Quality Rated - Help

Additional Resources
Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies

Bright from the Start supports the work of the child care resource and referral (CCR&R) agencies in Georgia. The CCR&Rs help parents/families find quality child care and support early care and education professional through training, technical assistance, national accreditation services, inclusion services, and more.

Your local CCR&Rs will provide the required Quality Rated orientation and ongoing training and technical assistance to centers and homes that need support to meet their desired level of quality.

The following map identifies the CCR&R regions and their contact information. Early care and education providers can contact the CCR&R in their region for additional information about upcoming orientation or training and technical assistance opportunities.

CCR&R Region Map

Contact Us / Quality Rated Help Desk

For more information about Quality Rated, contact the Help Desk at:

Email: QualityRated@decal.ga.gov

Phone: 1.855.800.7747

Environment Rating Scale (ERS) Resources

General ERS FAQ

Number of Children Enrolled
1. Requirements for licensing capacity vs ERS enrollment: if a program places a limit on the number of children they will enroll in a classroom that is LOWER than their licensed capacity, what number will be used for scoring?
The maximum number of children served is used for determining how many children are enrolled and used for scoring items that concern adequate and ample materials, furnishings and space. The maximum number of children allowed would be the number used for scoring. For example, if a room has the licensing capacity for 14 children, but the center has elected to cap the room at 8 children, 8 would be the number used for scoring.
2. Requirement for Bollards: I am not sure if I am required to use bollards to protect my playground, can you please explain the following:
  • Space allotment for when properties with parking lots are behind programs but not flush to fence?
  • Needed just for specific perpendicular spots up against fence? What about parallel spots? Driveways?
  • Acceptable substitute for bollards (crossties)?
Bollards are short vertical posts used to control or direct road traffic / obstruct the passage of motor vehicles. Traffic bollards are designed to assist in providing the security needed to stop unwanted vehicle access and provide protection against vehicles crashing into an area where children are present – namely through the fencing onto the playground. For a playground adjacent to a parking lot or driveway, a bollard is required even when not flush with the fencing, as a car experiencing brake issues or other mechanical problems would crash through the fencing without the bollard as a barrier. A crosstie, is not an acceptable substitute for a bollard unless the crosstie is installed vertically and provides the resistance to a frontal impact from a large vehicle, the same would be true for tire stops.
3. CPSC Guidelines: I understand that the ERS use the CPSC guidelines for their playground requirements, but what is CPSC and should I just refer to CPSC guidelines for all playground requirements?
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the federal agency that provides product safety information and recalls as well as manages regulations for products and businesses. CPSC typically indicates the company standard for playground equipment safety. However, American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) provides the testing of resilient surfacing standards that are frequently consulted and National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is the nationally recognized certification for Certified Playground Safety Inspectors (CPSI) and offers interpretations, use zones and standards for inspection and assessment of playgrounds. All three regulatory guidelines can be used to help you determine the safety of your playground and equipment.
4. Requirements for combination tire swing/balance bar: I am trying to determine whether a piece of equipment that has these two components together is acceptable or not?
Tire swings are usually suspended in a horizontal orientation using three suspension chains or cables connected to a single swivel mechanism that permits both rotation and a swinging motion in any axis. A multi-axis tire swing should not be suspended from a structure having other swings in the same bay. Attaching multi-axis swings to composite structures is not recommended. Tire swings should be stand-alone equipment in one bar with no other equipment provided in the same use zone. (Handbook for Playground Safety page 30)

Swinging Dual Exercise Rings and Trapeze Bars – These are rings and trapeze bars on long chains that are generally considered to be items of athletic equipment and are not recommended for public playgrounds. NOTE: The recommendation against the use of exercise rings does not apply to overhead hanging rings such as those used in a ring trek or ring ladder (page 21 of Handbook for Playground Safety addresses horizontal ladders and overhead rings).

5. Requirements for swings: We have a 2 swing bay with an additional piece in the same bay, is this acceptable?
To minimize the likelihood of children being struck by a moving swing, it is recommended that no more than two single-axis swings be hung in each bay of the supporting structure. In addition, to reduce side-to-side motion, swing hangers should be spaced no less than 20 inches apart. (Page 29 of Handbook for Playground Safety)
6. Hazards associated with climbers over 18” tall: we have 2 climbers over 18” tall on the playground neither have adequate resilient surfacing and both are located next to the fence with less than 12” of space between the fence and climber. How many safety hazards would this count as?
Each time you are able to identify a hazard for any piece of equipment it would count as 1 hazard. So in your example you have identified 4 separate hazards (2 for each climber).
Nap
7. Requirements for spacing of mats/cots/cribs: There have been several updates regarding the spacing of sleeping equipment, what are the actual requirements so I can ensure correct spacing in my program?
QR Assessors use the most up-to-date ERSI notes for clarification for each scale. The latest notes were released in 9/12. Caring for our Children 3rd edition (CFOC3) no longer allows solid barriers as an acceptable method of separating children while resting. This means that toy shelving, Plexiglas barriers, and other solid dividers can no longer be used to separate children who are resting. CFOC3 states that only the 3 feet separation is sufficient to cut down on the risk of air borne germs while children rest. Solid screens or other barriers, such as crib ends or toy shelves, are not acceptable because they would need to extend from floor to ceiling to prevent air borne contamination from one child to another, and they would disrupt supervision. Although this new guideline applies to all scales, there are some differences in how this item in scored, depending on the scales used.
  • For ITERS-R and FCCERS-R the following applies: For 1.1, score No if at least 75% of the cribs/mats/cots are separated by 3 feet, and no sleeping equipment are closer than 24 inches. For 3.2, do not give credit unless there is 3 feet between each sleeping surface.
  • For ECERS-R the following applies: For 1.2, score No if at least 75% of the mats/cots are separated by at least 18 inches. For 3.2, do not give credit unless there is at least 18 inches between every sleeping provision. 5.3 requires 3 feet between each sleeping surface with no exceptions (e.g., shelves or screens as dividers).
Meals and Snacks
8. Requirements for service of meal components: is it okay to give children their milk at the very end of the meal, I want to make sure they eat all of their food first?
USDA - CACFP meal guidelines are followed when scoring these indicators, when milk is a required component of the meal such as for breakfast and lunch, you are required for the milk to be present throughout the meal unless a written doctor’s note is supplied. For any food item to be credited by CACFP or for an ERS observation, all components must be served at the same time.
9. Requirements for sanitizing tables: When I am sanitizing tables after lunch and using three tables, can I use the same rag/paper towel to wipe off all three tables if then discarded?
No. Page 83 All About the ITERS-R Meals/snacks and page 94 All About ECERS-R Meals/snacks states: If wet cloths are used, a separate cloth is required for each table and highchair tray, and cloths cannot be returned to soak in a bleach-water solution.
10. Requirements for bleach/water substitutes: I use a bleach substitute that is labeled as both a cleaner and a disinfectant to prepare my tables for meals. I understand that the scales require a 2 step process to ensure the tables are properly sanitized. But if my product is listed as a cleaner/disinfectant do I have to use the product twice, one time to clean and wipe dry and then again to sanitize?
All four scales require the same procedure for effective cleaning and sanitizing. The procedure is to clean with soap/water solution to remove gross soil, dry with a paper tower, and then sanitize with bleach water, or alternate EPA approved sanitizing solution. The table must first be cleaned. After the cleaning the table must be sanitized. A table cannot be properly sanitized until it is first clean. A sanitizer and not a disinfectant should be used on all food contacting surfaces. The recipes for sanitizing and disinfecting make two different strengths of bleach in water and have different uses to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Sanitizing (1 tablespoon of bleach + 1 gallon of cool water) = approx 200 parts per million of chlorine.
  • Disinfecting (1/4 – 3/4 cup of bleach + 1 gallon cool water, or 1 – 3 tablespoons of bleach + 1 quart cool water) = approx 750 parts per million of chlorine.

Any time bleach water is used to sanitize or disinfect it must remain on the surface for at least 2 minutes before being wiped, air drying is preferable.

To specifically address ‘disinfectant” rather than “sanitizer” as is required for toileting/diapering, an alternative EPA approved “disinfectant” (not sanitizer) may be used in place of the usual bleach and water solution. Check the label of the original container and look for the designation as an EPA disinfectant. Be sure all instructions for use are followed. If not do not give credit for disinfecting the surface.

11. Requirements for sanitizer use: the EPA registered sanitizer our program uses says to leave on for 1 minute and allow to air dry – do not rinse or wipe. Can it be wiped after 1 minute?
Please follow the EPA instructions and allow it to air dry before proceeding. You have the option of finding a different EPA registered product if these directions are hard to follow, or you can use bleach water that is mixed daily using the correct ratios for sanitizing and disinfecting purposes.
Room Arrangement
12. Requirements for separation of activity areas (centers): I understand that the separation of quiet and active areas is required, is a physical barrier (shelving) not enough?
When considering this indicator, it is best to sit in a quiet area and determine if it provides the relief or opportunities for retreat from the noisy harshness of the room. A reading area next to dramatic play and/or blocks does not allow for that quiet time or retreat. The business of the blocks/construction and the flurry of activity in dramatic play/housekeeping often interfere (on occasion even invading) with the activities of the other centers. Shelving (whether open on both sides or not) is not enough to sufficiently separate active and quiet areas. A low shelf or a shelf where toys are stored does not provide the needed buffer, sound travels over shelving. Having a physical barrier and sufficient distance separating these areas is helpful in avoiding problems. Activity areas like sand/water, fine motor, science, and math can provide the needed buffer between those more active areas and the quiet areas.
Toileting/Diapering
13. Requirements for disinfecting the floor after changing pull-ups/underwear: I know that we follow guidelines from Caring for our Children 3rd edition (CFOC3) when changing diapers and pull-ups/underwear. However I do not see in CFOC3 where it addresses cleaning/disinfecting of the floor when changing pull-ups/underwear. Your handout “Changing Procedure for Changing Children’s Soiled Underwear/Pull-ups and Clothing - Standing up” requires that the floor be cleaned and disinfected as if it were a diaper table. It would seem to me that if you are interpreting the bathroom floor as a changing surface, would it require disinfecting in between each child using the toilet?
CFOC3 and ERSI requirements are followed when changing pull-ups/underwear. CFOC3 recommends that children needing to have a pull-up or underwear changed should be placed on a toddler changing table (one with stairs) to reduce the risk of contaminating the environment as much as possible. However, BFTS allows you to change children standing up on the bathroom floor, instead of requiring programs to purchase toddler diaper tables. Because all diaper changing procedures must still be followed, if a child is standing on the floor, this means the floor effectively becomes the changing surface for this particular procedure (changing paper can be placed on the floor for the child to stand on). Children regularly using the toilet are not actually “being changed” on the floor, and that is why disinfecting is not required after every child uses the bathroom, (however, toilet seats and the floor should obviously be cleaned and disinfected if they become contaminated during use, and are one of the areas that daily cleaning and disinfecting is required). When a pull-up or underwear is changed on a child that is standing up there is an increased risk that the floor and other surfaces may become contaminated (staff often drop the removed pull-up or underwear on the floor, or it touches the floor as a child steps out of it, and gravity means the floor can easily become soiled with urine droplets or fecal matter). Because the requirements for changing a pull-up/underwear are the same as you follow when changing a diaper on a table, you are required to clean and disinfect the changing surface (the floor in this case) after each change.
Health Practices
14. Requirements for anti-bacterial hand soap and wipes: I am not sure how the ERS views the use of anti-bacterial hand soap and wipes. Is it true that anti-bacterial hand soap can NOT be used, and are anti-bacterial wipes ALLOWED, but regular baby wipes also acceptable?
QR Assessors follow the most up-to-date notes for clarification from ERSI and the last ones dated 9/12 for ITERS-R, ECERS-R, and FCCERS-R, and 7/12 for SACERS state that anti-bacterial hand soap should be avoided

In regards to the anti-bacterial wipes, the new updated version of CFOC3 (both online and PDF versions) does not mention using anti-bacterial wipes. In the diapering procedures, Step 1 Part c states: Wipes, dampened cloths or wet paper towels for cleaning the child’s genitalia and buttocks readily available; and Step 4 Part e states: Whether or not gloves were used, use a fresh wipe to wipe the hands of the caregiver/teacher and another fresh wipe to wipe the child's hands. Put the wipes into the plastic-lined, hands-free covered can.

QR Assessors use the most up-to-date notes; therefore regular baby wipes are acceptable to use to complete these tasks. Anti-bacterial wipes should not be used on the child. The only alternative to regular baby wipes is a wet paper towel or damp cloth . . . CFOC3 states in the diapering rational: “Some experts believe that commercial baby wipes may cause irritation of a baby's sensitive tissues, such as inside the labia, but currently there is no scientific evidence available on this issue. Wet paper towels or a damp cloth may be used as an alternative to commercial baby wipes”.

While CFOC3 does state in the procedures for changing pull-ups or underwear that staff can use hand-sanitizer during the step prior to them touching the clean pull-up/underwear (child’s hands still need to be wiped with a regular baby wipe), we recommend that the staff also just use a baby wipe to clean their hands as they would have to follow the correct procedure for using the hand-sanitizer and would have to wait until it had dried before they could handle the child or clean diaper.

15. Requirements for handwashing: It is a lot easier after art (painting) to clean the children’s hands with a washcloth or wipe to prevent them dripping the paint across the floor to get to the sink. Is it ok if we use a washcloth to clean a child's hands after art instead of washing at the sink?
Hands must be washed after messy play, if you choose to use a wash cloth instead of soap and running water it will negatively impact the scoring of this indicator. Paint is a liquid that can be contaminated so hands must be washed before (if children are sharing the finger paint in the container) and after painting. It might be a good idea to wipe a child’s hands clean of paint with a wash rag prior to washing with soap and water if they are badly soiled, but hands must be washed with soap and running water after messy play.
Furniture for Routine Care and Play/Learning
16. Requirement for storage of personal possessions: Do programs need to have an actual cubby unit or can a program JUST utilize hooks to store children’s possessions?
The intent of having cubbies is so that children can store their personal belongings. The type of the cubby is not important, what matters is that whatever item is used as a cubby can sufficiently hold all of the children’s belongings, and that it can do so without those personal belongings touching another child’s. Hooks can be used for storing individual possessions if there is a way to allow all the necessary items to be stored, such as blankets, jackets, items brought from home, etc. to be stored without them touching.
17. Requirement for cubby substitute: Instead of cubbies I have milk crates zip-tied together. The crates have holes in them, but are large enough to store the children’s personal possessions, school work, and their winter jackets. Will using milk crates as cubbies be acceptable?
The use of milk crates as you describe would most likely allow personal items to touch, parts of clothing, blankets etc, may protrude through the holes of the crates and touch items in the adjoining crate. The purpose of having separated cubbies that do not allow for touching of personal items is to reduce the risk for the spread of disease or nuisance infestations such as lice. If there is some way to line the crates with a sturdy material that would prevent personal items from touching then the milk crates may suffice as cubbies, so long as they are large enough to store all items securely without them falling out onto the floor or bulging out the sides and touching other children’s possessions.
18. Requirement for amount of cubbies: I have 2 more children than cubbies, is it acceptable for me to add makeshift cubbies such as bins, Rubbermaid drawers, or boxes for the additional 2 children to use for their personal items?
All four scales require a sufficient number of pieces of furniture for use in the storage of children’s possessions for the total number of children allowed to attend at one time. A Cubby is a personal space to store the belongings of an individual child. To reduce the risk of contamination and to prevent germs and nuisance pests, such as lice from spreading, the cubbies should prevent personal possessions (clothing, jackets, and blankets), from touching the personal possessions of another child. If a child has a specific bin, box, drawer labeled for individual use, then the intent of the indicator is met. There is no requirement that a purchased wooden cubby has to be provided.
19. Requirements about the sharing of cubbies, I have twins in my classroom, is it ok if they share the same cubby or do they need to have their own cubby to store their personal items?
Twins are individual children and so cannot share the same cubby if that would cause crowding and allow their personal items to touch.
20. Requirements for storage of extra toys and supplies: can toys for rotation be stored on shelving in the bathroom IF the toys are stored in lidded, closed containers and then put into different containers when being put into the classroom for use (i.e. the container used to hold toys in the bathroom is not put out in the classroom)?
The bathroom can be used for storage of additional toys or routine care supplies, providing they are not in a place where they are likely to become contaminated (i.e. next to the toilet on the floor), or are within children’s reach. Items can be stored in locked cabinets or in lidded, closed containers out of the reach of children on shelving.
21. Requirements for accessible and convenient: I have to store my mat cart outside the classroom and another staff member brings me the cart before lunch time. It is convenient for me, but I am not sure if the ERS would consider it to be so. Also, some of the children’s possessions are stored in cubbies that are too high for them to reach but they can hang either a book bag or a coat on a hook. How many items have to be considered accessible and convenient to give credit for this indicator?
Because this indicator refers to routine care furniture all furniture and equipment to meet children’s needs for feeding, diapering/toileting, nap/rest, and storage of personal possessions must be accessible and convenient. Mats are not convenient if they have to be brought to the classroom. It would not be accessible or convenient for you to get a child’s mat if he or she needed to rest prior to nap time. Mats are only considered accessible and convenient when they are stored within the classroom so the teacher does not have to leave the children unattended. With the exception of infants and toddlers (who are not required to have access to their cubbies), the children’s possessions should be accessible to them inside the classroom to be considered convenient.
Safety Practices
22. Requirements for major and minor hazards: is tripping or finger pinching considered a major or minor hazard?
For all four scales a major hazard is determined to be something that would result in a serious injury resulting in hospitalization or medical treatment, and a minor hazard is something that may require minor first aid on site, but would not be likely to result in a hospitalization or visit to the doctor’s office. For example, All About ECERS-R (pg. 137) considers tree roots that cause tripping which is unlikely to cause serious injury and require hospitalization or a visit to the doctor, as a minor hazard. The same would go for a finger pinch that just required an ice pack and not a doctor’s visit. The determining factor on whether something would be considered a major or minor hazard is to figure out what type of outcome would likely be caused by the hazard, which may differ depending on the age of the children involved.
23. Requirements for access to phone: does a teacher need to have access to a phone or walkie-talkie at all times? For example a teacher would need to have access to a phone or some way to call someone without leaving the children in case of an emergency (i.e. a walkie-talkie when they are on the playground, etc). Or is just having a phone on-site enough?
The intent of this indicator is for the program to have the essentials that are needed to deal with dangers that require immediate action such as accidents, fire, or other emergencies. The teacher does need immediate access to a phone (cell phones are acceptable), walkie-talkie, other communication device. If there is a phone in the classroom it must be able to dial out directly, not just ring to the front desk and other rooms, (in case staff need to call 911 or talk to a parent from the classroom).
24. Requirements for posted emergency numbers: are the children’s emergency numbers required to be posted in plain view or should just the general emergency numbers be posted?
Only general emergency numbers (911, poison control, etc.) should be posted in plain view near the telephone. There is not a requirement to post private information relating to children, and their emergency numbers do not have to be posted for all to see. However, a reference can be made on the bulletin board as to where these numbers can be easily found by all staff, including substitutes. The same type of privacy concerns should be followed for children with allergies or medical needs. Your posted allergy chart for example could have a cover sheet titled “allergies” so that only those who would need to see the list would turn the page and locate the needed information.
Children with Disabilities
25. Requirements for children with special needs: We have a child with a diagnosed disability in our program. Typically this child is enrolled in another classroom in the fall but during the summer our classes are combined due to low enrollment, and the child is in my classroom. How should we approach this situation when using the ERS to assess my classroom?
Since this child will be in your classroom for possibly 3 months you should have the same knowledge of this child’s needs that his “regular” teacher would have. The child will have the same need to have any modifications made no matter what classroom they are physically in, and you will need to have access to the same goals and plans for this child so you can best meet his or her needs.
26. Requirements for verification of accessibility: our local Fire Marshall verified that our building meets county and state building codes for 100% handicap accessible; however, the main doors to the building have pull handles. How would this be handled?
The intent of this indicator is that your building is accessible to individuals with disabilities whether or not they are part of your program. The note for clarification explains that door handles must be able to be operated by individuals with limited use of their hands. Round door knobs may present difficulty in manipulating the turn knob to open a door. Pull handles are an acceptable type of handle. If any questions arise about this issue you can show your documentation from the Fire Marshall that identifies your building as being 100% accessible.
Use of TV, Videos, and Computers
27. Requirements for screen time and game consoles: since many of the games our children play encourage physical activity is a Nintendo Wii considered computer screen time for ERS?
A Nintendo Wii, or any other video game system that utilizes a screen, is considered in ERS to be “screen time”. The same type of activity played on video games, that people justify using because it promotes physical activity, can frequently be achieved without using a screen. For example dancing or exercising can be led by a child or the teacher instead of turning on the tv or video for guidance.
28. Requirements for storage of TV carts: our program leaves a couple of TVs in selected classrooms to be available for the children enrolled in night care (these are children of mixed ages). We do not use the TVs during the day for any of our children; will storing the TVs in classrooms affect our ERS score for this item?
A television that is stored in a classroom and is not in use will not be included in scoring screen time. The assessor will ask the teacher how the television is used if it is in the room and not on during the observation. The staff answers will be considered in scoring. It should be noted that a television does take up space in the room, so it may interfere with traffic, activity area space or supervision.
Quality Rated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General FAQ

1. What is Quality Rated?
Quality Rated is a tiered quality rating and improvement system used to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early and school‐age care and education programs. Similar to rating systems for other service-related industries like hotels and restaurants, Quality Rated assigns a quality rating to early and school‐age care and education programs that meet a set of defined program standards.
2. Why should I participate?
Programs that participate in Quality Rated demonstrate a commitment to higher early care and educations standards than those required. This alone can support a program’s marketing efforts. Participation in Quality Rated also helps a program gain access to free technical assistance, training, enhancement grants, and Quality Rated bonus packages.
3. Who can I call with questions about the Quality Rated process?
Information about and support for Quality Rated is available by calling the Help Desk toll free at 1-855-800-7747 or emailing questions to QualityRated@decal.ga.gov. The Help Desk is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
4. How do I know that Quality Rated child care programs actually improve child outcomes?
Research studies have found positive relationships between the quality of early care and education programs and child outcomes that relate to school readiness (Vandell, 2004). One study examined children’s outcomes over time in elementary school in light of their participation in quality early care and education programs (Peisner-Feinberg and Burchinal, 1997, 1999, 2001). In this study, young children who attended higher quality preschool programs had better language development, problem solving, and social skills. More importantly, the positive effects of a quality preschool experience carried over past kindergarten into the second grade. Research about quality rating and improvement systems and increased quality in early care and education continues to support that better program quality is associated with better outcomes for children.
5. Who is eligible to participate?
The following entities are eligible to participate in Quality Rated:
  • Child care programs and family child care learning homes enrolling three or more children under the age of thirteen years licensed by DECAL
  • Military child care programs licensed by the Department of Defense
  • Early Head Start and Head Start programs
  • University and technical college lab schools
  • Early learning and development programs funded by Part B or C of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
6. How do I apply?
All eligible programs are invited to participate in Quality Rated by completing the Quality Rated application online at http://qualityrated.decal.ga.gov. After the application is submitted, programs will be notified of their acceptance into the program. Programs can access Quality Rated materials, documentation, and information through their online account.
7. How can I receive more information?
Information and orientation sessions are offered at your local child care resource and referral agency. For a schedule of orientation sessions, visit GaPDS. Child care programs that choose to participate must attend an orientation session.In addition you can check out the Quality Rated website: http://decal.ga.gov/QualityInitiatives/QualityRated.aspx for more information about becoming Quality Rated.
8. What are the steps of the Quality Rated process?
Create an online Quality Rated account, complete an online Application, attend QR Orientation and Introduction to ERS training sessions, receive Technical Assistance and professional development incentives (if requested), electronic Portfolio completion and submission, Environment Rating Scale (ERS) Observation, Notification of Your Quality Level, and choice of annual verification options.
9. What do you mean by technical assistance, and how can I receive it?
On-site technical assistance is available to help child care programs prepare for and maintain being Quality Rated. Child care resource and referral agencies offer free technical assistance to participating programs. Targeted technical assistance includes training on topics such as: Environment Rating Scales, Early Learning Standards, Cultural Competency, and the use of the Physical Activity and Nutrition Assessment. A standardized technical assistance model supports the completion of the Quality Rated process and pending ERS observation. You may request technical assistance on your application.
10. What is collected in the portfolio?
The online portfolio helps you organize and submit all of the supporting evidence that demonstrates how your program meets criteria within five program standards.
  • Standard 1 – Director and Teacher Qualifications and Georgia Professional Development System Verification
  • Standard 2 – Child Health, Nutrition and Physical Activity Assessment
  • Standard 3 – Family Engagement
  • Standard 4 – Intentional Teaching Practices
  • Standard 5 – Teacher:Student Ratio Requirements
11. What is an environment rating scale?
The Environment Rating Scales (ERS) are valid and reliable observation tools used throughout the world to measure the quality of the child care environment. The tool(s) used during the observation is based on the child care setting and the age groups served. The Environment Rating Scales currently used in the QRIS process are:
  • Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale – Revised
  • Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale – Third Edition
  • Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale – Revised
  • School-Age Care Environment Rating Scale - Updated
12. Who will conduct my observation?
A Quality Rated Assessor from DECAL will conduct the appropriate observation of your program. Assessors are determined to be valid and reliable for the Environment Rating Scales they are assigned. After you have received an e-mail notifying you that your portfolio has been reviewed, you will receive an unannounced Environment Rating Scale observation within 90 calendar days.
13. What are the Quality Rated levels? How am I notified about them?
The final step of the Quality Rated process is the notification of your program’s level of quality. Georgia has proposed three levels of quality. The program’s level is determined by a point system; points are assigned based on data collected through the portfolio and environment rating scale score(s). The tabulated points equate to a quality level. You will be notified of your level by e-mail within 60 calendar days of your observation visit.
14. What is the grievance process for programs that do not agree with the level assigned?
If you believe that the process for determining your program’s quality level was compromised in a way that adversely affected the designation of quality, you have the right to file a written statement detailing your concerns with DECAL that will initiate the appeals process. An appeal letter outlining specific concerns must be submitted to QualityRated@decal.ga.gov within 10 business days of being notified of the Quality Rated star rating. Ordering a bonus package signifies the acceptance of your program’s star rating. If a bonus package is ordered before an appeal is filed or during the appeals process, the appeal will be nullified and will not be processed.
15. What will happen if a Quality Rated program becomes non-compliant with rules or the Pre-K program requirements?
Child care programs achieving a Quality Rated status are expected to maintain their commitment to quality child care. A Quality Rated program that is observed and documented by DECAL to have fallen below the levels of quality may be subject to disciplinary action. Additionally, any serious Pre-K, Child Care Services, and/or Child and Adult Care Food Program violations may result in disciplinary action. Quality Rated disciplinary actions range from a letter of notification, an office visit, a plan of improvement, revocation, or suspension of the quality rating. Disciplinary action will be taken on a case-by-case basis and will be determined by the seriousness of the rule violation.
16. What incentives are available for participation in Quality Rated?
Programs participating in Quality Rated will be eligible for free training, technical assistance, enhancement grants, and bonus packages. Quality Rated programs serving children subsidized through the CAPS programs will be eligible for tiered reimbursement.
17. Are programs that are not rated, not good?
No. Participation in Quality Rated is voluntary. Child care programs that choose not to participate are simply not rated.
18. Can programs that are nationally accredited be Quality Rated?
We welcome nationally accredited programs to participate in the Quality Rated. Child care programs that have achieved national accreditation will receive bonus points toward their Quality Rated level.
19. I see that the Quality Rated (QR) Portfolio and the Environment Rating Scales (ERS) include many indicators for best practice. Do I need to implement every best practice from the ERS and the Portfolio in order to be rated?
NO. Your Quality Rated level will be based on the total points earned plus any bonus points you may be eligible for. The points earned for structural quality (documentation you submit online in your portfolio) and process quality (ERS scores achieved during an on-site observation), are translated into points. These points will determine your level.
21. I understand that if I wish to receive a second QR assessment to attempt to increase the level I received after my first assessment, I will have to re-apply to Quality Rated and a new application will be generated. Will any of the information from my original portfolio be left in the system for me to update or will I have to start from new?
Some information will be automatically entered into in your new portfolio such as the program staff as listed in the Professional Development System (PDS), the classroom assignments you listed in your previous portfolio will be carried over to the new one, allowing you to update. The new Request for Reassessment Portfolio will be completed with new information that reflects changes made from the first portfolio.
22. How can I be sure that the BFTS assessor scores fairly and that the results of my ERS assessment are accurate?
The final assessment (observation) of your program is completed by valid and reliable assessors who only conduct ERS assessments. They are trained to remain completely objective and unbiased when observing your program. They complete a demanding onboarding process, trained by veteran assessors and culminating in an intense test of their skills by a state anchor to determine their level of reliability. Only after they have proven to be valid and reliable will they be able to conduct solo observations. All ERS Assessors submit to on-going and frequent reliability rechecks in accordance with policy, to ensure that they maintain their objectivity and reliability in scoring. If an assessor’s score is not reliable with the state anchor during their recheck they cannot complete an assessment alone again until they complete additional training and are tested to be reliable for a minimum of three assessments. Because of the extensive training and the procedures in place to ensure reliability with the ERS instruments, you can be assured that the assessors observe only with an ERS lens, allowing them to score accurately and reliably.
23. Will the BFTS assessor meet with the Director after the formal ERS assessment and review scores before they leave?
There is not a follow up meeting after the assessment because the assessor(s) have not completed the scoring at that time. Assessors are required to write a comprehensive report of what they observed and the scoring is completed automatically in the system based on what the assessor heard and saw during the observation. The site does receive a copy of the ERS scores and report along with their overall QR score, once the level has been determined. If there is something that you feel was miss-scored, you will have the opportunity to dispute that finding/score.
24. Is it possible to use the Montessori Rating Scale (MRS) instead of ECERS-R to evaluate Montessori programs?
The MRS was developed specifically to measure quality care in programs following the Montessori Method. Quality Rated works with a wide array of child care programs and settings, many operate with very different philosophies and curriculum models from each other. The Environment Rating Scales (ERS) were chosen in part due to their ability to identify global quality practices without regard to one specific philosophical or curricular approach. They address the environment in terms of what research shows to be best practices for young children. To be fair and unbiased with all child care programs, we do not apply the scales differently according to any one curricular model and we do not utilize evaluation tools that solely address the one curriculum approach for which they were developed to evaluate. The ERS instruments were designed to address the children’s environment as a whole and are not used as a curriculum assessment instrument. The scales are research based instruments, proven in both validity and reliability, and are used worldwide to help programs make choices about their programming in regards to if, how, and when to make environmental changes.
25. Will the R&Rs be able to assist programs who want to try and increase their rating before the 3 year renewal?
Yes. The R&R can provide technical assistance (TA) or training based on their caseload capacity.
26. Can a Montessori, or any other program, that have some classrooms licensed and others that are exempt, also participate in Quality Rated (QR)?
Because a quality rating is received for an entire program, all classrooms within a program must be licensed by DECAL. In some exceptions, classrooms that may be exempt from a program, (i.e. mother’s morning out class, etc) will not be included in the QR process and will not prevent the otherwise licensed program from being able to participate in Quality Rated.
27. I understand that 1 college credit hour = 10 contact hours of training, so a 3 hour college course would be 30 hours. However, contact hours are not state approved hours - they are equal to PLUs. Can you please clarify all of this and explain how college classes, CDA, etc. count into the QR training requirements? How can training be counted if it's not BFTS approved training?

College coursework that is ECE related articulates directly into training hours in the QR system. Training hours do equal 10 hours per 1 semester hour and that counts as a PLU/CEU for CDA renewal or PSC teacher certification/paraprofessional renewal. IF the PLU/CEU is ECE related then it would counted for the 10 hours of annual state required training and for the QR additional training hours.

Any courses from an accredited college taken in ECE for a TCC, TCD, AAS, AAT, AS, AA, BS, BA, MS, MA, PhD, Specialist degree are accepted for training hours. College courses in math, science, English, etc., that are not ECE related do not count toward the training hours.

Any training received through an approved entity (colleges, government agencies), approved trainer, count toward the training hours. Training received at National Conferences that has been verified by GaPDS as ECE related is accepted and counts toward the QR training hours

Inclusion

Inclusion of children with disabilities in supportive early childhood settings benefits the child with disabilities, the other children, families, and the community.

Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning supports inclusion with inclusion coordinators available in each region. These inclusion coordinators offer free training and other technical assistance to help families, child care providers and others identify resources, services, and supports to ensure that children are successfully included in early care and learning environments. They also promote and increase inclusive child care options for children with disabilities and their families in their communities.

For more information about inclusion or to reach the inclusion coordinator in your area, use the links below.

Documents Available:
Georgia Professional Development System (GaPDS)

All administrators and teaching staff must be registered in the Georgia Professional Development System (GaPDS), and have an assigned career level in order for a program to participate in Quality Rated. Quality Rated points are based on the education and professional development criteria verified in the GaPDS. For more information regarding the GaPDS, go to https://gapds.decal.ga.gov or call toll free at 1-866-258-7737.

Documents Available:
Technical Assistance

Georgia’s Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies offer free technical assistance to programs participating in the QRIS. Targeted technical assistance includes training on topics such as: Environment Rating Scales, Early Learning Standards, Family Involvement, Health, Safety and Nutrition. A standardized technical assistance approach supports the completion of the QRIS process and pending ERS observation. When you are logged into Quality Rated, you can request technical assistance by clicking the Request Technical Assistance link on the right side of the My Facility section of the Home page. Assistance is available in two formats, ongoing or episodic. The technical assistance provider will work with you to determine the format of the support based on program needs.

The following map identifies the CCR&R regions and their contact information. Early care and education providers can contact the CCR&R in their region for information about technical assistance opportunities.

CCR&R Region Map

Training
Orientation

The directors or owners of all programs participating in Quality Rated must complete Quality Rated Orientation. This state approved class is offered monthly at your local child care resource and referral agency. The initial orientation will provide critical information and access to support to insure that you have a successful experience as you work to improve your program’s quality. The schedule for the orientation session is updated online at .

Introduction to Environment Rating Scales

Programs participating in Quality Rated are required to attend an introduction course to the Environment Rating Scales. The Environment Rating Scales are used for the program observation. The specific tool(s) utilized will be based on the type of site and the age groups served. A complete description of the environment rating scales process can be found in the Quality Rated Manual. The valid and reliable environment rating scales used in the observation phase of the TQRIS process are:

  • Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale – Revised
  • Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale – Revised
  • Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale – Revised
  • School-Age Environment Rating Scale

Contact your local Resource and Referral Agency to register for this class.

Support Training

To support your compliance in every area of Quality Rated, state approved training is provided free of charge through your local child care resource and referral agency. The following training courses have been developed to guide you through the quality improvement process:

  • Using the Environment Rating Scales to Support Ongoing Program Assessment
  • Using the Child Health, Safety and Nutrition Assessment to Inform and Guide Program Improvement
  • Using the Georgia Early Learning and Development Standards to Improve Intentionality
  • Inclusion in Early Care and Education
  • Being Culturally Competent
Nutrition and Physical Activity Assessment

In order to fully benefit from the early education opportunities presented in the learning environment children need to be healthy and safe. For this standard, program staff will reflect on their current health, safety and nutrition standards and identify areas that can be improved. Points are assessed for this standard based on the completion of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Assessment, written improvement plan and documentation of actions taken to complete the plan and evidence that the program has met each of the criteria requirements.

Nutrition and Physical Activity Assessment

In order to fully benefit from the education opportunities presented in the learning environment children need to be healthy and safe. For this standard, program staff will reflect on their current health, safety and nutrition standards and identify areas that can be improved. Points are assessed for this standard based on the completion of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Assessment, written improvement plan and documentation of actions to be taken to complete the plan, viewing the National Institute of Out of School Time (NIOST) Health and Safety webinar and completion of the questionnaire, and evidence that the program has met each of the criteria requirements.

Director and Teacher Qualifications and GaPDS Verification

Research has linked early learning and development to the educational qualifications of teachers. The most effective early care and education teachers have more responsive interactions with children, provide richer language and cognitive experiences, and are more likely to recognize the importance of child directed learning opportunities. High-quality early care and education depends on effective, high-quality teachers. For this standard, all administrators and teaching staff must be registered in the Georgia Professional Development System (GaPDS), and have an assigned career level. Click here for directions on accessing the GaPDS and a copy of the Career Levels and Professional Development Competencies.

Director and Teacher Qualifications and GaPDS Verification

Research has linked early learning and development to the educational qualifications of teachers. The most effective early care and education teachers have more responsive interactions with children, provide richer language and cognitive experiences, and are more likely to recognize the importance of child directed learning opportunities. High-quality early care and education depends on effective, high-quality teachers. For this standard, all administrators and teaching staff must be registered in the Georgia Professional Development System (GaPDS), and have an assigned career level. Click here for directions on accessing the GaPDS and a copy of the Career Levels and Professional Development Competencies.

Family Engagement

Research shows that parent involvement in a child’s education supports the holistic development process. This standard relies heavily on the Family Engagement Assessment tool that includes Strengthening Families Five Protective Factors. Points for this standard are earned based on the level of commitment a program demonstrates regarding family engagement.

Family Engagement

Research shows that parent involvement in a child’s education supports the holistic development process. This standard incorporates current information, research, and on-line training sponsored by the US Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative You for Youth. Points for this standard are earned based on the level of commitment a program demonstrates regarding family engagement.

Intentional Teaching Practices

Points are earned in this area based on a program's demonstration of alignment among developmentally appropriate curriculum, Georgia's Early Learning and Development Standards, lesson planning, and assessment. Programs will submit descriptive evidence for this standard that speaks to all learning domains.

Intentional Teaching Practices

Points are earned in this area based on a program's demonstration of alignment among developmentally appropriate curriculum, lesson planning, and assessment. Programs will submit descriptive evidence for this standard that speaks to all learning domains.

Portfolio Information
 
Teacher:Student Ratio Count

Early care and education research indicates that smaller numbers of children per adult are associated with more positive outcomes and that the crowded environments associated with large group sizes may interfere with learning. This section requires a program to submit evidence of your center’s ratios and group sizes throughout your program day. We recognize that many variables must be taken into consideration when determining your programs decision on how to manage these two factors. This criteria recognizes that there may be a variance of both ratio and group size based on the time of day and staff schedules. Points are assessed based on ratios for 75% or more of your program days.

Teacher:Student Ratio Count

Research indicates that smaller numbers of children per adult are associated with more positive outcomes and that the crowded environments associated with large group sizes may interfere with learning. This section requires a program to submit evidence of your ratios and group sizes throughout your program day. We recognize that many variables must be taken into consideration when determining your program’s decision on how to manage these two factors. This criteria recognizes that there may be a variance of both ratio and group size based on the time of day and staff schedules. Points are assessed based on ratios for 75% or more of your program day.

Upload Instructions

The allowed file types of documents to be uploaded include PDF files and images (jpg, jpeg, gif, png, bmp, tif, tiff, pic).

To upload evidence:
  1. Click the Click to Upload Evidence button.
  2. On the Upload Evidence screen, using the drop down list, select the Type of Document (if applicable) or Age Group (if applicable).
  3. Click the Browse button on the right and navigate to the folder on your local computer where you saved the evidence document to be uploaded.
  4. Select the desired file and click the Open button, which will display the selected file location in the textbox on the screen.
  5. Enter the description for the file you wish to upload in the textbox; then click the Upload button to upload the document into your portfolio.

Repeat this process for each document.

SHAPE Award

The Department of Public Health and Bright from the Start: GA Department of Early Care and Learning are proud to introduce the Georgia SHAPE Award. This award has been developed to honor and recognize early care and learning facilities who have exceptional nutrition and physical activity practices in place that go above and beyond current licensing standards. The award will be open to all child care facilities that become Quality Rated through Bright from the Start. Such designation can be used for marketing purposes by the child care facility; parents will be encouraged to select “Georgia SHAPE” programs. Recognized child care programs will receive a certificate of achievement signed by the Governor, Georgia SHAPE decals which can be placed on the entrance(s) to the facility, access to the Georgia SHAPE logo and inclusion on the Georgia SHAPE list of designated child care facilities available on the Department of Public Health and Bright from the Start websites.

Note: All programs that receive the SHAPE Award are subject to an audit to ensure that the facility is maintaining the nutrition and physical activity practices as described in their Quality Rated Portfolios.

Criteria:

The Department of Public Health will use information obtained from the Quality Rated Portfolio to determine which centers qualify to receive the SHAPE Award.

  • Facilities must be Quality Rated.
  • Information submitted in Quality Rated Standard Two: Child Health, Nutrition, and Physical Activity will be reviewed and scored.
  • Facilities must have a score of 85% or higher to receive the SHAPE Award.

Resources Available: