More Questions About YoungStar Answered

Child care professionals across the state have continued to raise interesting and valuable questions related to Wisconsin’s newly approved QRIS, YoungStar. In response, earlier this month, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) published a newly revised “frequently asked questions” section on their website. All questions that were received during the YoungStar webinar series have been incorporated into this newly revised section. Examples of questions and answers on the website include:

Q: Does being licensed vs. certified increase your score?
A: No. You have 2 Stars if you are in full compliance with licensing and/or certification rules. That is the floor. Being licensed does not increase your points. However, current Wisconsin Shares reimbursement levels are different for certified and licensed programs. This would remain the same.

Q:When a program receives the 5% or 10% or 25% reimbursement, will there be specifications on how that money should be used?
A: YoungStar policies will encourage programs to reinvest additional resources in ongoing quality improvement.

Q: Will I have access to technical assistance – prior to being rated –to come into my family child care, look over my center, review my education, and my center as a whole to inform me about what I could improve?
A: Yes. Programs will have access to immediate training and technical assistance opportunities being planned to begin this summer and will be able to work with regional entities to access opportunities once services begin in December. The observation rating will be an opportunity to show you and your technical consultant what additional kinds of technical assistance will be most useful. You might choose to do a self-assessment before your first observation rating.

These are only 3 of many NEW questions addressed. To view the entire page, and see if your burning question(s) was answered, visit the site here. Still have a question? Let us know! We’ll answer it if we can and connect you to the correct contact person if we can’t.

Wisconsin’s Accredited Child Care Programs Listed Online

Last week, a list of Wisconsin’s accredited child care programs was posted on the Department of Children and Families website. These programs will receive either a 4 or 5 star rating on YoungStar, the state’s newly approved quality rating and improvement system, and have met rigorous standards by one of five accrediting bodies: the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the National Accreditation Commission (NAC), the City of Madison Accreditation program, the National Association of Family Child Care (NAFCC), and Head Start Performance Standards. To view the list of these providers, click here.

As YoungStar is launched, non-accredited programs across the state will be rated on a 5-star scale and these ratings will be added to the DCF website as a tool for parents seeking child care.

Send a ‘Thank You’ to your Legislator

Throughout the past few months, hundreds of phone calls and emails were sent to Wisconsin legislators in support of YoungStar. It is because of the these efforts- from providers and advocates in the field- that the Joint Finance Committee unanimously passed the program last week. We would like to thank all of you for the many contacts you made to legislators to make this happen- your hard work paid off!

If you would like to thank your legislators for supporting YoungStar, you can click on Wisconsin Council on Children and Families’ Take Action link or call 1-800-362-9472 and leave them a message. To thank the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee, contact Senator Mark Miller and Representative Mark Pocan.

Thanks again for all of your hard work. This was a great team effort on behalf of young children across the state!

YoungStar Officially Passes in Wisconsin!

Yesterday, June 23, the bi-partisan Joint Committee on Finance unanimously passed YoungStar, Wisconsin’s child care quality rating and improvement system. The committee approved full funding- $10 million- for the launching of the program. $5.6 million has been immediately provided to DCF and the additional $4.4 million has been set aside for DCF to request later. Full funding for YoungStar means more training and technical assistance for providers, more funding for scholarship and wage stipends for providers, an online system of ratings for parents to access, and quality improvements in child care especially for low-income children and families.

The committee approved the following measures (link to the complete document here):

*$3,000,000 for assessment and data collection. Programs would be assessed and information collected through regional organizations- who would be chosen beginning in October 2010. These organizations are required to collect data on the four sections of YoungStar- staff qualifications, learning environment and curriculum, professional practices, and health and wellness program aspects- as well as data on provider life experience and continuing education, participation of children with disabilities, and what providers believe they need in order to improve their programs.
*$500,000 in additional funding immediately for the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Wisconsin scholarship program and the R.E.W.A.R.D.™ Wisconsin stipend program for the 2010-2011 year.
*$1,500,000 in additional funding for training and technical assistance activities in 12 counties throughout the state.
*$616,900 for 3 full time positions and administrative costs to DCF to oversee and implement the program.
*$4,429,900 for micro-grants, additional training and technical assistance, and other costs. This pot of money would be allocated after DCF completes a 5-year plan- due November 2010- for YoungStar that must be approved by the Joint Committee on Finance.
*DCF must list all accredited providers on their website beginning July 1, 2010.

WECA is committed to providing accurate information and assistance on YoungStar to all early childhood professionals across the state. Please visit our resource page here or check out our webinars that describe each of the YoungStar sections here. These resources were created to help programs decide what they can do now to prepare for YoungStar ratings.

As the process unfolds, continue to follow WECA as we update you on trainings, assessment information, and any legislative changes. Training for programs going through YoungStar will be announced in our Professional Development eNews, so make sure you’re subscribed here.

Joint Finance Committee to Discuss YoungStar: URGENT Action Needed

Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee has set the date to discuss and decide the fate of the proposed Quality Rating and Improvement System for child care providers, YoungStar. This meeting is NOT a public hearing– the public can attend to listen only. The meeting is set for: Wednesday, June 23 at 10 am.

The Department of Children and Families continues to respond to child care provider concerns with updates and improvements to the system. YoungStar is now stronger because of YOUR feedback- and it will continue to evolve in response to ideas from the field. Visit our website for more information, resources, and webinars on the program.

We need your help! Please contact your state Representative, Senator, and the two Joint Finance Co-Chairs- Senator Mark Miller and Representative Mark PocanTODAY.

Quality child care matters. Help us send a message by telling legislators:
• to support YoungStar, the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for child care, and
• to urge Joint Finance Committee members to vote for Alternative 1 (full funding and a phase-in approach) from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s May 24, 2010 paper on the section 13.10 request by the Department of Children and Families to fund their YoungStar plan.

Find out who your representatives are, and how to contact them, by clicking here and entering your mailing address. You can also call the Legislative hotline toll free at 1-800-362-9472.

Please join us for a final push in support of YoungStar and quality care for kids! The quality of care children receive has a huge and proven impact on their development and school-readiness. YOU can take a stand for quality by contacting your legislators and members of the Joint Finance Committee.

“YoungStar,” a Nobel-Laureate Economist, and YOU

We all benefit from YoungStar – Wisconsin’s proposed child care quality rating and improvement system. On June 23rd the funding for this critically needed program will be determined by the Joint Finance Committee. Fully funding YoungStar is an essential and strategic investment Wisconsin must make and here’s why:

Quality Child Care is one of the best possible investments of public and private funds. Studies reveal that children who experience quality early care are less likely to need remedial education, less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, and less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system than their peers in lower quality care. They are also more prepared for kindergarten, more likely to graduate from high school and more likely to have higher paying jobs. At-risk children in particular are shown to have the most to gain or lose from the quality of care they receive.

Dr. James Heckman, an economist and Nobel Prize winner from the University of Chicago has repeatedly demonstrated the economic benefits of investing in early care and education. “Investing in quality early learning programs is the most efficient way to affect school and life success and to reduce social expenditures later,” he says. Dr. Heckman’s work with the Partnership for America’s Economic Success cites a return of up to $17 for every dollar spent on high quality care.

Wisconsin’s children deserve high quality child care. Today, around 70% of Wisconsin’s children age birth to 5 receive care outside the home. In the past decade, an explosion of research on brain development has identified practices that help children set a strong foundation that lasts into adulthood. Sound nutrition, safe environments, nurturing and skilled caregivers and stimulating activities that spur a child’s social, emotional and mental growth are part of high quality child care. Fostering and rewarding these best practices are key components of YoungStar.

YoungStar resolves a major problem in the Wisconsin Shares child care system – a lack of measuring performance and quality. How many businesses would invest close to $400M in a system with no plan in place for measuring performance and quality? With YoungStar, child care programs throughout Wisconsin, especially those that participate in the “Wisconsin Shares” program will benefit from assessment and improvement practices. Wisconsin’s workforce of 31,000 child care providers will be prompted by YoungStar to continuously improve their quality of care and be rewarded for it. YoungStar sets a five-star rating system for child care providers and rates them on staff education, learning environment, business practices and the health and well being of children. Through this rating system the state will address several key issues in Wisconsin’s child care system. It will create incentives for providers to improve services, particularly for low-income children; offer child care providers of low-income children higher payments for higher quality; and build on existing programs and services that already help improve quality.

YoungStar will give parents comprehensive data on child care quality. YoungStar will provide information on one of the most important decision parents make – where to go for child care. Think of it as a “Consumer Report” for Wisconsin child care.

YoungStar and similar quality rating systems have been field-tested and piloted in Wisconsin and in 20 other states. Nationwide, 20 states have implemented child care quality rating and improvement systems similar to YoungStar. In Wisconsin two recent pilot projects have been implemented: “Grow in Quality” (2005-07) and “Together Quality Grows” (2009).

The benefits of assessing and improving the quality of child care in Wisconsin are far reaching and affect us all. Business depends on quality child care; parents depend on quality child care; and child care providers across the state have been ready for a quality rating and improvement system for over 6 years. On June 23rd we urge all members of our state’s Joint Finance Committee to do what is wise and good for all of Wisconsin – approve full funding for and implementation of YoungStar.

WECA discusses YoungStar on “For the Record”

Wisconsin Early Childhood Association’s executive director Ruth Schmidt joined Department of Children and Families secretary Reggie Bicha on For the Record this weekend. They discussed early education and the proposed child care quality rating and improvement system, YoungStar. Watch the full interview by clicking on the link below.

For The Record: Early Childhood Education.

The interview comes at an important time as the future of YoungStar is currently being discussed in the legislature. The Joint Finance Committee- the group responsible for deciding whether or not the system will be funded- will hold a meeting on YoungStar on Wednesday June 23 at 10am.