Overview of Standard Categories

About the Overview

The QUALITYstarsNY standards were developed to provide New York State with a common understanding of the elements of high quality in early learning and development programs. We hope that this overview helps to clarify the major elements of our rating process, to help you understand how we determine quality, and also to help families look for signs of high quality in any program they consider for their child.

You can also download a one-page PDF overview of the standards categories.

Learning Environment

Classroom/Family Care Home Environment:

There is a rating tool called the Environment Rating Scale (ERS) that is used to assess, or measure, a child's learning environment. The ERS is well-known and often used in early childhood settings. A child care provider can use it to examine their own program or it can be used by a trained independent observer. QUALITYstarsNY encourages programs to make plans for improving their ERS score.

Child Observation & Assessment:

Child assessments are key to providing high quality care and education to children. QUALITYstarsNY recommends that child assessments and observations be done soon after a child starts a program and on a regular basis after that. They should be culturally appropriate, be documented appropriately and be used in planning children's lessons and activities.

Curriculum Planning & Implementation:

Children grow and change so quickly; It can be a challenge to keep up! Lesson plans and learning goals help providers and families keep up with the needs of children. QUALITYstarsNY recommends that programs use a curriculum or curriculum framework that has been proven to be effective and aligns with New York's educational guidelines. QUALITYstarsNY also recommends that staff are trained in using the curriculum are able to make adjustments for individual children.

Physical Well-being and Health:

A child who eats a nutritionally balanced diet and is engaged in regular physical activity is on the path to lifelong healthy habits. QUALITYstarsNY recommends that all children, from infancy up, engage in regular physical activity and plenty of outdoor play. Early childhood programs should have limited screen time, serve balance nutritious meals and snacks, and have other safeguards in place against obesity prevention.

Family Engagement


Communication between families and programs is essential in providing consistent high quality care to children. QUALITYstarsNY recommends that early childhood programs provide parent handbooks or similar materials. Parents should also be kept informed about their child's daily activities and have opportunities to meet with child care providers about their child's development. Early childhood programs can also be a resource for families, so they are encouraged to provide information to families about child development, social supports and financial support.

Family Engagement and Support:

Early childhood programs that support and include families are better equipped to provide high quality care and education. QUALITYstarsNY encourages programs to support families by accommodating and supporting breastfeeding mothers, supporting home languages in the program and demonstrating cultural competency. Programs are also encouraged to host social gatherings for families, provide opportunities for families to volunteer and seek feedback from families.


The early childhood years are full of transitions. These can be trying for children and their families. QUALITYstarsNY encourages programs to provide families with information about attachment and separation, and to have policies that ease transitions into, within and out of the program. Programs are also encouraged to limit the number of transitions within the program and ensure no more than one transition within a child's first two years.

Qualifications and Experience

Program Administrator/ Family Care Provider Management:

Managing a child care program requires knowledge and skills in both early childhood development and business management. QUALITYstarsNY recommends that those in leadership positions in early childhood programs possess the education and experience that will allow the program to succeed. In addition to education, QUALITYstarsNY recommends that anyone in a leadership position have at least three years supervisory or management experience.

Teaching/Provider Assistant Qualifications and Experience:

Early childhood teachers may earn an early childhood degree or take college courses through an accredited college or university. They may also earn a credential like the Child Development Associate, Montessori Credential, NYS Infant Toddler Credential or the NYS Family Child Care Credential. All of these are recognized by QUALITYstarsNY. Three years experience for teaching staff and family child care assistants are also recommended.


High staff turnover can have a negative effect on the children in the program's care. QUALITYstarsNY recognizes an 80% retention rate in child care centers and preschools as an indicator of quality. For family child care, at least 5 years of operation is recognized as a quality indicator.

Management and Leadership

Administrative Self-Assessment:

Good business practice is essential for early childhood programs to continue operations. There are a number of tools available for programs and family care providers to use to examine their business practices. QUALITYstarsNY recommends that programs and family care providers use the recommended tools to assess their current practices and use the results to make improvements to their business.

Financial Accountability & Sustainability:

Maintaining a healthy financial outlook is important for business. It is especially important to keep tuition and fees as reasonable as possible while adequately compensating staff. QUALITYstarsNY recommends that liability insurance is up to date, taxes are paid on time, the program operates on a budget and income and expenses are carefully tracked. There should be an independent review of all accounting records. Programs and providers should also have a plan in place to fill vacant slots when they become available.

Policies and Procedures:

Having written policies and procedures in place provides a map for operations. In family child care the recommended policies address the use of substitutes, confidentiality, and professional development. In centers and preschools the recommended polices address job descriptions, employee expectations, confidentiality, employee reviews and professional development.

Staff Compensation and Benefits:

QUALITYstarsNY recommends that full time staff, in both family care and programs should have sick time, holidays, professional development days and health insurance. Centers and preschools should also have additional benefits that may include flexible scheduling, retirement, tuition reimbursement or other benefits. Centers and preschools should also have a written wage scale.

Staff Planning:

It is imperative for the health and well-being of children that early childhood professionals are present and prepared for work. QUALITYstarsNY recommends providing paid planning time, and access to resources, so that teachers can be prepared and attentive to children when they are in the learning environment. In the case of a teachers absence the program must be prepared. QUALITYstarsNY recommends having a written plan to cover planned and unplanned absences.