Implemented in 1998, Oklahoma’s Reaching for the Stars is considered to be the first State comprehensive quality rating and improvement system. It has four levels of child care program quality (One Star, One Star Plus, Two Star, and Three Star) and all licensed child care providers are awarded at least one star. From its inception, Reaching for the Stars has had three goals: to raise the Oklahoma Department of Human Services reimbursement rate, resulting in more slots for children whose families receive child care assistance; to improve the competency level of child care providers, in order to increase the overall quality of programs; and to provide a system whereby parents can evaluate the quality of child care programs.
QRIS name: Reaching for the Stars
Organization: Child Care Services, Oklahoma Department of Human Services
QRIS State Profile
This profile is from the QRIS Compendium—a comprehensive resource for information about all of the QRIS operating in the U.S. and its Territories. It was developed by a partnership of the BUILD Initiative, the Early Learning Challenge Collaborative, and Child Trends.
QRIS Resource Guide Examples
Initial Design Process
Oklahoma Recruits Business Champions
Oklahoma Champions for Early Opportunities (OKCEO) is a statewide coalition of executives supported by the Potts Family Foundation, the Oklahoma Business Roundtable, and Smart Start Oklahoma to promote early childhood issues to the business community. Its goal is to build a permanent, sustainable network of business champions who understand the connection between investment in quality early childhood experiences and a strong Oklahoma economy, and who can effectively communicate this message to other business leaders, business groups, policymakers and the State’s workforce. Over 50 volunteer leaders have received training and then given presentations to civic groups and other state and local organizations. They also provide interviews with various media outlets; e.g., early morning news shows, radio spots; write letters to the editor; and help educate friends and acquaintances. OKCEO has been profiled in newspapers and online news sources, including editorials in the state’s two largest newspapers. To keep spokespeople well-informed, they receive a monthly newsletter with facts to share. For more information, see http://okceos.org/.
Approaches to Implementation
Oklahoma Makes Adjustments in Response to Feedback
The first QRIS was launched in Oklahoma in 1998. Reaching for the Stars included two star levels. One year later, the State funded a three star level for programs that met two star standards and were also nationally accredited. After 2 years and lagging participation levels, program designers identified that the gap between one star licensing and two star standards was greater than most providers could accomplish. They created a midpoint and time-limited One Star Plus level that provided financial incentives and recognition for providers that needed more support to progress to higher star levels. Additional information is available at http://www.okdhs.org/programsandservices/cc/stars/.
Quality Assurance and Monitoring
Oklahoma Responds to Unintended Consequences in Its QRIS
Oklahoma’s Reaching for the Stars QRIS policy and procedures are specific and detailed so that staff and providers understand the process. This is essential because of the significant financial consequences of star status on tiered reimbursement rates. Because it is difficult to evaluate a program when it first opens, the QRIS policy initially stated that a program could not apply for a higher star level until it had a full license, generally after 6 months of operation. This imposed a hardship on new programs as well as on existing child care centers, particularly if there was a change of ownership. Under new ownership, the tiered rates dropped dramatically, jeopardizing the continued quality of the center. As a result, the policy was changed to allow new programs with an initial permit to participate. Additional information is available at http://www.okdhs.org/programsandservices/cc/stars/.
Existing and New Resources Fill Gaps in Oklahoma's QRIS
When Oklahoma launched its Reaching for the Stars program in 1998, licensing staff were given the responsibility of both promoting the program with providers and providing ongoing monitoring. Twenty-seven new licensing specialists, a 25 percent increase in staff, were added to reduce caseloads and allow time for this new responsibility. Stars Outreach Specialists and Consultation and Technical Support Specialists were later added to supplement the consultation being provided by licensing staff. Child Care and Development Fund-funded partners were asked to make supporting QRIS participation a priority within their service delivery. For example, the Center for Early Childhood Professional Development offered workshops on program assessment and the four ERS scales. It initiated a Director’s Leadership Academy which addressed QRIS criteria, such as policies and procedures, staff development, and staff evaluation. The Scholars for Excellence in Child Care program provides advisors and scholarships to providers participating in the Stars program; child care providers must be employed in a OneStar plus or above child care facility to participate. The REWARD Oklahoma wage supplement program was created after programs were having difficulty recruiting and retaining the master teachers required in the Stars criteria. Additional information is available at http://www.okdhs.org/programsandservices/cc/stars/.
Provider Incentives and Support
Oklahoma Created the Scholars for Excellence in Child Care Initiative
Oklahoma has created its own scholarship program, the Scholars for Excellence in Child Care Initiative, to help early and school-age care and education providers continue their education and meet Reaching for the Stars QRIS criteria. To qualify for the Scholars for Excellence initiative, providers must work in one-star plus or above child care facilities that are licensed and care for subsidized children, i.e., at least 10 percent of children in care must receive subsidies. Through this program, a scholar coordinator is placed at each community college to recruit, advise, and support students as they are often entering the higher education system for the first time. Central office and community college coordinators assist providers with career counseling and obtaining financial assistance including Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) funded scholarships for Child Development Associate or Certified Childcare Professional credential assessments, career tech, or community college coursework. Scholarship funds can be used to pay for tuition, fees, limited release time, and books. Scholar coordinators make at least two onsite technical assistance visits with the provider each semester to provide classroom assistance or career advisement. Additional information is available at http://www.okhighered.org/scholars/.
Oklahoma's Public Awareness Strategies
Oklahomadelayed the launch of its Reaching for the Stars public awareness campaign for parents until most counties had a program above the one-star level. To inform parents, the State used television and radio public service announcements, advertisements before movies in theatres, brochures and posters in many public places, and billboards. When child care providers attained a higher level, they were given a certificate, window decal, and newspaper article template to submit to their local newspaper. Some licensing staff loaned them yard signs and banners to proclaim their achievement. Providers’ Star status is clearly displayed when a parent uses the on-line Child Care Locator to obtain a list of licensed facilities at http://www.okdhs.org/programsandservices/cc/prnts/docs/cclupdates.htm. For providers, all staff received a lapel pin reflecting their program’s star status, and they were recognized at early childhood State conferences. .