YoungStar Formal Ratings

A formal rating allows child care programs to earn a 4 or 5 Star rating in YoungStar. In addition to the requirements of a technical rating, a formal rating includes an in-class observation from a trained Environment Rating Scale (ERS) Observer, who assesses the quality of the program’s environment using the ERS scales.


The only other path to a 4 or 5 Star rating in YoungStar is accreditation by one of these bodies, which will result in an Automated 4 or 5 Star rating.

What is a formal rating like?

Many providers reports feeling nervous before their observation – and we get it, being observed sounds intimidating. But almost everyone who undergoes a formal rating tells us their nerves were the worst part, and the observation was not nearly as scary as they expected. The ERS Observer simply wants to see what happens on a typical day in your program, and how staff interact with children.

You will have time to prepare your program for your observation with the help of your Technical Consultant, and you are encouraged to review the ERS scales so you understand exactly what the ERS Observer will be looking for.

Before the observation your ERS Observer will call you to introduce themselves. You will not know the exact date the observer plans to come, but together you will set a four-week “window” when the rating can take place. The day of the observation, the ERS Observer will be onsite for about 3 ½-5 hours.

Several weeks after the observation, you will receive your score and a detailed final feedback session. This is the most valuable part of the formal rating process, as it provides you with an unbiased view of your program’s strengths and areas where you may still have room to improve.

Review the scales

Your program will be scored using the appropriate scale below. Select the tab that represents your child care program to learn more about the scale.


Family child care providers are observed using the FCCERS-R (Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale, Revised Edition), created by the Environment Rating Scales Institute (ERSI).


Group child care classrooms with children aged 0-2 years (35 months) are observed using the ITERS-R (Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale, Revised Edition), created by the Environment Rating Scales Institute (ERSI).


Group child care classrooms with children aged 3-5 years are observed using the ECERS-R (Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, Revised Edition), created by the Environment Rating Scales Institute (ERSI).


School-age child care programs are observed using the SACERS-U (School-Age Care Environment Rating Scale, Updated), created by the Environment Rating Scales Institute (ERSI).


Who is eligible for a formal rating?

Any early care and education program meeting the requirements below is encouraged to try a formal rating. Ask your TC about receiving a formal rating, and she/he will help you determine whether your program is eligible.

  • Meet the education requirements required to earn 4 or 5 Stars
  • Have performed a self-assessment of your program in collaboration with your TC
  • Demonstrated an ongoing annual line-item budget, budget review, record-keeping practices, and accurate and timely completion of taxes
  • Serve nutritious meals and/or snacks daily
  • Provided a written copy of employment policies and procedures (including job descriptions and hiring practices, personnel policies, salary/benefit schedules, evaluation procedures, staff disciplinary policies, grievance procedures, program policies and staff expectations)
  • (Required for 5 Stars) Offered evidence of using Model Work Standards for administration of business, including hiring, staffing and business planning. Must be site/location specific.

Each of these requirements are points listed in the Evaluation Criteria and can be discussed in greater detail with your TC.


Preparing for your Formal Rating

The goal is always for you to feel well prepared to receive your formal rating. Your Technical Consultant will provide you with necessary documents and work with you to identify areas you want to focus on strengthening before the rating occurs.

We recommend you prepare for your rating by familiarizing yourself with the ERS Scale, reviewing the documents provided by your Technical Consultant, reading testimonials from programs who have undergone a formal rating before, and making sure you have asked your Technical Consultant any lingering questions you have.

Contact Us!

For more information or if you have a specific question not addressed here, reach out to the Formal Rating Team at: