Keystone STARS

The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) states: “The percentage of four-year olds with proficient academic and social skills doubled to 81 percent after participating in Keystone STARS 3 and 4 programs.”

Keystone STARS Information for Parents

What to Expect at the Children Central STAR 4 program:

  • Even more professional development and training hours than STAR 3 requires.
  • Two-thirds of the staff completed or are enrolled in credentials or degrees.
  • Activities designed to encourage communication, both written and verbal, occur naturally in the day.
  • Parental and community resources are used effectively in the delivery of quality child care.
  • Business, organizational, and staff compensation practices are maximized.
  • A review of the facility by a nationally recognized environmental rating scale that indicates a high-quality score
  • One or more teachers in every classroom has a minimum of an Associate’s degree in early childhood education
  • Teachers use the PA Early Learning standards to develop curriculum and learning activities
  • Teachers hold a meeting with families when a child enrolls, provide daily updates on the child’s activities and hold at least two teacher conferences to share child’s progress each year
  • Teachers assess children’s development two times a year, the first within 45 days of enrollment
  • An independent evaluation of our classroom setup and learning activities using a standardized tool (Environment Rating Scale)
  • Children Central works with families and schools to make a smooth transition for children to a full-day kindergarten program
  • Staff complete 24 hours of continuing education each year
  • Staff receive at least three employee benefits, such as health insurance, which helps reduce staff turnover



Keystone STARS (Standards, Training/Professional Development, Assistance, Resources) provides families with a tool to gauge the quality of child care programs. The STARS program supports child care programs in the commitment to continuous quality improvement. Programs may enter Keystone STARS at the “Start with STARS” level and earn a STAR 1 through STAR 4 rating using research-based standards that measure four areas that make a difference in the quality of care your child receives:

  1. The educated and well-trained staff.
  2. The environment your child is in everyday.
  3. Leadership and management.
  4. Family and community partnerships.

As a program moves from STAR 1 to STAR 4, the requirements in these areas increase.


  • Department of Public Welfare Certificate of Compliance for Centers or registration for Family Homes.
  • A comfortable place where your child can explore and learn.
  • Laughing, reading and talking which builds language skills.
  • Teachers learning new ways to help your child succeed.
  • A safe, healthy and exciting place.
  • Music, art, science and play activities that increase school readiness.
  • Your child feeling good about his/her self.
  • Family involvement.
  • Teachers that listen to children and parents.
  • Children having fun together and being respectful of each other.


Q: Why should parents care about Keystone STARS?
A: Your child’s Early Education is critical to his/her development and future success in school and life. Keystone STARS sets requirements for early childhood educators to promote the best learning environment and safest setting possible for your child.

Q: What are the requirements set by Keystone STARS?
A: Quality ratings are based on four areas.

  1. Staff education – early childhood educators have the training and knowledge to interact properly with children.
  2. Learning environment – program has developmentally appropriate materials for a variety of ages and provides opportunities for children to learn on a daily basis.
  3. Leadership and management – a well-run business has policies and plans in place that enhance safety and manage risk, but also establish regular communication with parents and manage the needs of their staff.
  4. Family and community partnerships – programs reach out to families and community groups to take advantage of all resources that my help their young children and families.

Q: How does Keystone STARS rate a program?
A: Programs complete a self-study evaluation based on STARS standards to apply for a STAR level. Keystone STARS evaluators will then confirm their STAR level. Programs that are earning a STAR 3 or STAR 4 also receive an independent Environmental Ratings Scale.

Q: What is the difference between a STAR 1 and higher STAR ratings?
A: Programs are rated using the four quality areas, but the requirements increase in each area for each STAR level. Please speak with your local Child Care Information Services (CCIS) for details of STAR level requirements.

Q: The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) certifies programs. Isn’t that good enough?
A: A certified center does meet Pennsylvania’s minimum requirements for safety. However, certification does not address Early Education. A child’s first years are crucial to their lifelong learning, and the quality of their learning experiences will affect their readiness for school. Keystone STARS programs combine these safety requirements with Early Education standards to give children a safe and an educational environment.

Q: Does it cost more to enroll my child in a Keystone STARS program?
A: Providers enroll voluntarily in the Keystone STARS program and there are no charges for the provider to enroll. Costs to parents are set only by the provider themselves. Keystone STARS provides many child care providers with targeted financial assistance to help them continue to improve quality so they do not have to pass the cost on to families.

Q: What will my child get out of being enrolled in a Keystone STARS program?
A: Many things! Individual attention, daily learning activities, a safe, friendly, and respectful environment, feeling good about themselves, a well educated staff, parent involvement, and more.

Q: What do parents get out of enrolling their children in a Keystone STARS program?
A: Knowing that your child is safe and respected, that your child is learning something new every day, and the security of knowing what to expect from your provider in certain situations. Most of all, giving your child the best opportunity to succeed today and in the future.