By: Erin Gohl and Kristen Thorson
There is near unanimity that early education is vital. In recent decades, there has been a flowering of research from multiple disciplines showing the very profound impact strong, nurturing early childhood care and education can have on a child’s growth, development and long-term trajectory. Beyond the value to a child’s learning, many families’ livelihoods depend on finding childcare so parents can work. But, there are countless childcare and early education options in a particular area and wide variation in quality and approach among these choices. Families lack a common standard by which to access information and evaluate quality and practice. Providers rarely have access to networks to connect with potential families to market their strengths, nor the personnel or skills needed to manage the business aspects of running an early childcare center.
In short, the early childcare space lacks a systematic structure and a standard framework for evaluating the plethora of options.
Enter PreK.com: A Systems Approach to Early Childcare
An innovative new platform, PreK.com, seeks to bring order to this chaos in a way that is supportive to both families seeking care and high-quality providers. PreK.com is a browser-based tool backed by a team of educational experts that vet childcare centers and preschools in a particular geographic area, for safety, academic quality and cost. The site provides profiles of all schools that have met these standards with information about educational philosophies, openings and tuition. It also connects parents with a support network of family advisers to help guide them through the preschool selection process, all free of charge for families. The platform launched for South Florida in January 2020 and will be expanding to other metropolitan areas throughout the country.
This seemingly simple design transforms both families’ search for childcare and the providers’ struggle, to market and reach families by creating an easy-to-access, virtual conduit between the two that includes a robust and vetted collection of information.
For families, PreK.com provides:
- Rigorous Vetting: The PreK.com team recognizes that having a safe, secure, and nurturing environment is a nonnegotiable threshold that begins all childcare and preschool searches. The vetting process to ensure this level of quality is the cornerstone of PreK.com. The PreK.com team conducts “rigorous vetting that goes beyond publicly available reviews to include deep research, calls, interviews and site visits.” Schools that do not make the cut are not included on their platform.
- Thorough Profiles of School Options: Profiles for schools include an accessible amount of information about safety and security, academic philosophy, tuition information, enrichment programs, and parent reviews. Families can compare options in a given geographic region across categories.
- Dynamic Search Features: From any computer or browser-enabled device, families can use the site to search for schools by location or other criteria. The site recognizes that many variables impact a preschool search. Families can simultaneously enter their home and work locations and see proximity to both as they consider a specific school. They can sort results by price, location, and openings.
- Family Advisers: PreK.com connects families with thoughtful and caring educational experts. These experts assist families in understanding the different educational philosophies across providers, share options for availability, and ultimately help them find the right overall fit for their child and family.
For schools, PreK.com provides:
- Marketing Channels: PreK.com offers schools and centers technical assistance and a network of connections to reach potential families. The platform employs innovative, targeted analytic strategies to match families with potential schools.
- Increased Enrollment & Retention: PreK.com makes information available and easily accessible to families so families can truly find the right school to fit their needs, values, and philosophies. Childcare centers and schools benefit from a high retention rate of families and when families find the right fit, they are more likely to stay.
- Options for Additional Support: Schools that pass the PreK.com vetting process are afforded the opportunity to formalize the relationship and become PreK.com Member Schools. These schools, and the families who enroll in them, are offered additional services and pathways for connections. Member Schools are highlighted on the site and receive additional marketing benefits. Families who choose to enroll in a PreK.com Member School receive their 13th month of tuition free, directly promoting increased enrollment and retention for the school.
A Game-Changer in Early Education
PreK.com has positioned itself to meet a rare trifecta of benefits for families, providers, and broader societal interest. They are able to enlighten families to the differences between options, help providers both clarify and differentiate themselves within the market, and ultimately, are able to increase the number of children well-prepared for entering Kindergarten. Despite the myriad of research on the importance of early education, a systematic approach to access and evaluate quality has lagged. PreK.com is pioneering efforts to change this game, with the end goal of raising the overall quality of the entire system of early childhood education.
For more, see:
- No Preschool Is Perfect: How to Find the Almost-Perfect Situation That’s Right for Your Family
- Design Thinking For School Marketing: Empathize With Your Community
- The Future of Work = Early Learning Today
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