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Program supports assessment, improvement

Early Stars ready to help improve the quality of early childhood education programs

Tulare County Early Stars

The Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) pilot that TCOE’s Early Childhood Education program (ECE) participated in last spring with the Fresno County Office of Education has been fully funded and is moving forward with its first cohort of assessment and support for select Tulare County state preschool programs.

Now known as Early Stars in Tulare County, the QRIS program is a statewide assessment and improvement support system for providers of early childhood education services. Depending on the type of program that is being assessed, independent evaluators use a standardized matrix with five or seven criteria. The matrix evaluates the type of assessment and developmental screening tools the center uses, the educational qualifications of the center teachers, the teacher-child interactions (based on the CLASS assessment), the teacher/child ratios, and the environment. Evaluators score each criteria and total the points to determine how many "stars" the program receives on a one-to-five scale, with five stars being the highest.

Lorena Castillo, the former manager of the Tulare County Council on Child and Youth Development, has been selected to lead the Early Stars program. Ms. Castillo reports that 17 state preschools from throughout Tulare County have been selected to participate in the first round of assessments and trainings. Funding for the state preschools to participate in the QRIS program has been provided by the California Department of Education. The preschools include several Child Development Centers in the TCOE ECE Program, and centers within Porterville Unified, Visalia Unified, Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified, Lindsay Unified, Tulare City School District and Alta Vista School District.

Ms. Castillo reports that an additional $2.4 million in funding has been received from First 5 California. These funds can be used to help improve the quality of licensed and non-licensed alternative settings, such as family childcare home provides, private and faith-based centers, LCAP-funded classrooms, and other alternative settings. In addition, Early Stars has applied for additional state funding to support programs that provide licensed care to infants and toddlers.

To help build participation in the Early Stars program, the Tulare County Inclusion Committee (a subcommittee of the Council on Child and Youth Development) will host its annual Inclusion Breakfast on Friday, February 26 at 8:00 a.m. at TCOE’s Liberty Center (11535 Avenue 264 in Visalia). The focus of this year’s event will be the newly implemented Early Stars program. “We hope to attract educators from the widest variety of programs to learn more about the elements used to assess early care and education programs and how we can support their improvement,” said Ms. Castillo. The Early Stars program invites school districts, local area superintendents, directors, private preschool programs and family childcare programs to attend and learn more about the services that are available for their earliest learners.

“Our goal is to support the improvement of early childhood education programs throughout Tulare County for the benefit of our students,” said Ms. Castillo. “We are anxious to support those programs that initially receive one, two or three stars with trainings and resources to help with their improvement.” Programs that receive a four or five star rating may be eligible to apply for a block grant to make improvements to their facilities or to use as stipends for teachers. For more information about participating in the Early Stars program or to attend the Inclusion Breakfast, contact Lorena Castillo at (559) 651-3022, extension 209.