Child care report card system helping parents

From Staff Reports

   A report card system has allowed parents and caregivers in Tennessee to have more information than before when choosing a child care program.
   One year after being implemented, the Child Care Report Card and Star-Quality Program has been found to be providing parents with in-depth access information about the quality of child care agencies.
   An extensive report providing an overview of the program's first year was delivered to legislative committee chairs earlier this week.
   A comparison of the first quarter the program was implemented to the last quarter of its first year has been completed. The study shows scores increasing across the boards.
   Infant and toddler average scores rose 9 percent, preschool scores increased 6.7 percent, school age scores went up 10 percent, and family and home scores rose 12 percent.
   Based on the report card evaluation, child care agencies may qualify for the voluntary Star-Quality program which awards one, two, or three stars based on how much the agency exceeds minimum standards.
   Laura Arates' 2-year-old son attends a child care agency where the rating system is used. She believes the system offers vital information to parents concerned about the welfare of their children.
   "The Star-Quality rating definitely makes a big difference because you can't tell much, just walking into a center, about the level of quality above the minimum standards," Arates said. "The rating lets you know they are doing something above and beyond what's required to keep your child safe and healthy."
   Participation in the report card component of the program is required for all child care agencies licensed by the Department of Human Services (DHS). Agencies receive their evaluation results on poster-sized report cards, which are displayed beside the agency's license.
   The cards are intended to inform parents about how the agency meets or exceeds minimum state standards in areas such as director qualifications, compliance history, parent/family involvement, and ratio and group sizes.
   Agencies apply for quality enhancement grants to help them make improvements in their programs. More than $1.6 million has been issued to 145 agencies across the state.
   In addition to the evaluation, agencies receive an on-site independent assessment of classroom activities, programs and materials.