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    Virginia’s Star Quality Initiative
  For Continuous Quality Improvement
                          Frequently Asked Questions
    While Virginia’s Star Quality initiative is in an early stage and being tested through a
   demonstration pilot during the 2007-08 school year, this guidance document provides
  information for the vision of Virginia’s Star Quality Initiative at full-scale implementation.

I. INTRODUCTION
        What is a quality rating and improvement system?
        How many states have quality rating and improvement systems?
        Why is quality important?
        What is quality?

II. VIRGINIA’S STAR QUALITY PROGRAM
         What is Virginia’s Star Quality Initiative for Continuous Quality Improvement?
         Why does Virginia need a quality rating and improvement system?
         What is the goal of Virginia’s Star Quality program?

III. CLASSROOM-BASED STANDARD IN VIRGINIA’S STAR QUALITY PROGRAM
         How does Virginia’s Star Quality program align with state and national standards?
         What is the difference between licensing standards and the standards included in Virginia’s Star
                  Quality for Continuous Quality Improvement program?
         Why do the standards matter?
         Why is years of experience included in the Standard 1 criteria for director qualifications but not
                  included in the qualifications of teachers and assistant teachers?
         How does the CLASS assessment tool measure the quality of student-teacher interactions?
         Who will train the raters and mentors in CLASS?
         How is the appropriate Environment Rating Scale determined?
         How does an Environment Rating Scale measure the quality of a facility’s learning environment and
                  instructional practices?
         Who will train the raters and mentors in use of the appropriate Environment Rating Scale?
         How does the standard include programs serving children with disabilities or special needs?

IV. HOME-BASED STANDARD IN VIRGINIA’S STAR QUALITY PROGRAM

V. BENEFITS, SUPPORTS, AND INCENTIVES
       What are the benefits to providers who participate?
       Why are incentives and supports important?
       What incentives and supports are available for rated programs?
       What is a Rising Star program?

VI. RATINGS, EVALUATION, AND COMMUNICATION
         Who conducts the Ratings visit?
         What can a program expect during the ratings visit?
         How is the Star level Rating calculated?
         How and when will a program be notified of its rating?
         How long is the Star rating valid?
         What is the ongoing monitoring for Star rated programs?
         How long can a program stay at a particular Star level?
         Can a program lose their Star Rating?
         Can a Star Rating be disputed?



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I. INTRODUCTION

What is a quality rating and improvement system?
A quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) is a method to assess, improve, and communicate
the level of quality in early care and education settings that families consider for their children.
Quality rating and improvement systems not only define standards for early childhood education and
create a framework for accountability, but also establish a network of support and outreach for
programs and practitioners, provide financial incentives linked to achieving and maintaining the
quality standards, and improve the information available to parents (NCCIC 2006).

How many states have quality rating and improvement systems?
Beginning with Oklahoma in 1998, 13 states (Colorado, Kentucky, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, New
Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Vermont)
and the District of Columbia have launched quality rating systems. In 2007, four states, California,
Florida, Michigan, and North Dakota, were considering legislation to implement a statewide QRIS. A
majority of states are in some stage of considering or implementing a quality rating and
improvement system.

Why is quality important?
During the first five years of life, the majority of the architecture of a child’s brain is determined
(Shore, R. 1997), and early childhood experiences set the stage for all future learning. Positive
outcomes from investments in early childhood education depend on the quality of these experiences.
As the Committee for Economic Development states in its 2006 policy statement:

       Quality is paramount if preschool programs are to have an effect on children’s learning and
       provide the economic and financial benefits we expect from our investment. High-quality
       preschool is much more than custodial care; it provides children with meaningful learning
       and play experiences guided by qualified teachers in an enriched educational environment.

Children with access to high quality preschool and child care programs are more likely to acquire the
skills they need to enter kindergarten ready to succeed and adapt to new learning and social
environments.

What is quality?
Research typically points to two dimensions of quality: structural features and process features.
Structural features in early learning settings refer to the way in which the program is organized or
structured, such as staff-to-child ratio and teacher qualifications. Process features refer to the
positive interactions between children and others which support experiences that promote children’s
learning and development (Scott-Little, C. 2006).

In early childhood education, features that affect quality focus largely around the teacher. Effective
early childhood professionals have a strong background in education and child development,
building specialized early childhood competencies. Effective teachers have the warmth and
sensitivity to engage children, fostering positive interactions with them, and to work in partnership
with their families, recognizing and respecting cross-cultural differences. They possess the
communication skills to nurture self-confidence and appreciate a child’s holistic growth. They
interact well with children, both individually and in small groups, and promote exploration in the
classroom, encouraging questions and conversations.

An age-appropriate curriculum recognizing the psychological development of children and building on
their instinctive curiosity is important, but the way a teacher implements that curriculum is more



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significant. Small class sizes and low child to teacher ratios that allow for individual student
attention are also hallmarks of a high quality program. Learning environments should stimulate
children’s cognitive development, with classrooms divided into smaller activity-based centers
Back to Top

II. VIRGINIA’S STAR QUALITY PROGRAM

What is Virginia’s Star Quality Initiative for Continuous Quality Improvement?
Virginia’s Star Quality Initiative is a voluntary quality rating and improvement system which uses
licensing as a foundation and sets a continuum of clearly defined Star levels of increasing quality.
There are two different quality rating and improvement standards, based on the type of setting being
rated: classroom-based and home-based.

Virginia’s Star Quality Initiative has five Star levels that incorporate and build upon Virginia’s
licensing standards, Board of Education requirements, and Head Start Performance Standards.
Each progressive Star level incorporates the standards in the Star level preceding it. The Star Quality
Initiative awards either Rising Star status or One, Two, Three, Four, or Five Stars to programs, similar
to how restaurants and hotels are rated, based on achievement in each of the five standard areas.

Programs are assessed on a biennial basis by trained and experienced Star Quality Raters, who are
regularly rated themselves for consistency and reliability. Thorough and systematic on-site visits are
conducted to determine which Star level designation a facility will receive and to ensure consistency
among programs, providing improved information and accountability for programs and families.
More specific information about the training of Raters can found in Section III of the guidance
document.

The five performance standards in the Star Quality classroom-based program—education,
qualifications and training; interactions; staff to child ratio and group size; learning environment and
instructional practices; and partnerships with families and communities—have indicators that must
be achieved for each Star level.

These standards and indicators have been selected as a result of a thorough review of the research
literature and best practices in other states. A strong body of research suggests that early care and
education programs that focus on improving in ways aligned with these five standards yield positive
outcomes for children. The indicators for each standard do not represent an exhaustive list, but
rather the essential list of what matters most as programs achieve higher levels of quality.

Why does Virginia need a quality rating and improvement system?
There is a wide range of early childhood education programs serving children across the
Commonwealth, including those served in the Virginia Preschool Initiative, Head Start, private and
faith-based centers and preschools, and home-based programs. Currently, there is no consistent
way to distinguish the level of quality in these programs, hindering families’ ability to make informed
choices about the education and care their young children receive.

Advancing the quality of early childhood programs available across the Commonwealth not only
benefits the children who attend them by improving their school readiness, but also the public as a
whole. Participation in high quality care and education has been shown to result in positive
outcomes including greater school success (higher test scores, higher rate of high school
completion, and progression to higher education) and life success (higher rates of employment,
home-ownership, contribution to the tax base; and reduced rates of pregnancy, drug use, and
criminal activity). Communities and society benefit through a better-educated workforce with higher



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wages and lower rates of crime and welfare dependence. Investing in quality early childhood
programs may have a significant impact on Virginia’s economic growth and opportunities for future
development in a competitive global market.

What is the goal of Virginia’s Star Quality program?
Virginia’s Star Quality program offers a market-based solution to facilitate quality consistency among
early childhood programs, support continuous quality improvement in partnership with public and
private early education providers, and encourage a continuum of care and education throughout
various provider settings, so that all children arrive in kindergarten ready to succeed. To encourage
provider participation, recognize provider achievements and improvements in quality, and reward
success, Virginia’s Star Quality initiative includes supports, like mentoring and technical assistance,
to help programs as they improve in quality, and financial incentives linked to achieving higher levels
of quality, especially for those programs serving at-risk children. Virginia’s Star Quality program
provides an easy to use tool for families so they can choose the best early care and education
programs for their children.
Back to Top

III. CLASSROOM-BASED STANDARD IN VIRGINIA’S STAR QUALITY PROGRAM

How does Virginia’s Star Quality program align with state and national standards?
A systematic review of Virginia’s Foundation Blocks for Early Learning, Milestones of Child
Development, Competencies for Early Childhood Professionals, national accreditation standards,
Early Head Start and Head Start Performance Standards, American Academy of Pediatrics
guidelines, and other research-based standards was performed. Every opportunity to align standard
indicators, terms, and timeframes to state and national standards was considered.

What is the difference between licensing standards and the standards included in Virginia’s Star
Quality for Continuous Quality Improvement program?
Virginia’s licensing requirements establish the foundation for operating child care programs. These
regulations are the minimum health and safety standards that must be met to operate legally.
Compliance with licensing requirements suggests that children will be kept healthy and safe.
Virginia’s Star Quality Initiative builds upon this foundation to indicate the presence of quality
features that have been shown by research to support optimal growth and development of children
and maximize school readiness.

Why do the standards matter?
Virginia’s Star Quality system is designed to rate the quality of early childhood programs using
standards derived from research evidence.

Standard 1: The education, qualifications, and training of early childhood educators significantly
contribute to quality and to positive child outcomes (Barnett 2004; NICHD ECCRN 1999, 2002; Rice
2003). When early childhood professionals have more years of education or highly specialized
training in early education, they are more likely to use effective teaching methods and to respond
positively to children compared to teachers with fewer years of education or less training in child
development (de Kruif et al. 2000; Howes 1983; Howes 1997). Essentially, early childhood
professionals with higher educational attainment typically have more positive, sensitive, and
responsive interactions with children, foster rich language and cognitive development, and exhibit
fewer negative qualities than teachers with less education, resulting in enhanced social, emotional,
linguistic, and cognitive development (Barnett 2004).




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To determine if a program has met all the criteria necessary to receive a particular Star level,
documentation will be assessed. Such documentation will include copies of credentials, transcripts,
job descriptions, training plans and evidence of participation in professional development or
enrollment in formal coursework.

Additionally, programs will show documentation of annual clock hours of approved training for staff,
as well as additional professional development activities like professional conferences, association
memberships, college coursework, and mentorship and peer evaluation.

Standard 2: The specific qualities of interactions are the mechanism through which curriculum is
translated into learning results. Because research shows strong correlation between the quality of
interactions and child outcomes in academic development, in addition to social, emotional, and
motivational development, this standard will be given the greatest weight in determining a program
rating.

The quality of adult-child interactions in early childhood programs will be assessed via direct
observations of classrooms by Star Quality Raters using the CLASS framework for Children’s
Learning Opportunities developed by the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at the
University of Virginia. The CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System) measures classroom
interactions between and among students and teachers across three subscales: emotional support
(ES), classroom organization (CO), and instructional support (IS).

Standard 3: The structural components of early childhood programs play a large role in determining
the quality of the program, especially in terms of safeguarding optimal health and safety of children
and in encouraging positive interactions and caregiving. Research has shown that both small group
size (CWLA 2005; Howes 1983; NICHD ECCRN 1996) and low child-adult ratios (NICHD ECCRN
1996, 1999; Kontos, S. et al. 1995) are linked to higher quality in early childhood programs. Group
size and child-adult ratios will be assessed by documentation and observation, specifically using
evidence from the facility’s staffing plan. Group size and child-adult ratio requirements for each Star
level are differentiated by the age of the children served, from infants to four-year-olds. The
requirements for each Star level will be modified for facilities serving school-aged children.

Standard 4: Research on best practices in early childhood education is the basis for the learning
environment and instructional practice standard. The overall learning environment and instructional
practices of early childhood programs will be evaluated based on Star Quality Raters’ observations
using the applicable Environment Rating Scale(s) (ITERS-R, ECERS-R, FCCERS-R, or SACERS). These
scales, developed at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North
Carolina, assess early childhood programs through various items organized into particular subscales.
The subscales include: Space and Furnishings; Activities; Interactions; Program Structure; Personal
Care Routines (ECERS-R, ITERS-R, and FCCERS-R) or Health and Safety (SACERS only); Language-
Reasoning (ECERS-R only) or Listening and Talking (ITERS-R and FCCERS-R); Parents and Staff
(ECERS-R and ITERS-R), Parents and Provider (FCCERS-R), or Staff Development (SACERS); and
Special Needs (SACERS only).

A score of three on a particular environment rating scale (ERS) is the minimal standard and is
equivalent to custodial care. A score of five is ―good‖ in terms of developmental care and education,
while a score of seven, the maximum score on the scale, equates to excellent and indicates
enhanced developmental care and education.

Standard 5: Child development does not occur in isolation; partnerships with families and
communities are another essential component of high quality early education. A child’s primary



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caregivers are the most influential adults in a child’s life and help determine all facets of his or her
development (Shonkoff and Phillips 2000). By communicating and working together with families
and communities, educational programs and organizational climates may be improved, needed
services and supports for families may be provided, and skills and leadership opportunities for
parents may be promoted (Epstein 1995). This standard is broken down into
Communication/Outreach with Families and Transition Practices, and will be assessed via
documentation provided by programs.

Programs must have at least one annual staff training regarding family involvement. Other Star Level
achievements includes requesting copies of students’ IEP or IFSP to inform classroom practice;
conducting interactions with family in a manner respectful of their background and values;
welcoming families to visit during hours of operation; providing resources for families, from
newsletters to web information; conducting workshops or educational meetings for families as well
as social events; encouraging parents and family members to volunteer with the program; holding
parent-teacher conferences; and conducting ongoing professional development to improve skills
regarding parent involvement.

All programs receiving a Star rating must include age-appropriate activities to prepare children for
transition and provide information and discussions for parents regarding transition to other settings.
Transition practices increase in detail and scope as the Star level increases. These practices
include: group meetings for parents, creating a list of community and school stakeholders in child
transitioning, developing individual transition plans for each child, coordinating with schools to
ensure records are received, and encouraging meetings between preschool teachers, kindergarten
teachers, and parents.

Why is years of experience included in the Standard 1 criteria for director qualifications but not
included in the qualifications of teachers and assistant teachers?
Because the CLASS assessment tool will be used to directly observe and evaluate the interactions
between teachers or assistant teachers and children in the classroom, the scores on each of the
CLASS subscales will reflect the experience and abilities of the teachers and assistant teachers
working in the classroom observed. Because scores on the CLASS subscales do not similarly reflect
the experience of program directors, this component was added to Standard 1 to ensure that
directors have both sufficient educational training and real-world management experience to
maximize program quality.

How does the CLASS assessment tool measure the quality of student-teacher interactions?

The CLASS is an observational instrument to assess classroom quality based on multiple dimensions
of teaching and quality that have been linked to student achievement and development. High scores
on the CLASS have also been related to better social adjustment in the early years of schools. The
dimensions fall in one of three broad categories: emotional support, classroom organization, and
instructional support. Emotional support includes classroom climate (positive and negative), teacher
sensitivity, and regard for student perspectives. Classroom organization includes behavior
management, productivity, and instructional learning formats. Finally, instructional support includes
concept development, quality of feedback, language modeling, and literacy focus. Using the CLASS
involves direct observation of the interactions between teachers and students for periods of up to 30
minutes and then rating what was observed across each dimension on a seven-point scale.
Validated in over 2,000 classrooms, the CLASS can be used not only to evaluate the quality of
preschool programs, but also to improve quality. CLASS provides a resource for both new and
experienced teachers to become more effective and can be linked to professional development




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programs. While the CLASS manual and training for pre-K to 3rd grade are currently available,
versions for both Infants and Toddlers are in development.

Who will train the raters and mentors in CLASS?
The Raters and Mentors will be trained in cohort groups by either the CLASS authors at the University
of Virginia or by a Star Quality Master Trainer who attended the train-the-trainer workshop in CLASS
from the source university. The Master Trainer will be able to train future Raters and Mentors and
conduct and oversee reliability testing and inter-reliability checks. This will ensure that Star Quality
Raters and Mentors are skilled in the use of the CLASS instrument and that there is reliability in
ratings across the Commonwealth.

How is the appropriate Environment Rating Scale determined?
The Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale- Revised Edition (ITERS-R) is designed for group
programs for children from birth to 2 ½ years. The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-
Revised Edition (ECERS-R) is recommended for group programs with children in preschool through
kindergarten, ages 2 ½ to 5. The School Age Care Environment Rating Scale (SACERS) is designed
for programs with children from ages 5 to 12. Finally, the Family Child Care Environment Rating
Scale- Revised Edition (FCCERS-R) is used to assess family child care programs located in the
provider’s home for children from infancy through school-age.

How does an Environment Rating Scale measure the quality of a facility’s learning environment and
instructional practices?

The ITERS-R and ECERS-R scales are revisions of instruments widely used in both the United States
and other countries to assess quality of child care and early education environments. The
concurrent and predictive validity of the ITERS is well-established (Harms, T. et al. 2006). Research
conducted on the original ECERS scale yielded good predictive validity (Peisner-Feinberg, E.S. &
Burchinal, M.R. 1997).

The essential criteria for high quality learning environments and instructional practices included in
the ECERS-R and ITERS-R environment rating scales focus on aspects of the day-to-day experiences
of children in care, including space and furnishings, personal care routines, listening, talking, and
language-reasoning, activities, interactions, program structure, and parents and staff. All of the
environment rating scales are appropriate for use in assessing inclusive and culturally diverse
programs, and the scales have proven reliability and validity.

Who will train the raters and mentors in use of the appropriate Environment Rating Scale?
The Raters and Mentors will be trained in cohort groups by the scale authors from the Frank Porter
Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina, when possible, or by a Star
Quality Master Trainer who received training to reliability in the environment rating scales and is
qualified to train other professionals and conduct and oversee inter-reliability checks. This will
ensure that Star Quality Raters and Mentors are skilled in the use of the environment rating scales
and help achieve consistency in ratings throughout the Commonwealth.

How does the standard include programs serving children with disabilities or special needs?
While Virginia’s Star Quality standards do not explicitly contain any modifications for children with
special needs, they are implicitly included in several of the performance standards. Several of the
subscales on the environment rating scales used in Standard 4 address inclusion of all children and
diversity in the classroom. Similarly, some of the dimensions assessed with the CLASS tool in
Standard 2 address student-teacher interactions relevant to children with special needs, like teacher
sensitivity. Children with special needs are also included in Standard 5; at the Two Star level,



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programs are required to request a copy of a child’s IEP or IFSP to inform classroom practice.
Additionally, training on inclusive practices is one of the options included in Standard 1 as part of
professional development for all staff in classroom-based programs.
Back to Top

IV. HOME-BASED STANDARD IN VIRGINIA’S STAR QUALITY PROGRAM

How can home-based family providers participate?
A standard for home-based programs is currently being developed, and should be ready for testing
by the fall of 2008.
Back to Top

V. BENEFITS, SUPPORTS, AND INCENTIVES

What are the benefits to providers who participate?
Quality matters. Programs have nothing to lose and everything to gain by participating. Regardless
of where a program may be on the quality continuum, there is a Star level that can accommodate
their improvement and progress, from Rising Star all the way up to a Five Star rating. Virginia’s Star
Quality initiative provides programs a roadmap for continuous quality improvement. Supports, like
trained mentors assigned to each provider and financial incentives tied to particular Star levels,
assist programs as they improve their quality and move up to the next Star level. Finally,
participation in the initiative gives programs the positive community recognition they deserve for
their continued dedication to achieving higher standards and improving the quality of the education
they provide to their students. For example, programs receiving a Star rating will receive
documentation that they can place in their facility to publicize their participation in the Star Quality
initiative and demonstrate their commitment to quality improvement.

Why are incentives and supports important?
Incentives and supports are an integral part of Virginia’s Star Quality initiative due to the increased
expense and expertise associated with achieving higher quality and sustaining it. Even though
incentives and supports may not underwrite the entire cost of improving standards, they can be of
great assistance in moderating the cost to providers as they continue to strive for higher and higher
quality levels.

What incentives and supports are available for rated programs?
Every program that decides to participate in the Virginia Star Quality initiative will receive a Star
Quality Mentor to help providers use the Star Quality standards to identify program strengths and
areas for improvement, establish an improvement plan to achieve the next higher Star level, and
provide technical assistance and guidance to early childhood professionals as they implement their
improvement plan by meeting regularly with their assigned programs. Mentors are local early
childhood experts who have first hand experience working in high quality child care settings.
Mentors are there to provide expert guidance to the programs on improving quality; they have a
distinct role, separate from Star Quality Raters or other program staff and volunteers. To ensure
every Mentor is able to provide accurate and valuable assistance, Mentors will have undergone
thorough training, particularly in the QRIS standards and the use of the CLASS and Environment
Rating Scale assessment tools.

There are also financial incentives; rated programs will be eligible to receive a quality improvement
grant or a quality achievement award as long as they do not have numerous, repeated, or serious
risk non-compliances with licensing regulations and maintain Star Quality requirements. Programs
may apply for a quality improvement grant, with their Mentor’s support, to provide additional



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materials, curriculum, or other equipment based on needs identified in the facility’s quality
improvement plan. Quality achievement awards to recognize programs that have improved their Star
rating in subsequent observations may be based on the Star level achieved, program capacity, and
the ratio of enrollment to number of subsidized children served. Programs may use these awards in
various ways to improve quality.

What is a Rising Star program?
A Rising Star program is a facility that has shown a commitment to improving quality and achieving a
Star level rating. Specifically, this intent is demonstrated by a commitment to comply with the
requirements set by the appropriate regulating authority (Virginia State Board of Education
Regulations, Virginia Department of Social Services Licensing Standards, Head Start Performance
Standards, etc.) and registering to receive technical assistance and coaching from Star Quality
Mentors. Rising Star programs are also encouraged to conduct a self or peer assessment using the
CLASS and appropriate environment rating scales to develop a proper improvement plan. The goal
of Rising Stars is to improve quality so a program can achieve a Star rating and to maintain or
improve that Star rating through renewal.
Back to Top

VI. RATINGS, EVALUATION, AND COMMUNICATION

Who conducts the Ratings visit?
Virginia’s Star Quality initiative will use highly trained Star Quality Raters meeting specific
qualification criteria to conduct program observations. Star Quality Raters, selected through an
application process, have significant work experience in early childhood or in observation and
evaluation, successfully complete training in the observation instruments, and achieve reliability on
the various ERS and CLASS, so that there is consistency in Star ratings across the Commonwealth.
To protect consistency and reliability in ratings over the long-term, Star Quality Raters will be tested
for reliability once every 10 observations by conducting an on-site visit in tandem with a Star Quality
Anchor, an individual who either serves as a Master Trainer or who is a particularly reliable Rater.

Local early childhood coalitions are encouraged to nominate interested and qualified individuals to
serve as Star Quality Raters. Star Quality Raters will be randomly assigned to programs, typically in
their geographic area. Information provided to the Star Quality office in the rater applications about
previous work experience will facilitate assignments, and raters will be asked to complete a form
verifying they have no conflict of interest that would prohibit them from rating each of their assigned
programs. However, if a provider believes there is a conflict of interest with their assigned rater, the
provider may submit a letter in writing to the Star Quality Director. The letter must clearly outline why
the rater assignment is being disputed and provide any evidence that supports this position. A
review team will assess the situation and documentation and may also meet with the rater and/or
provider. If the team determines that the rater assignment is inappropriate, an alternate rater will be
assigned.

What can a program expect during the ratings visit?
Before a ratings visit, documentation for Standards 1, 3, and 5, provided by the program to the Star
Quality office, will be reviewed, verified, and scored. Subsequent ratings visits allow the Star Quality
Rater to determine the program’s score for Standard 2 and Standard 4 by using the CLASS scale and
the appropriate Environment Rating Scale(s) observation tools.

The Rater(s) will contact providers by phone or email to establish a three-week period over which the
assessment(s) will occur. Once the timeframe has been agreed upon, providers must inform the
Rater(s) of any days within that three-week window when the entire facility would not be available for



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evaluation. There may be three of these ―unavailable‖ days within the three-week period. Also,
there may be two additional days when a particular classroom will be unavailable for assessment
during the three-week period. No specific dates for the assessments will be given, but the Rater(s)
will inform providers of which environment rating scale will be conducted, how many classrooms will
be assessed, and how many days the Rater(s) will be at the facility over the three-week period. On
each day of assessment, the program director must be available for contact.

A minimum of 1/3 of the total classrooms in the facility will be assessed, including at least one
classroom of each age group the program serves. Initially, this will only include classrooms serving
3- and 4-year-old children, as the CLASS scale for infants and toddlers is in development and training
on these instruments is not available. Based on the information provided by programs, the Rater(s)
will assign each potential classroom a number, and all numbers will be entered into the random
sample for assessment. From that sample, providers can draw the room(s) to be assessed on each
day. Since multiple classrooms may be evaluated, the Star Quality Rating process may take more
than one day, and more than one Rater could be assigned to a facility. Additionally, since Raters
must be tested for inter-rater reliability once every 10 visits, two Raters may observe one classroom
simultaneously. Program directors will be notified if an inter-rater reliability check will occur at their
facility.

After choosing the classrooms to be assessed that day, the facility contact will take the Rater(s) to
the selected classroom(s) and introduce the Rater(s) to the classroom staff. Rater(s) will conduct
continuous observation for approximately four to six hours. After observation, the Rater(s) will
interview the teacher for approximately one hour. While this interview is best conducted in a private,
quiet space, it may occur in the classroom if staffing is an issue. If possible, the Rater(s) will have
access to private space for review of the observation data and may need to return to the classroom
for additional observation. Once the observation is complete, the Rater(s) will notify the facility
contact and/or classroom staff. Additional days of assessment will be conducted within the three-
week period, but not necessarily on continuous days.

How is the Star level Rating calculated?
For classroom-based settings, programs are rated on a point scale. Programs will receive a certain
number of points for each indicator across each of the five performance standards. Because of the
importance of adult-child interactions in determining quality, Standard Two, Interactions, is weighted
1.5 times greater than the other standards. Standard Five, Partnering with Families and Community,
is given half the weight of the remaining standards. After accounting for these emphases, the total
points earned for all indicators in all standards are summed. There is a specific point spread for
each Star level.

If a program is at a Rising Star level for any indicator, they cannot earn a Star Rating and will receive
Rising Star status.

How and when will a program be notified of its rating?
Programs awarded a Star rating will receive written notification within 30 days. Programs will receive
a detailed observation report, highlighting program strengths and areas for improvement across
each of the indicators in each of the five performance standards. Mentors will also receive a copy of
this report to help facilities create or revise their Improvement Plans based on the Star rating
assessment.

How long is the Star rating valid?
Under normal circumstances, Star ratings remain valid for two years after the date of the letter of
notification.



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What is the ongoing monitoring for Star rated programs?
Programs are rated every 2 years, in addition to regular monitoring for licensure or other
requirements. Programs will also have the opportunity to request an interim observation if they feel
they have achieved the next Star level before their next scheduled rating visit.

How long can a program stay at a particular Star level?
With technical assistance and guidance from Mentors and with financial incentives linked to
improving quality, Virginia’s Star Quality program is designed to help providers achieve the highest
Star levels and enhance the quality of their services. Many programs may progress to the next Star
level after two years. Programs who have not increased their Star level after two years of
participation may be asked to spend time working on their quality improvements with no Star Quality
supports (grants, mentoring, or other financial incentives and technical assistance) to allow for the
program to evaluate their commitment to the Star Quality Initiative and to allow programs from the
waiting list an opportunity to participate in QRIS. A review team will determine whether or not a
program is eligible to continue receiving Star Quality supports based upon a review of the program’s
Quality Improvement Plan, renewal application, project participation, and an interview with the
program director and/or Star Quality Mentor. Similarly, if a program falls to a lower Star rating from
its previous observation, there will be a case review to determine an appropriate course of action.

Can a program lose their Star Rating?
Yes. A program that has achieved a Star Rating will have its Rating either suspended or removed
when any of the follow occurs: receipt of Notice of Intent to Withdraw from the Star Quality initiative;
numerous, repeated, or serious risk non-compliances with regulatory requirements; a serious
incident occurs resulting in injury or imminent risk to a child; an emergency order or notice of
proposed denial or revocation of licensure is issued; and failure to maintain compliance with Star
Quality standard criteria.

Can a Star Rating be disputed?
A Star Rating may be disputed if a program thinks it is in error by submitting a letter to the Star
Quality Director. The letter must clearly outline why the rating is being disputed and provide any
evidence that supports this position. A review team will assess the dispute and documentation and
meet with the Rater who had observed the facility. If the team determines that the Rater scored an
item incorrectly, the score is changed. There may be situations where another observation is
completed. Any financial incentives or quality improvement grants will not be awarded until the
dispute is resolved and the program is deemed eligible. There is no fee to dispute a rating.
Back to Top

                                              References

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Epstein, J. (1995). School/family/community partnerships. Phi Delta Kappan, 76(9), 701-712.
Harms, T., Clifford, R., & Cryer, D. (2005). Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale - Revised
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