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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. Photo 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. Photo courtesy: Build Initiative.
August 7, 2013

PHOENIX - People dine at five-star restaurants or watch movies given four stars by reviewers. Now, there's a nationwide shift under way to provide similar guidelines for parents looking for a quality preschool or child care.

Nearly every state now is planning or implementing a Quality Rating Improvement System, said Debi Mathias, director of the QRIS National Learning Network, which goes beyond just helping a parent find a safe place to "park" children under age five.

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

President Obama has made access to universal pre-kindergarten a goal of his administration.

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

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

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

"It's not just about sort of adding a couple stars," she said, "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."

Hundreds of experts from around the nation met last week in Washington to share ideas on assessing, improving and communicating the level of quality in early care and education settings.

More information is online at buildinitiative.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ