By Stefanie Camoni
Will my program have external assessments conducted by a program quality assessor this year?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, external assessments are temporarily suspended for the program year. No external assessments will be conducted by program quality assessors through June 30, 2022. Instead the assessment team will partner with quality coaches and programs to conduct internal assessments. Please refer to the Keystone Stars Standards for more information.
How do I conduct an internal assessment during COVID-19?
You may be wondering how to conduct an internal assessment during these times. You are focusing so much on health and safety that you may not be focusing on other areas. This is the perfect time to assess your program. Many of the authors of the program observation instruments have spoken about why quality matters, even during these times. While some have offered the ability to not score certain areas during the pandemic, others emphasize the importance of assessing using the entire instrument. First, choose the POI that is right for you. While conducting the assessment, be sure to take notes on what you are observing. Also, remember this is a snapshot of what is actually occurring, so only base the observation on what is being practiced. You don’t want to assume something is done. After completing the assessment, create an improvement plan. What areas put children’s health and safety at risk? Those should be your first goals. Next, look at lower scoring areas and decide what is most important in your program. While creating goals, it is important to still ensure you are meeting health and safety guidelines put out during the pandemic. This will help you make well-informed decisions.
Why are my scores lower and what does that mean about my STAR level?
After you have conducted an internal assessment, you may notice scores lower than what you are used to. That’s ok. The pandemic has shifted our focus and resulted in changes to our program. Conducting the assessment will help you, as the authors of the ERS program observation instruments stated, maximize the good and minimize the bad. The observations will help you to see how the children have been impacted due to the demands. We know that overall quality impacts our children, staff, and families. Our role is to continue to provide the best care we can while also keeping everyone safe. Since there are currently no external assessments, there is no scoring criteria to determine STAR levels. To maintain your current STAR level or move up a STAR level, programs complete the internal assessment planning process that is part of the Keystone STARS standards.
How do you decide what instrument is used in a mixed classroom?
Mixed-aged classrooms are determined based on the age level that represents the highest number of enrolled children in the group. CLASS separates infants and toddlers into two age groups. Therefore, the majority of the age level enrolled will determine which CLASS tool will be used. For example, if 4 infants and 2 toddlers are enrolled, the room would be assessed with the ITERS-R or have a CLASS infant and a CLASS Toddler assessment. If Kindergarten age children are enrolled in a class with older school-age children, SACERS-U or CLASS K-3 are used. If it is a Kindergarten only classroom, ECERS-R/ECERS-3 or CLASS K-3 are used. Please refer to the specific POI for the specific age group focus.
What are the guidelines for sand and water during the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Refer to the Document, “The Pennsylvania Key Resource for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)” found on the Pennsylvania Keys for Quality website www.pakeys.org. The excerpt below was taken from the above referenced document.
Can we use…?
Sand bin/box: Yes, Limit the number who can play at one time, use social distancing measures if possible. Masks remain on children using the sand. Play dough or other gelatinous substance: Each child should have their own supply that is not shared with anyone else. Store in individual containers.