Step Up to Quality – Where do we fit in?

Did you know 90 percent of brain development occurs before age 5? This means the majority of skills a child needs to succeed in life are established before our children even enter kindergarten. Before they even enter kindergarten!

Here at Morning Star we know the value of high quality early education and we don’t take the opportunity to prepare our young students for the future lightly. In fact, we take it very seriously. Two years ago we were the first childcare center to apply to be part of a brand new Nebraska initiative called Step Up to Quality. Step Up to Quality is a quality rating system designed to help early child care providers and educators recognize and improve the quality of their programs, aiming to help them reach their full potential to be able to better serve Nebraska’s children and families.

We believe Quality Rating Systems (QRS) are valuable tools for early education centers for a couple of reasons:

  1. Centers should always strive to provide the HIGHEST quality of education for their students given what we know about their rapid brain development and their capacity to absorb and learn.
  2. Parents should have a consistent, valuable and concrete way to identify the quality of their children’s education; parents need to be well-informed to be able to make the most sound decisions on behalf of their children and their education. Step Up to Quality helps the Nebraska Department of Education and Health and Human Services assess, improve and communicate the level of quality in early childhood programs.

As a participating program, we were given access to valuable coaching and educational resources to assist us on our journey to higher quality. These resources enabled us to learn and grow as a team of educators and improve our educational program immensely. Our first year, one year ago, we received a two rating – three levels away from the top score of a five. This year was our opportunity for improvement and, in our eyes, redemption.

The renewal and evaluation process began with 24-hours notice and lasted two full weeks. We were put through seven observations:

  • Three observations to evaluated the room environment and analyze the interactions between our teachers and our students. These were rated on the Environment Ratings Scale (E.R.S.). The ERS assesses the quality of interactions between adults and children. Classroom schedules, materials and space support these interactions and are included in the ERS.
  • Three observations to solely analyze the interactions between teachers and students. These were rated on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System™ (CLASS™). CLASS is an observation tool that focuses on the effectiveness of classroom interactions among teachers and children. This includes emotional support, classroom organization and instructional support. These daily interactions promote children’s social and cognitive development.
  • One observation to evaluate and grade our administration’s record keeping systems as well as our staff’s professional development. This included an inventory of updated documentation, handbooks, policies and records, as well as training hours, credit hours, credentials and educational records of program teaching staff, directors, licensees or primary providers through the Nebraska Early Childhood Professional Records System.

It was an arduous process and even though we had thoroughly prepared, utilized our provided resources, coached and mentored our staff – not to mention the extra training hours each and every dedicated staff member had put in – we were still nervous. Until yesterday when our results came in. As of yesterday morning we were the first and only Child Care Center (birth through PreK) in Nebraska to have earned a FIVE!

We are so proud of our staff, so lucky to have such a supportive family-base and so excited to be able to say we are doing everything we can for our students. We have big goals going into 2018 and we couldn’t be more excited about the potential of our classrooms, our program, our staff and children.

Happy new year! On to 2018!