Be Child Care Aware: Does Your Child-care Program Measure Up?

Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  2/16/2006 9:03:28 PM

News You Can Use For March 2006

Louisiana may soon have a new way for you to determine how well your child-care program measures up.

LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe says the state is on a mission to develop a child-care rating system that could help you compare the quality of one center to another.

"The state of Louisiana has embarked on a new mission. Child-care providers, parents, teachers, early care and education administrators, higher education professionals and state officials are exploring a quality rating systems for early care and education programs in our state," Gioe explains. "Much like a star-rated hotel or restaurant, the quality of child-care centers in our state, may in the future be identified by the number of stars they display."

Quality rating systems are designed to assist early care and education programs with quality improvement, according to Gioe, who says the rating systems are a method to assess, improve and communicate the level of quality in early care and education settings.

"A quality rating system may include a broad range of early care and education programs, such as center-based child care, family child care, after school programs, prekindergarten programs or Head Start," she says.

According to the LSU AgCenter expert, quality rating systems, which already are in use in other states, generally include:

–Standards that are based on compliance with the state’s child-care licensing regulations and include two or more levels of quality criteria above basic licensing requirements. Quality rating standards are based on early care and education research and on standards of quality for programs and practitioners that have gained wide acceptance, such as those from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

–Accountability through appropriate assessment and monitoring. Quality rating systems use valid and reliable methods of assessment to monitor compliance with standards and assign quality ratings. These ratings provide a way to measure improvement in the quality of care and education.

–Program and practitioner outreach and support, including efforts to promote participation in the quality rating system, as well as technical assistance, training, mentoring and other supports.

–Financing incentives specifically linked to compliance with quality standards such as quality bonus payments, quality grants and wage and insurance supplements.

–Parent education designed to ensure that parents understand the quality rating system and how it benefits children, families and the early care and education system as a whole. Parent education includes the development of a quality rating indicator or symbol that parents can use as a consumer guide. These symbols, which represent varying quality rating levels, are easy-to-understand indicators of quality that parents can use when making decisions about the care and education of their children.

The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.

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Contact: Cheri Gioe at (225) 578-6701 or cgioe@agcenter.lsu.edu

Editor: Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

On The Web: NCCIC Information on Quality Rating Systems http://nccic.org/poptopics/index.html#qrs

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