Quality Rated is a free, online tool administered by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning where Georgia parents and families can find information on quality child care programs in their area that have been evaluated by independent experts —regardless of what type of program they prefer, whether at a home, a preschool at a center or a program at a school.
Parents and families can use Quality Rated to cross-check child care referrals they receive from families and friends or through other research they’ve done. They can make sure that the program they are considering is evaluated by the State of Georgia and committed to providing children an environment and experience that is best for their development.
Of the more than 5,000 licensed child care programs in Georgia, more than 1,000 are Quality Rated.
We touched base with Kristin Bernhard, Deputy Commissioner for System Reform at DECAL, with a few questions about Quality Rated.
EGF: Why is it important to choose Quality Rated child care?
KB: The first five years of a child’s life are vital to their development. That’s where Quality Rated comes in: This free, online tool helps parents and families ensure their kids have positive, quality early care so they have the best foundation possible for success in school and life.
We surveyed 600 diverse parents and families across the state, and found that:
- Most were unaware of Quality Rated. But about 90% of those who used the tool said it was helpful in their child care search
- Quality Rated can help families find programs that meet their top concerns such as safety of the facilities, cleanliness, strong learning components and teacher credentials
- About 76 percent of families were interested in a tool that takes the guesswork and uncertainty out of the truly important task of searching for a quality child care program.
KB: All programs that participate in Quality Rated are demonstrating a commitment to improve early care and education by going above and beyond Georgia’s licensing standards. Whether they have one, two, or three stars, they have all demonstrated dedication to providing a high-quality experience to the children in their programs and the families they serve.
Quality Rated programs all provide excellent service to children and their families. Their star ratings just depend upon their level of execution. The programs are assessed in the following areas and earn points based on their portfolio and observations during visits conducted by child care experts:
• employing qualified and well-trained teachers;
• providing a safe, healthy, and caring environment;
• implementing individualized instruction;
• offering a curriculum that prepares children for kindergarten;
• focusing on both active learning and social-emotional development;
• engaging families;
• providing a low teacher-student radio;
• scoring well on independent observations;
• volunteering for training on how children grow and learn, and how to track children’s developmental progress;
• developing strong relationships with families by learning more about each individual child, and offering them information about community services;
• committing to improving their own training and education in the early learning field;
• committing to school readiness by planning and evaluating daily schedules, learning activities and materials, classroom layout, and health-related practices;
• using activities for children aligned with the Georgia Early Learning and Development Standards (GELDS);
• developing strong relationships with families by having open two-way conversations about their child’s growth and development, and offering information about paying for child and health care;
• planning for and pursuing ongoing learning in the early childhood field;
• using child assessments and curriculum, and working toward making instruction more individualized, stimulating and language-rich in order to promote critical thinking and prepare children for school;
• hiring staff with advanced education credentials who are committed to ongoing professional development and have volunteered for training in some of the following: key areas of children’s development; cultural and socioeconomic differences between families; practices that support inclusion; offering healthy meals, and engaging children in physical activity and active play;
• developing strong relationships with families by doing some of the following: sharing assessment results, helping them access family support services, and providing information in families’ primary languages.
EGF: What else should I know about the Quality Rated program?
KB: For a more in-depth overview on the specific actions that programs at the various star ratings have put in place to serve the children, parents and families they serve, visit QualityRated.org or call us at 877-ALL-GA-KIDS