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Rating Child Care Like Hotels & Restaurants

Photo: Following a national gathering in Washington D.C., hundreds of child care experts and advocates are now back home, ready to share new ideas on how child care programs can be rated for quality and improved where needed. Courtesy Build Initiative
Photo: Following a national gathering in Washington D.C., hundreds of child care experts and advocates are now back home, ready to share new ideas on how child care programs can be rated for quality and improved where needed. Courtesy Build Initiative
August 5, 2013

BISMARCK, N.D. - People dine at five-star restaurants or watch movies given four stars by reviewers, and now there's a nationwide shift under way to provide similar guidelines for parents looking for a quality preschool or child care provider. Debi Mathias, director, QRIS National Learning Network, said nearly every state is now planning or implementing a Quality Rating Improvement System.

It goes beyond just helping a parent find a safe place to "park" children under age 5, she said.

"We can have well-qualified, skilled teachers working with parents to give us the best possible outcomes in school readiness for young children," Mathias said.

Research has shown that around 90 percent of brain development happens by age 5, and Mathias said 60 percent of kids in that early age group spend time in the care of someone other than their parents.

"That's amazing, isn't it?," she exclaimed. "We want to make sure that the experiences children are having are really focused on providing the best possible support for them, so that they can be solidly ready for school - and for life in general, too."

Miriam Calderon, senior partner with the firm School Readiness Consulting, said the ratings systems now being created and implemented around the country have to include an easily-understood method of informing parents.

"It's not just about sort of adding a couple of stars, or adding a label to a program, and saying, 'This is a five-star program.' There has to be a lot of effort to really help parents understand what that means," Calderon stressed.

Hundreds of experts from around the country met this past week in Washington, D.C., to share ideas on assessing, improving and communicating the level of quality in early care and education settings. President Obama has made access to universal Pre-K a goal of his administration.

More information is available at http://www.buildinitiative.org/.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND