In September, Child's Way earned a STAR 3 designation from Keystone STARS, a quality improvement initiative for early learning programs. To find out more about what this means and why this is important, we talked with Arran Harland, Educational Coordinator for Child's Way.
What exactly is the Keystone STARS program?
Arran: Keystone STARS is a voluntary quality improvement program for early learning centers run by Pennsylvania's Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL). STARS is actually an acronym which stands for: Standards, Training/Professional Development, Assistance, Resources, and Support. Keystone STARS provides goals to meet in each of these 5 areas, and then uses these goals to evaluate a facility. These evaluations result in a rating for the facility – STAR 1, STAR 2, STAR 3 or STAR 4 – ideally progressing from one to the next until reaching and maintaining a STAR 4 designation. For example, after earning a STAR 1 designation, an early learning program can start working on STAR 2 goals, which build upon the goals achieved for STAR 1.
Is Child's Way required to participate in Keystone STARS?
No. Keystone STARS is a voluntary program that focuses on the quality of learning opportunities we provide.
What did Child's Way do to achieve the STAR 3 designation?
Lots. In the classrooms, examples include adding to our dramatic play and music areas with costumes and instruments. To expand math & science opportunities, Child Care Associates (CCAs) received new games and activities to use in teaching. These additions were made possible by a grant from the Snee-Reinhardt Charitable Foundation, which was integral in helping us meet all the environmental goals necessary for a STAR 3 rating.
On the administrative side, one of the things we are constantly working on is professional development. CCAs are required to have at least 18 hours of continuing education per year, so they found new classes and workshops to take to improve and expand their teaching skills. Another area of growth for us is increasing parent involvement. We continue to work on this. Look for future initiatives such as posting what activities kids did at school that day, parent night, etc.
Why is it important to be a part of Keystone STARS?
It gives us a standardized, publicly recognized way of saying "We're great!" Child's Way is a quality program with quality staff. Keystone STARS gives us goals to work towards, ensuring we continue to provide quality, relevant learning opportunities for the children we serve. The initiative also gives us exposure – Keystone STARS website has a search tool so that anyone can see which facilities participate in the program, what their STAR rating is, and where they are located.
We are also proud to be the first Pediatric Extended Care Center in Pennsylvania to achieve the STAR 3 designation. We're going beyond just meeting the complex medical needs of the children we serve by simultaneously providing enriching learning activities for development and socialization with peers.