Bright Start TN Data Dashboard

Measure Of Success

High-Quality Early Care and Education Birth through Age 5

The major indicator for this measure of success is the percent of children birth to age five receiving high-quality* early care and education when not with their parents (Head Start, Child Care and TN-VPK).

Learn more about the strategies and research rationale associated with High-Quality Early Care and Education Birth through Age 5.

Note: Quantifying the availability of high-quality* early care and education is challenging. We do not currently have adequate data to fully capture this measure of success. What follows can serve as a primer to show some of the key relevant data that are available. In the visualization below, the primary percentage listed for each county/region is calculated by dividing the high-quality*, licensed child care capacity(slots**) available for children (under 6) by the number of children (under 6) with all parents*** in the labor force.  Please read below for further discussion of limitations and other considerations.


  • Use the ‘Map Selector’ to choose between county and Bright Start TN regional data.
  • Hover over any county or Bright Start TN region to display the major indicator.
  • Select any county or Bright Start TN region to isolate the data in the bar charts below.
  • Hover over the bar charts for more information on licensed child care capacity and children with all parents in the labor force.

Statewide average for Tennessee: 40% of children (under age 6) are receiving high-quality early care and education when not with their parents.


*High-quality – While there is not currently any uniform nationally adopted or state adopted definitions for quality in the context of child care, for the purpose of this visualization, high-quality refers to one of three things:

  • Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) licensed child care with a 3-star rating on the Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS).
  • Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) Voluntary Pre-K classrooms
  • Head Start or Early Head Start classrooms

TDHS is currently in the process of overhauling the QRIS and will have a rollout of a new system later this fall.


**Child Care Capacity is the number of slots in a licensed (TDHS) or certified (TDOE) program for children: 5 years and younger only, Mixed Ages, and Missing Specific Age Ranges


***All Parents – this includes families with children under 6 years with in a single- and dual-parent households with all parents working, looking for work, or in school.


Other considerations:

  • Supply – There is currently not a mechanism in Tennessee that provides a complete understanding of child care supply. We have information on the 4176 regulated child care providers. However, it is important to note that there is much unregulated child care that we know little to nothing about; U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicate that in 2018 (latest data available) there were 12,423 individuals who filed federal taxes as a non-employer child (day) care services provider. It is estimated that approximately 10,000 individuals are providing child care in Tennessee who are not monitored by any regulatory agency in the state and offering what is called “Family, Friends, and Neighbors” (FFN).
  • Capacity vs Enrollment – Real-time utilization of child care is potentially the best indicator to understand where the greatest need for additional child care slots is located. Utilization in this use is defined by the number of enrollments in comparison to the total capacity of a given program. At this time, it is not feasible to determine an accurate picture of enrollments versus capacity at a statewide level in Tennessee, as program-level enrollment data is not readily available beyond the number of children receiving child care certificates. However, TDHS will soon be able to better examine this with the help of its ongoing system modernization initiative, which will include a new provider-level data system that will allow providers to log enrollments for all children rather than only children receiving certificates.


Got questions?  See something that needs to be updated?  Let us know! We can be reached at

Data Sources:
TN Department of Human Services state administrative program capacity data.

U.S. Census data: American Community Survey

Data Year:

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