Using Metrics to Drive Quality and Sustainability in Early Care and Education Programs

The fact that most early care and education (ECE) businesses in the US struggle to make ends meet is not news. Nor is the fact that ECE managers feel increasingly squeezed by higher standards (which often require more dollars), competitive markets (that make it difficult to increase prices), and few opportunities for third party funding. The bottom line is that running a successful ECE business is hard. And while many challenges are beyond the control of site directors, owners or administrators, some can be addressed. Thinking strategically about what leaders can influence, what fiscal and programmatic decisions matter most, and what data are most likely to help a program stay on track, are key to ensuring sustainability. This issue brief will explore the concept of early care and education business metrics, including a discussion of why metrics matter, what metrics should be tracked, and how these data can be used. The information and lessons learned are based on information gleaned from modeling ECE budgets and the experience of industry leaders to date. However, this brief should be viewed as a first step in what is anticipated to be a much deeper look at a range of ECE costs, revenues, program models and administrative structures.