Choose a High Quality Program

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What is Quality in Early Care and Education?

Quality can look different in every early care and education program, but you’ll find common threads that will help you recognize quality. Quality programs:

  • Draw upon the strengths of professionals who enjoy and appreciate children, but also understand how young children develop and learn
  • Offer environments that focus upon the needs of children, provide opportunities for children to explore and play on their own, with their peers and with their caregivers and teachers
  • Implement a cycle of teaching that incorporates child observations, planning of a curriculum, customizing for individual child goals, and reflecting upon outcomes
  • Value the families of the children in their care and show this by welcoming families into the classroom, sharing delight in each child’s growth and development and giving support in times of need
  • Provide continuity in care for young children so that children and caregivers are able to build secure relationships that serve as a foundation for early learning

What is YoungStar?


YoungStar is a 5 Star quality rating and improvement system that supports families in making an informed decision about who will care for their children. The rating scale recognizes practices that early learning settings have in place that are proven to be good for kids. YoungStar gives families a snapshot of a program’s quality to compare with their own values. Read about Wisconsin programs succeeding in YoungStar.

Hear from YoungStar participating child care programs about the impact YoungStar has had on their programs:

What Does Each Star Rating Mean?

A program’s star rating is based on four categories of quality:

Graduation Cap Provider Education & Training: Children benefit when their teachers and caregivers have a solid foundation in early care and education principles and practices. YoungStar acknowledges the academic achievement of teachers, caregivers and administrators.
Building Blocks Learning Environment & Curriculum: When teachers and caregivers create meaningful experiences for infants and young children, they are more likely to have long-term school success.
Calculator Business & Professional Practices: How programs do business matters. Well-respected, fairly-compensated professionals, who are actively maintaining professional standards and business practices and engaging families, are better able to respond to meet the needs of children and their families.
Apple Health & Wellness: Children grow up in the context of their families, communities and culture. These standards look at the outcomes of the whole child from nutrition and physical activity to supporting children in forming secure relationships.

How Do Programs Earn Their Star Rating?

Statewide regulations for early care and education serve as the foundation of YoungStar. With compliance with regulations intact, programs can then achieve a star rating which is earned on a point scale of 0-40 with each star level having minimum requirements. You might see the following types of ratings across the state:

2 Star Automated:

The program has submitted required paperwork to meet minimum state requirements, but in most cases have decided to bypass working with a technical consultant.

2 Star:

The program is actively engaged in quality improvement efforts with a Technical Consultant.

3 Star:

The program has met the minimum requirements for the star level and earned at least 11 points.

4 Star:

The program has met the minimum requirements for the star level and earned at least 23 points.

4 Star Automated:

The program is accredited and meets the 4 Star educational requirements.

5 Star:

The program has met the minimum requirements for the star level and earned at least 33 points.

5 Star Automated:

The program has met national or city accreditation standards as recognized by Wisconsin’s Department of Children and Families and meets the 5 Star educational requirements. Programs that meet Head Start performance standards and are verified through the review process will be awarded a 5 Star.

Learn more about minimum requirements for each star level in the Reading the Stars brochure.

Large Rating Example

2 Star Rating Example

Both of the programs above have received a 2 Star rating. The one on the left chose the automated rating in which they bypassed technical consultation services for quality improvement. The one on the right received a technical rating after their working on their quality improvement efforts with their Technical Consultant.

4 Star Rating Example

Above shows a 4 Star rating of a family child care program. You can tell if you are looking at a certificate for a family or a group program based on the total points possible for Provider Education & Training and Learning Environment & Curriculum. Group child care programs can earn 15 and 13 points respectively, while family child care programs can earn 14 points in either category.

5 Star Rating Example

Both of the programs above are 5 Star programs. The program on the left does not have a point breakdown because it is either an accredited child care program or a Head Start and Early Head Start program and has met Head Start performance standards. The one on the right has undergone Formal Rating with Observation to receive enough points in each of the four categories to be rated a 5 Star.

Families can receive support in understanding a YoungStar rating from their local Child Care Resource & Referral Agency (CCR&R). Find your local CCR&R.

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