Alabama quality stars

Alabama quality stars DEFAULT

QRIS State Profile

This profile is from the Quality Compendium—a comprehensive resource for information about all of the QRIS operating in the U.S. and its Territories. It was developed by a partnership of the BUILD Initiative, the Early Learning Challenge Collaborative, and Child Trends.

QRIS Resource Guide Examples

Approaches to Implementation

Alabama Piloted Quality STARS

Alabama worked with a group of state-level stakeholders for a little over 3 years to develop a five-star rating system, Quality STARS, for child care centers. In October 2013, Alabama launched an 8-month pilot that was conducted by the University of Alabama. The pilot included 50 participating centers that met the licensing requirements. Focus groups assessed the effectiveness of the new system, and ratings were given in the form of feedback to the participating centers. The ratings were based on information submitted by the center and two onsite assessments: The first was a 3- to 4-hour assessment of the center’s leadership and management practices using the Program Administration Scale, and the second was an Environment Rating Scales assessment of randomly selected classrooms. Programs that volunteered to participate after the pilot ended and Quality STARS went live received ratings that were good for 3 years. Alabama started piloting a model for family child care centers in 2017.


MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The state will soon start a new program to help you better choose a day care.

It's called Alabama Quality Stars. It's a new five star scale rating program. Just like you see hotels ranked up to five stars, the state will now rate licensed day care centers that go above the required minimum standards.

This program is part of a national system to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early child care and education programs.

Centers will be rated from one to five stars based on four components: staff qualifications and professional development, management and administrative practices, learning environment and curriculum, and family involvement and community partnerships.

"We saw the difference it made in the quality of child care settings in other states. We also saw that we were getting this huge difference between how many programs were licensed and meeting minimum standards and how many programs we had that were exempt and not subject to regulations by our department," said Jeanette Green, assistance director for Alabama DHR child care services division.

This is only for licensed centers and is voluntary, so only centers that want to participate choose to do so. Leaders say this is a way to recognize centers that provide great care and also help parents when choosing the center that's right for their children.

"It's a way for parents to be able to look and see whether or not they are getting to an environment that cares about quality, that cares about health and safety and cares about it so much that they are voluntarily doing these things that are not required to do," Green said.

The hope is it will also bring to light centers that are not licensed and make parents start to question if centers are even evaluated.

"It will be a way for parents to judge [the centers] and parents start to ask about it. If a program doesn't have a star rating, they will start to ask about it, 'well wait a minute why isn't there a star rating when there are other programs that do have star ratings.' And recognizing that any star rating means that the program is doing more than the minimum standards requires," Green said.

The star rankings will be listed on the state's website, making it easy for parents to see. Orientation sessions will be held starting this month for day care centers. Leaders hope to begin evaluations by April and have some programs ranked as early as May.

The evaluations and orientations will be conducted by trained personnel at the University of Alabama.

The program is funded with federal dollars.

Copyright 2016 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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Alabama parents may soon have a star rating system to help them decide where to send children for daycare. The state’s new five-star scale may soon apply to licensed child care centers that choose to participate in the program, as the state is about to test the idea at 50 daycares across the state.

"The Alabama Quality STARS initiative will provide child care parents and the public with a better understanding of child care quality," said Jeanetta Green, assistant director of the child care services division at Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR). "Parents will have easily accessible information about the quality of child care programs."

The Alabama Quality STARS pilot program involves daycares that volunteered to serve as test cases. These approximately 50 centers will be rated on a scale of one to five stars when the pilot program ends in June 2014.

But the initial ratings probably won’t be made public.

According to Barry Spear, public information manager with the Alabama Department of Human Resources, the pilot ratings will be used internally to fine-tune the program. Participating centers will give written feedback and participate in focus groups to determine the effectiveness of the new system.

As of now, all childcare centers must be licensed through DHR to operate in the state – with a few exceptions for programs such as those affiliated with religious organizations or schools – and must adhere to a set of standards in order to maintain a license.

The stars are meant to rate childcare centers that offer benefits above and beyond the minimum standards.

If the program is successful it could be implemented by next fall, said Spear. But if revisions need to be made, the system could go back to the drawing board and another pilot program may be implemented.

“We want a wide variety of programs so we can determine whether the way we have set up the STARS system is effective, prior to it being fully implemented,” said Eric Cooks, a research technician on the Alabama Quality STARS Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) Pilot Project, which is being administered through the department of human development and family studies at the University of Alabama.

Mississippi, which has “a very good QRIS” said Cooks, took about three years to fully implement a similar childcare center rating system.

How it works

To be evaluated under the Alabama Quality STARS system, a childcare center must first meet the minimum requirements to be licensed by Alabama DHR.

The participating center’s director must complete a packet of materials including surveys, checklists and detailed information about the center.

The center is then visited by an assessor for a tour and a three-to-four-hour on-site assessment of the center’s leadership and management practices. Then an assessor performs a separate three-hour on-site observation and evaluation of randomly selected classrooms. After the evaluations and paperwork are complete, the center receives its star rating. Assessors in the fully-implemented project, said Spear, would likely be DHR licensing staff.

Cooks said the pilot program does not specifically address how star ratings in the fully-implemented system would be made public and available to parents. And Spear points out that even when the program goes live, it could take a while to assign ratings to all interested centers and create a searchable online database.

But once a program gets a star rating, it will last for three years. At that point, the center must go through the evaluation process – including the on-site visits – all over again to get its updated rating.

If a center wanted to reapply sooner to try to get a higher rating, it could do so after one year.

The Alabama Quality STARS program, once fully implemented, would be voluntary; centers that chose not to participate would not get a star rating.

“We’re hoping this will be market-driven, as far as (childcare centers) wanting to be involved,” said Spear. “We’re hoping they’ll feel compelled because their customers will be asking about it.”

What do the stars mean?

The components of the STARS ratings, as it currently stands in the pilot program, include: management and administrative practices; family involvement and community partnerships; learning environment and curriculum; and staff qualifications and professional development.

A center must meet all one-star requirements to advance to two-star, and so on.

For example, a two-star center must have a written annual budget, but a five-star center must also have an annual audit performed by a qualified entity. Another example: A one-star center must share information on child development and children’s health with families, while a five-star center must also have a parent and community leadership/advisory committee.

At a recent orientation in Huntsville for representatives of child care centers that may participate in the pilot program, the overall reactions voiced by center representatives were positive. But there were concerns.

Some asked how the system would work for Head Start facilities – which are also licensed through DHR and eligible for the pilot program but have their own set of federal guidelines – compared with private child care facilities.

Another sticking point concerned the requirements for staff education.

“There are both church centers and private centers who have good quality people who have been with them for years,” said Debbie Cantrell, of Locust Grove Weekday Education. “They may not have a degree, but I would match them up with anyone with a degree.”

Running into a Rattlesnake in Alabama

Alabama Quality STARS Achievement

Stepping Stones Preschool, LLC has exciting news:

We have achieved a STAR Rating symbolizing our commitment to quality Child Care

Stepping Stones Preschool, LLC is proud to announce that we have achieved a STAR rating in Alabama Quality STARS, Alabama’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). 

Stepping Stones Preschool, LLC was recognized by the state of Alabama for our ongoing effort to provide quality early care and education above state minimum licensing requirements. 

The designation comes after significant preparation, which included an extensive orientation session, staff enrollment in the Alabama Pathways Professional Development Registry and training on environment and administration assessments. The process culminated in a program review conducted by Alabama Quality STARS staff. 

“We at Stepping Stones Preschool LLC are both humbled and excited to participate in the Quality Stars Program. This designation affirms Stepping Stones Preschool’s commitment to maintaining a relevant and nurturing early childhood educational program that inspires the love of learning and celebrates childhood.” 

Alabama began statewide implementation of its QRIS in February 2016. Participation in a QRIS gives early care and education programs the opportunity to assess and improve the quality of the services provided to children and families. Research on brain development shows the need to focus on quality early care and education as the foundation for children to be successful in school and in life. 

Stepping Stones Preschool, LLC is honored to serve the families of this community by providing quality early care and education. This milestone means our staff will have program enhancement support and priority consideration for training and educational scholarships. We pledge to continue to strive to provide the highest quality early care and education possible.

Alabama Quality STARS is an initiative of the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR), in collaboration with the University of Alabama. For more information on Alabama Quality STARS go to An electronic copy of this press release is available by calling 205-348-1315 or 1-844-883-STAR (7827).


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