Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to Refine Keystone STARS Program

University of Pennsylvania inquiry of Keystone STARS serves as springboard for stakeholder engagement with program reform.

Nov 10, 2015, 12:14 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Ted Dallas and Department of Education (PDE) Secretary Pedro Rivera received a report from the University of Pennsylvania with recommendations for refining Pennsylvania's largest quality early care and education program, Keystone STARS.

The University of Pennsylvania's Consortium for Policy Research and Education's report, An Inquiry into Pennsylvania's Keystone STARS, found that children who participated in Keystone STAR 3 and 4 centers showed higher proficiencies than those children in Keystone STAR 1 and 2 centers. The report was released during the second of a four-part Quality Talks series hosted by the William Penn Foundation.

"This report further emphasizes the importance of access to high-quality early childhood care and education services for Pennsylvania's children," stated Secretary Dallas. "We are committed to ensuring that our children can build a foundation for a bright future, and the Keystone STARS program is a key vehicle to create that reality."

Keystone STARS, administered by DHS and PDE's Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), promotes quality improvement among child care and other early childhood education programs through quality standards and targeted supports. Programs currently earn a STAR 1 through STAR 4 rating by meeting standards for staff education and professional development, the early learning environment, family engagement practices and business management. Keystone STARS serves children from birth through school-age in every county.

"Nearly half of children served in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts in 2014-15 received those services in Keystone STAR 3 and 4 programs," said Secretary Rivera. "The success of the Keystone STARS program directly impacts the success of Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and our ability to give our children the best opportunity for success when they enter kindergarten."

An independent study conducted in 2006 found that Keystone STARS reversed the negative trend of declining quality in child care.

"This report shows that our high-quality STAR 3 and 4 levels correlate with positive child outcomes," said OCDEL Deputy Secretary Michelle Figlar.

The report, funded by the William Penn Foundation, made recommendations for strategies to refine Keystone STARS. DHS will address the recommendations, with stakeholder assistance by:  

  • Streamlining STARS standards to focus on evidence based standards which support improved child outcomes, individual improvement activities, and monitoring and reporting;
  • Modifying required sources of evidence to meet Keystone STARS standards to maintain rigor without rigidity;
  • Defining Keystone STARS levels as steps to quality with meaningful progressions at each STARS level;
  • Developing a plan for stakeholder engagement to refine Keystone STARS;
  • Aligning STARS revisions with other Department initiatives, data systems integration, professional development and technical assistance; and
  • Evaluating the current financing structure with national experts.

"We have already begun refining the program by removing some administrative burden, reducing receipts collection, and streamlining the grants and awards process," said Secretary Dallas. "But that is just the first step. We are also taking advantage of technology for professional development and coordinating with other early childhood education programs."

As of June 2015, more than 3,900 child care programs participate in Keystone STARS, serving more than 169,000 children. After participating in high-quality Keystone STAR 3 and 4 programs, the percentage of 4-year-olds with proficient language, math, and social skills doubled to 78 percent in 2013-14.

Governor Wolf has proposed $67.095 million in his budget for Keystone STARS for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

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Media Contact: Kait Gillis, 717.425.7606 


SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Human Services