Quality Counts

CLICK HERE to see a list of participating programs (as of March, 2017).

What is Quality Counts?  

The Board of the Early Learning Coalition of Polk County has mandated the Coalition make the improvement of quality for early childhood education in Polk County a priority.  The “quality” issue is a growing trend in the United States, and it has been approached in a variety of ways by different states.  One of the most popular and successful ways to improve quality is through a star rating system.  Research indicates that children benefit from systems that provide safe and healthy environments, reduced staff to child ratios and group size, appropriate curriculum usage, trained personnel, recognized business and management procedures, family involvement, and staff retention.  Star systems utilize all or most of these criteria.

What are the goals of Quality Counts?

Although there are many different reasons and goals for implementing a Quality Rating System, the main goals of the Polk Quality Rating Improvement System include the following:
• To improve the quality of early childhood education in Polk County;
• To provide parents with information so they may identify and select higher quality programs;
• To assist providers in achieving higher standards in their programs

How can a child benefit from being enrolled in a program that is participating in Quality Counts?

Programs that are participating in Quality Counts are committed to providing services above and beyond what is minimally required of them by State Licensing.  The director and staff of programs participating in these sites are on an ongoing, self-initiated, path of education and skill development which will ultimately benefit a child’s long-term educational outcomes.  These sites strive to provide children with high quality early learning opportunities and experiences which will develop the skills that they need to be ready for school.

How does the Early Learning Coalition rate a program?

The Quality Counts assessment system was designed to give providers a variety of opportunities to achieve.  Many systems are based primarily on Environment Rating Scale (ERS).  Polk’s Quality Counts System has incorporated seven areas of importance to measure quality in the child care setting:
• Ratio and Group Size: 10%
• Curriculum, Screening, and Assessment: 20%
• Learning Environment: 20%
• Staff Qualifications: 15%
• Professional Development: 15%
• Business Practices: 10%
• Family Involvement: 10%
Each of the above seven items are equal in point value (1-5) but are then weighted when scored according to the importance within the child care setting.  After all items are scored, participating programs receive an overall STAR RATING (1-5 stars).

What is the difference between a Star Level 1 and higher star level ratings?

Star Level 1 is the entry level of quality and programs at this level go beyond minimum health and safety standards and regulations of State Licensing.  Programs with higher Star Level ratings have made increased efforts toward meeting more demanding standards such as curriculum, learning environments, business practices, and staff development.

Does it cost more to enroll my child in a program that is participating in the Quality Counts program?

All early education programs determine their individual fees for services.  Achieving high levels of quality has costs, but Quality Counts provides a system of support services, training, and resources to help participating programs make quality improvements.

How can I find out if my child’s program is participating in Quality Counts?

The Quality Counts Star Level designation is a tool designed to help parents make informed choices about choosing quality care.  To find out if your child’s program is participating, ask and look for a Quality Counts/Polk Quality Rating Improvement System certificate.  Take the guess work out of finding quality early education programs for your children.  You may also CLICK HERE to see a list of participating programs (as of March, 2017).