves as the point of contact for the LEA rather than each family child care program.

A Statewide Network in the Making

The ASPIRE program has four primary goals.

  1. Expand the supply of high-quality Pre-K programs in family child care (FCC) homes across the entire state.

  2. Lead the development of a network to support PreK teachers working in family child care homes.

  3. Prepare all 4-year-olds in ASPIRE programs for kindergarten, not just those funded by Pre-K tuition.

  4. Gather data to effect change, in and out of the program.

Goal 1: Expand the Supply

Most people are surprised to learn that high-quality Pre-K programs can be created in family child care (FCC) businesses. Over the last three years, the ASPIRE team has built a system that helps develop high-quality programs, the measure of that quality being better than national averages on CLASS scores and passing marks from MSDE’s Instructional Quality Review observations. The ASPIRE program’s overall success has allowed us to go from start-up in 2020 to a position where we will have sites in sixteen Maryland counties by the fall of 2023 and projected statewide coverage by 2026.


All FCC sites in the funded Pre-K program meet the eligibility requirements established by MSDE for Pre-K program participation. Many of our programs are led by P-3 certified teachers, and the rest have lead teachers with a bachelor’s degree (or more). Those in the latter group are all working towards certification as required by the Pre-K Expansion Grant.


Beyond ensuring basic eligibility and providing grant management, the ASPIRE Pre-K has an increasingly rigorous selection process to recruit potential FCC-based educators. 


The core of ASPIRE Pre-K is a three-year induction program. By the end of the 23-24 school year, our induction program will mirror the requirements set forth in COMAR for public school systems’ induction programs for new educators. Our induction program currently includes over one hundred hours of one-on-one coaching and mentoring for each lead teacher during the course of the nine-month school year, plus additional support in the summer.


Instructional coaches in the ASPIRE program spend between two to four hours per week in a combination of onsite and virtual meetings with each lead teacher. These coaching sessions are supplemented with cohort meetings, creating a professional learning community to support the growth of educator skills.

Goal 2: Lead the development of a network to support PreK teachers working in family child care homes.

Unlike their counterparts in schools and child care centers, lead teachers in FCC Pre-K programs generally work alone. They don’t have “down the hall” access to peers, management assistance, custodian staff, food services, or the wide variety of support specialists available within a school district. In addition, family child care providers are teachers and small business owners. As a result, they have a much wider variety of responsibilities than most teachers in the early care and education sector.

Recognizing this fact, the Alliance is working with our educators, coaches, and a range of partners across the state to create a support system that will help our educators improve efficiencies in tasks unrelated to instruction or, even better, outsource those responsibilities. The ASPIRE Pre-K program already does some of that as the Pre-K grantee. We take on nearly all of the burden of grant management, including verifying family eligibility and handling all reporting requirements with MSDE. In addition, we serve as the administrative contact for the LEAs, so LEA staff have only one point of contact for potentially dozens of community partner programs.

Once they have completed our induction program, our lead teachers will join a statewide, Alliance-driven professional learning community for the remainder of their time as Pre-K programs. This ensures these programs engage in directed continual professional development and just importantly, don't become isolated classrooms with little professional guidance or oversight. In addition, our professional learning community will be composed of those professionals that understand the unique challenges of delivering high-quality Pre-K in a family child care environment.

Goal 3: Prepare all 4-year-olds in ASPIRE programs for kindergarten, not just those funded by Pre-K tuition.

For the fall of 2023, the ASPIRE Pre-K has requested an allocation for two hundred and twenty Pre-K spaces from MSDE. That’s up from one hundred and thirty-two in the fall of 2022. But there are many more children in the estimated forty-four ASPIRE sites in sixteen counties across the state. There will be hundreds more three- and four-year-olds from ineligible families and children not yet old enough to qualify. Even so, those children will also benefit from the high-quality instruction in these programs. The ineligible four-year-olds will still attend a high-quality program to prepare them for kindergarten. Younger children benefit from becoming acclimated to the routines of a Pre-K program, and many are accelerating their development as a result.

Goal 4. Gather data to effect change in and out of the program.

The Family Child Care Alliance of Maryland is committed to not only providing high-quality Pre-K programs in family child care homes (FCC), we are also committed to advancing the field. Maryland is one of only a handful of states in the nation that offers full-day Pre-K in FCC homes. It is a unique undertaking, and the Alliance is equally uniquely suited to lead the field in creating a viable mixed-delivery system for publicly funded Pre-K that includes FCC.

The Alliance is working with the national research firm Child Trends to develop a coaching framework that serves as the basis of our induction program. Funded by MSDE, this work will hopefully serve as a model for other states to use when they decide to follow Maryland’s example of a robust mixed-delivery system.

With funding from the Bainum Family Foundation, the Alliance is leading a research project to:

  1. Document the barriers that prevent licensed family child care programs in Maryland from accessing public PreK funding. Include policy recommendations.

  2. Document and provide the resources and supports needed to help licensed family child care programs in Maryland access public PreK funding.

  3. Provide examples of the business models needed to make public PreK participation a more viable funding option for licensed family child care programs in Maryland. Include optimal funding levels (private and public), enrollment, ratio, and attendance.

The Alliance is also partnering with the IDEALS Institute at Johns Hopkins University on several initiatives funded by the Maryland ReBuilds Grant program. The deliverables are:

  1. Pilot a sustainable and scalable FCC apprenticeship model for early-career FCC providers. The Alliance is a co-lead on this project.

  2. Evaluate innovative models of support for FCC providers seeking to advance their career and participate in Maryland’s PreK expansion. The Alliance’s ASPIRE Pre-K program has been the selected subject of this evaluation and will lead the project.

  3. Develop and implement a web-based, single point of entry for providers to learn about available opportunities for career entry and advancement. Alliance team members will serve as advisors for this and the rest of the deliverables below.

  4. Develop (and/or modify existing) and implement incentive, reward, and recognition programs that overcome existing barriers to participation and promote continuing education/professional development, early childhood educator quality, and retention of the workforce.

  5. Develop a competency-based stackable credential model that recognizes the knowledge, skills, and behaviors expected of different positions within the ECE workforce and includes well-defined alternative career pathways.

  6. Develop and implement a series of multi-lingual early learning modules focused on supporting children with developmental delays, disability, or special needs, as well as children who come from homes where English is not the primary spoken language and children experiencing homelessness.

How the ASPIRE Program Can Benefit Your LEA

The short answer is we can save you time, money and simplify working with family child care homes as community partners. 

Here are some specifics

1. Induction

COMAR specifies an induction program for K-12 educators. We don’t think it is long before that is applied to community-based partners. Our experience and comments by our staff with K-12 administrative experience indicate that an induction program for family child care providers is far more intensive in terms of time and expertise than that required for the average K-12 educator. We’re building that program now, so you don’t have to later.

2. Management Overhead

By 2031, we expect to have an average of twenty PreK programs in each school district in Maryland. Because we are the PreK grantee from MSDE, when you work with the ASPIRE program, you have only one MOU to create, your team has one dedicated administrative contact at the Alliance to work with, and expert staff that can meet during normal business hours. We have staff in the ASPIRE program that has served in leadership positions within MD’s K-12 system, so we understand many of the challenges you face and how the ASPIRE program can make working with community partners easier and more cost-effective for LEAs. 


By contrast, without the ASPIRE program, each LEA will have to have an MOU with each of the FCC Pre-K providers in your district. Because FCC educators generally work alone and finding qualified substitutes will only get harder, administrative meetings with providers must be short, around nap time, or on evenings and weekends. Finally, the vast majority of PreK educators in FCC homes will be neophytes in grant management and know very little about the work of LEAs and the constraints you operate in. This will no doubt put additional stress and work on district staff.

3. We are already working with LEA staff across the state

With programs in over half of Maryland's school districts, we could already be working with your early learning staff. We currently have approved Pre-K programs in these school districts: Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Caroline, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, Washington, and Wicomico. 

We understand the intricacies of the child care marketplace, and those of family child care in particular. We can be your thought-partner as we collectively figure out how to effectively implement the Blueprint to the benefit of citizens across Maryland. 

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Let's Talk

We would love to talk to you to find out how we can work together to build a strong mixed-delivery system for Pre-K in your school district. Contact us below, and Bill Hudson, the Alliance’s Executive Director, will contact you to set up a conversation.

Our Partners

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