The Kentucky Division of Child Care (DCC) has reached a significant milestone, with nearly half of the state’s child care providers now highly ranked by the Commonwealth’s required quality rating system.
The goal was part of the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) Initiative. Kentucky was awarded an RTTT Early Learning Challenge grant in 2014 from the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.
The grant’s purpose is to ensure all children have access to high-quality child care and preschool facilities. Through this grant, Kentucky All STARS – an expanded five-star quality rating and improvement system for early care and education programs – was developed. This tiered system is required for all publicly funded programs that serve young children in Kentucky – including licensed child care programs, certified family child care homes and state-funded preschools and Head Start programs.
DCC, part of the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, administers Kentucky All STARS and provides technical support to providers and programs for improvement and expansion of statewide child care services and resources.
As part of the RTTT grant, one of Kentucky’s goals was to support 45 percent of all licensed and certified providers toward achieving high quality (All STARS Levels 3, 4 and 5). Kentucky met this goal recently.
DCBS Commissioner Adria Johnson said that achieving this milestone was no small feat.
“We are extremely pleased with the number of providers who have engaged in the new quality rating and improvement system to benefit Kentucky’s children,” she said. “The Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant has been a tremendous support to child care providers to increase the quality of early care and education in Kentucky. Finding the right child care is a big decision for families, and with Kentucky All STARS, can help parents and caregivers find the right provider.”
Kentucky families can find providers’ quality ratings online at http://chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/dcc/stars . This will help families easily identify quality early learning and development programs for their children.
With more than 2,000 active providers in the state, DCC staff and their contracted partners worked diligently to support providers through the entire process of preparing for a rating, participating in an environmental observation and identifying areas for quality improvement. Through the grant, 1,663 child care programs received classroom materials. Nearly 5,000 early childhood educators have attended no-cost training sessions, and more than 1,000 screening, curriculum and assessment tools have been distributed to child care programs.
LaNiece Benson, director for St. Benedict Center for Early Childhood Education in Louisville, a Level 3-STAR center, said Kentucky All STARS has helped her center support continuing quality improvement.
“It has been a positive partnership with the Kentucky All STARS program,” she said. “They have made a significant impact on St. Benedict Center by providing free training for our staff and learning materials to help build children’s social, physical and cognitive skills. I can’t forget my Quality Coach who is just a phone call away and ready to help.”
“Quality Coaches” can provide free technical assistance and support to all child care providers through DCC.
Kentucky All STARS strives to increase learning outcomes and educational success for young children by providing clear expectations for quality ratings, technical assistance, quality incentives, and access to quality improvement resources. Kentucky All STARS publicly recognizes a program’s strengths, creates systems of support, and provides families with assurances of quality.
Every program participating in Kentucky All STARS demonstrates a commitment to quality.
Programs participating at a Level 1 meet all regulatory guidelines set forth by the CHFS Division of Regulated Child Care, part of the Office of Inspector General. Level 2 programs have submitted evidence of required domains in classroom and instructional quality and staff qualifications and professional development. Programs rated levels 3-5 have participated in an environmental observation and submitted evidence of multiple domains and standards above and beyond minimum requirements.
Learn more about Kentucky All STARS, finding quality child care and child care financial assistance at http://chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/dcc/, or call the Division of Child Care at 844-209-2657.