How is quality assessed?
Highly trained assessors record the daily activities and interactions observed in a child care setting using the items found in one of the following four rating scales:
- Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale - Revised —birth through 30 months.
- Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale - Revised —Over 2 1/2 years to 5 years.
- Family Day Care Rating Scale and Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale-Revised —multi-age care in a home environment.
- School-Age Care Environment Rating Scale- Updated --5 to 12 years
How should I prepare for the visit?
According to a survey of providers, the five most common ways to prepare include:
1. Read and study the Environment Rating Scales and the NC Additional Notes.
2. Participate in a “self-assessment” before the scheduled assessment.
3. Talk with a Child Care Licensing Consultant about the assessment and/or receive assistance from an outside agency (such as your local Smart Start Partnership or Child Care Resource & Referral). Also consider networking with providers who have experienced the assessment process.
4. Prepare your facility to maximize the assessment process through quality enhancements. Any changes should reflect the best practices for young children and should improve the quality of the program on an ongoing basis. Remember it often takes time to change behaviors and practices so assessment preparation should be viewed as an ongoing process, rather than a short term activity.
5. Prior to the assessment inform the children that they will have a visitor to help them feel more comfortable during the assessment.
6. After the assessment is scheduled, a packet of information and forms will be sent to you. Please have the necessary paperwork completed and available to give to the assessors before the observation. These include the Classroom Information Form, the Teacher Information Form and copies of Classroom Daily Schedules
It is strongly recommended that program staff examine the NC Additional Notes, as well as the NCRLAP's Requirements for Gross Motor Space and Equipment and USDA meal guidelines used during the assessment process. These materials can be found under our "Resources" menu.
What other supplementary documents do I need?
There are several standard documents that you should be aware and your consultant may have other documents related to the program standards portion of the NC Star Rated License. These documents are available under the "Resources" menu and include:
1. NC Additional Notes for each rating scale.
2. NCRLAP's Requirements for Gross Motor Space and Equipment.
3. Meal Guidelines: Ages 1 - 12 and/or Infant Meal Guidelines: Ages 0 to 11 months.
What should I expect on the day of the assessment?
Upon Arrival of the Assessor
The assessor will arrive when the center or home opens or when children are arriving. Before the observation begins, the assessor will typically greet the owner/director and provide an overview of the day. In child care centers, classrooms are chosen on the day of each scheduled assessment using random selection based on specific criteria--such as one-third of the classrooms, and assessing each age group.
The observation will continue for at least 3 hours when using the ITERS-R, ECERS-R, and FCCERS-R, but is also likely that a longer observation will occur. For after school assessments using the SACERS-U, the observation will continue for at least 2 hours, but may last longer during assessments that occur on full days such as during the summer. During the visit, the assessor will observe and take notes on a wide variety of interactions, activities, and materials as required by the rating scale. For example, the assessor will observe indoor and outdoor spaces for play and routine care, materials used by the children, health practices, staff/child interactions, and so on. To ensure a valid assessment, the typical daily schedule should be followed and only the usual classroom staff should be present. Additionally, to minimize their impact on the child care environment assessors limit interactions with the children or staff during the assessment and will stay in the “background” as much as possible when conducting the observation.
Interview with Staff
The Environment Rating Scales require a 30 to 45 minute interview with the teacher or child care provider after the observation to complete scoring. Depending on the facility type, the interview process may involve the child care provider, the lead classroom teacher, and /or other program staff that take care of children at various times of the day. The interview takes place during naptime or while a substitute teacher replaces the child care provider. For after school assessments, assessors may conduct an interview before children arrive as well as a post-assessment interview.
What should I expect after the assessment?
For each observation, the assessor will complete a detailed report that identifies the program’s strengths and areas that could be improved as determined by the Environment Rating Scale assessment. The completed report is forwarded to the DCDEE Child Care Consultant who will contact the owner/provider to review and discuss the summary report.
The summary report is designed to provide constructive feedback so child care provider and directors may enhance the program’s quality through developing a plan of action. This may include brainstorming with staff, training and technical assistance from local or regional resources, purchasing equipment, rearranging rooms, or reviewing and revising policies, procedures, and daily practices.
What if I have questions about my report or disagree with the assessment results?
It is common for child care providers to have questions about their assessment report(s). We encourage you and/or your child care consultant to call our office with any questions; your call will be forwarded to the appropriate staff person who will address your questions. Occasionally, child care providers raise objections or disagree with some aspect of the report. In this case they may choose to complete the grievance process and send their concerns about the assessment results in writing. Information about the grievance process can be found on our "Resources" list.
Some reasons why the scales are used in North Carolina:
1. Reliable and valid instruments with many uses; including:
- Program enhancement
2. Observation based classroom assessment
3. Comprehensive coverage e.g., physical environment, language-reasoning, interactions, program structure, health and safety
4. Range of quality scores are easy to understand
1 = Inadequate (dangerous for children)
3 = Minimal (basic care)
5 = Good (developmentally appropriate care)
7 = Excellent (best quality care)
How to obtain the Rating Scales or related materials?
Copies of all of the rating scales are available at your local Resource & Referral and/or Partnership agencies. The Environment Rating Scales can also be purchased from Teachers College Press (1-800-575-6566), Red Leaf Press (1-800-423-8309), Kaplan (1-800-334-2014) and Amazon.com.
How often can I go through the assessment process for my stars
Typically most programs that choose to complete the assessment process related to points in the Program Standards component of their child care license will be assessed every 3 years, unless otherwise specified by their DCDEE Child Care Consultant. However, after a program’s star rating is issued, the program may complete an application to reapply for a higher star rating at any time. If the previous rating scale score was less than 4.0 on one or more assessments, the program may be eligible for a free reassessment. If a program that scored at least 4.0 on each rating scale assessment wants to reapply for a higher star rating and requests an assessment, the facility will be responsible for the cost of the reassessment(s). It is important to discuss either option with your child care licensing consultant.
Learn more about the Rating Scales from the scale authors
To learn more about the use of the Rating Scales, such as its use in research or training, we recommend that you visit the scale author's website at: www.fpg.unc.edu