Community Engagement

Program pioneers.

Parent Aware is an independent rating system to help parents select high-quality child care and early education.

Working in partnership with a number of other public and private organizations, Think Small helped develop and implement the three-year pilot for Parent Aware.

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Community Engagement

Learn about developing issues

Think Small Legislative Priorities

Every year, Think Small supports policies that reflect these priorities:

  • Increase the number of Parent Aware rated programs and allow programs to maintain or improve their Parent Aware ratings
  • Better align public funds to increase the number of children receiving high-quality early care and education
  • Expand access for children, ages 1 to kindergarten entry, from families with low incomes to high-quality early care and education programs by advocating funding for flexible, parent-directed scholarships
  • Improve Minnesota's Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) to assure more children from families with low incomes can access high-quality care
  • Support the sustainable career pathways of early learning professionals 

Parent Aware

Parent Aware is the statewide quality ratings system for early learning programs. A four-year statewide rollout of Parent Aware was completed in January of 2015, bringing the same measuring stick of quality to early learning in all settings including Head Start, center and homebased, public and private programs. It promotes research-based best practices among participating programs through training and coaching, then rates them on a scale of one to four stars. Parents can access the ratings information to determine which early childhood program will be best for their child and family.

In 2016, Child Trends conducted a study to examine the extent to which the rating process and the four-star quality ratings that are awarded are fair, accurate and meaningful. The report found that Parent Aware “has integrity as a framework for building and connecting efforts to support all types of early care and education programs in Minnesota”.  See more in the Initial Validation Brief. You can also read the Executive Summary or Full Report for more information. 

Early Learning Scholarships 

Early Learning Scholarships allow eligible low-income families throughout the state to find and choose the quality early learning program that meets their needs.

A 2016 report stated that children who attended high-quality programs using scholarships made gains in literacy skills. Find all the details here.

Pre-Kindergarten in Minnesota

The Pre-K to 3 Design Team, a group of early childhood stakeholders convened by the West Central Initiative, with support from the McKnight Foundation, is recommending an approach for providing broad access to high-quality, preschool programming for four year olds in a mixed delivery context.

Some of the findings include:

  • Preschool program quality is more important than program type
  • A mixed delivery system best supports family choice
  • Local communities need to design solutions that will work best for their unique needs 

View the full report here.