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Rating System & Participators

Steps to Quality uses a 5-tier rating system, aligned with the State of California’s rating system, to help early educators and parents recognize programs on their journey to excellence.

How the Rating System Works

When programs sign up with Steps to Quality and engage in the rating process, they are visited by an independent observer who is trained and certified in rating sites. The observer measures the program using California’s standards of quality in seven areas. Elements in each of the seven areas are rated on a scale from one to five. A site’s total score determines their tier rating, from Tier One (a licensed care facility in good standing) to Tier Five (a program excelling in quality practices).

It’s important to understand that the tiers are not the same thing as a grade. The rating is comprehensive, based on many factors. In fact, not all programs who participate in Steps to Quality choose to be part of the rating process but participation in trainings and goal setting still shows a commitment to a quality program.

Steps to Quality rates early learning programs or family child care homes in the following areas:

The program assesses children’s learning and development using the Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP), a validated tool used across the state for conducting observations in a range of developmental domains. It uses the information to develop learning activities that support each child’s interests, growth, and development, as well as culture and home language.

The program makes sure children receive health and developmental screenings, and that families gets referrals for more support when needed. Many programs use the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) to screen for developmental and behavioral growth and concerns.

The teachers have formal education and training in child development and early learning.The teachers have formal education and training in child development and early learning.

Teachers interact in meaningful ways with children. Teachers support the development of the whole child, encourage mutual respect between children and adults, and promote a love of learning. Many programs use the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) to assess the quality of interactions between children and teachers.

The program’s learning environment is safe, healthy, and has appropriate and well-maintained indoor and outdoor spaces. It supports children’s physical, social and emotional well-being and development, and is a reflection of the world in which they live. Environmental Rating Scales are tools used by many programs to assess the safety and quality of the early learning environment.

The number of children to adults is small enough to keep each child engaged, so teachers have the opportunity to address children’s individual needs.

The directors have specialized training and advanced degrees in Child Development and administration.

* Family child care homes are not measured in these areas

In addition to the seven quality areas, families  may also consider the following when choosing an early care and education program:

Promotes culturally-appropriate family engagement and education to support learning and development at home.

Curriculum is based on resources developed by the California Department of Education, or what research says is appropriate for the age of the children.

Values each family’s culture, fosters cultural and linguistic strengths, and promotes the development of both languages.

Strong social-emotional support is offered to children such as expressing feelings, regulating behavior, understanding emotions, and building empathy.

Healthy feeding practices, and nutritious meals, and snacks are a priority. The Child and Adult Care Food Program may be used to keep healthy meal standards.

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