Career Progression: A New Emphasis in Child Care Quality

Alison Lutton, early childhood education professional development systems expert, examines the updated Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and requirements of the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) dedicated to improving child care quality. Specifically, the rule to increase the proportion of the federal grant that states must spend on improving quality in child care programs, called the “quality set-aside,” including new requirements for professional development.

CLICK HERE to read more about the requirements for a professional development framework that supports career progression and learn how Philadelphia stakeholders are transforming professional development work and supporting career progression for our early childhood teachers.

T.E.A.C.H.: a strategy to strengthen the ECE workforce

By Mary Graham, Executive Director, Children's Village

A July 16th article by Anya Kamenetz, National Public Radio, Teachers With Student Debt: The Struggle, The Causes And What Comes Next, highlighted the challenges of student debt that thousands of American teachers face each month.  The author collected and analyzed data from more than 2,000 respondents to a Teacher Student Debt survey.  Student debt among teachers was specifically selected as an area of study because of a confluence of current issues, including chronic concerns over low teacher compensation amid calls to improve teacher quality; the rising cost of higher education; the increasing reliance on loans to pay for it; and changing policies from the Trump administration.

Comments from the survey included:

"I am overloaded and struggling. It's terrifying."
"I feel like I'll be making the last payment from my grave."
"It is an albatross around my neck. Years of paying and I feel like I'm getting nowhere."
"My monthly payment is estimated at one-fourth my total income. Even at that rate, I will take more than 10 years to pay off my loans."

Contrast those comments with those gathered from teachers of young children that benefit from the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship:

“I secured employment and received a T.E.A.C.H scholarship, and my life has turned around.  I was able to work to take care of my children while I was going to school. Moreover, I was given time to study and reimbursement for books and travel. These support systems are important to a person like me, who has been on her own since the age of 16 and does not have much of a support system at home. I was the first in my family to even go to college, so I am so proud of myself!”

“As a single parent, I pretty much live paycheck to paycheck and receiving a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship was my ONLY way to accomplish the goal of attaining an Associate’s degree.”

T.E.A.C.H. (Teacher Education And Compensation Helps) Early Childhood® is a national program of the North Carolina Child Care Services Association designed to help address the need for a well qualified, fairly compensated and stable early childhood education (ECE) workforce.  The T.E.A.C.H. strategy includes five C’s:

-- Comprehensive Scholarships provide support for the ECE workforce to access college courses, certificates, and degrees in early childhood education resulting in no student debt, using a shared cost approach.  

-- College Education requires completion of a specified number of credit hours per contract at a participating college or university coupled with support from T.E.A.C.H. counselors who aid recipients in successfully navigating college processes and finding needed resources to increase core knowledge.

-- Compensation mandates increased compensation through the provision of a bonus and/or a raise for recipients who complete their education in a prescribed period of time to support the economic viability of staff.

-- Commitment establishes a contract between employee, employer, and T.E.A.C.H. that requires the recipient to remain in the sponsoring program for a specified period of time (generally one year) after they receive their education to reduce staff turnover.

-- Counselors support each recipient with a state-based T.E.A.C.H. Counselor able to assist the student in securing a scholarship, navigating the college processes, setting goals, and monitoring progress and needs.

In Pennsylvania, the T.E.A.C.H. program is funded by the Commonwealth via the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, administered by Pennsylvania Child Care Association (PACCA), and includes nearly 25 participating Institutions of Higher Education.  The Fiscal Year 17-18 budget allocates nearly $2.8 million, which is anticipated to fund more than 1,000 scholarships.

In order to be eligible applicants must:

  1. Work approximately 25-30 hours per week directly with children in a DHS-certified child care program participating in Pennsylvania’s Quality Rating Improvement System, Keystone STARS, Head Start or PreK Counts Program;
  2. Earn $19 or less an hour ($25 or less per hour for directors);
  3. Be interested in pursuing coursework at a participating college (at least 9 credits per year) toward a degree or credential in early childhood education. 

Children’s Village is a nationally accredited early childhood education center located in Philadelphia.  Serving more than 450 children ages 13 months to 13 years, Children’s Village has benefited from T.E.A.C.H. scholarships in numerous ways.  Of current staff, 28 of 42 teachers (66%) obtained degrees or are finishing degrees through the T.E.A.C.H. program. 

T.E.A.C.H. has made it possible for Children’s Village to attain an extremely high teacher retention rate (95%) as well as add to the diversity of the teaching staff.  Eight of the current 42 teachers (19%) started out as parent volunteers, who were then hired as substitutes and enrolled in T.E.A.C.H.  Of these eight, all are English language learners and speak a variety of other languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Fujianese, Taiwanese, Indonesian, Spanish).  T.E.A.C.H. supported their enrollment in non-credit bearing English language courses, which in turn prepared them to pursue credit-bearing course work through subsequent T.E.A.C.H. scholarships.

Children’s Village used the availability of T.E.A.C.H. scholarships to promote educational degree attainment for staff above minimum levels required by various funding sources and accrediting bodies.  As both a Keystone STAR 4 and NAEYC accredited center, we strive to have staff hold the highest credential possible.  Without T.E.A.C.H., Children’s Village would not have been able to meet this goal.  When Pennsylvania changed regulations to require lead teachers in PA Pre-K Counts-funded classrooms to hold PA Certification in ECE, Children’s Village was already meeting this requirement.  All assistant teachers have a minimum of 18 ECE credits, with most having earned an Associate’s degree in ECE.

The T.E.A.C.H. program is strategically designed to allow teachers of young children to earn advanced degrees without incurring debt.  And while the program targets early childhood education teachers because they typically earn less than those working in the K-12 system, the NPR article makes clear that even teachers in K-12 struggle to make student loan payments.  Perhaps the T.E.A.C.H. program could be used as a model for the development of a national scholarship program for K-12 teachers; one that similarly allows them to earn advanced degrees while working, without incurring debt.  The ongoing education of all teachers is a public benefit and one that should not have to be repaid by individual teachers, given the reality of low compensation in the field of education.

For more information regarding implementation of T.E.A.C.H. and the impact of T.E.A.C.H. at Children’s Village, join Mary Graham’s workshop session at the upcoming Early Childhood Education Summit in State College, PA in mid-October.  Or, register for Mary’s “Growing your Parents and Teachers through T.E.A.C.H.” workshops via the PA Keys PD Registry and receive PQAS credits.  Sessions are held in Philadelphia and are currently scheduled for August 15th from 9a.m.-12noon and October 4th from 9a.m.-12noon.

Mary Graham, Executive Director of Children’s Village in Philadelphia, has a BA in Social Welfare and an MA in ECE.  Having spent her entire 41-year career in the ECE field, Mary has been director at the center for the past 29 years.  She has been involved in the professionalization of the ECE field and is sought after on the local, regional, and national levels to share her expertise, experience, and perspective as a practitioner.  She has served on several boards and advisory committees, including PACCA, the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC) and is involved with the National Women’s Law Center Child Care and Early Learning National Advocates Group.  She received her PQAS certification in 2016 and presents professional development in the area of ECE Business and Management issues.



Insights from Jolly Toddlers: Reflections on Practice of PBIS and Correspondence to E3

The role of positive interactions-- child-child, teacher-child, teacher-teacher --is receiving greater significance in the discussion of high-quality early learning settings. And deservedly so. In Pennsylvania, we've seen the introduction and increased use of the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale, Third Edition (E3) which shifts the observed indicators to focus more on intentional teaching and adult-child interactions for preschool age groups (3- to 5-year-olds). We have also seen an increase in the promotion and use of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in early childhood programs. In light of this, we decided to take a close-up look at a program that is fully implementing PBIS in their classrooms and how this practice relates to E3.  CLICK HERE to learn more about Jolly Toddlers, a STAR 4 program in Bucks County.


Last week we shared the revised Keystone STARS Performance Standards June 2017 recently released by the PA Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL). Below is an overview which captures primary changes between the current Keystone STARS standards and the revised standards which will begin implementation next month.

New Keystone STARS Standards Change Overview

This chart is intended to capture the core changes between the old and new STARS system and standards released in June 2017. It does not capture every indicator. While many standards are no longer required at STAR 3 and 4 levels, they do remain as an option to meet the required points score for each level. Visit to review the full Keystone STARS Program Performance Standard, June 2017. 


What’s the same?

What’s changed?

What’s gone?

Type of QRIS

Four STAR system

Combination: Block system at STAR 1 & 2; point system at STAR 3 & 4



No longer voluntary system. All DHS certified programs with a full certificate of compliance in good standing automatically participate.


Supports Available

Regional Key

Technical Assistance

Professional Development

Emphasis on coaching

“STARS Specialists” now “Quality Coaches”




Three year designation[i]


Alternate Pathways to STARS Designation[ii]


STAR 4 level if meeting specific accreditation standards and certification compliance when applicable:

 NAEYC; NAFCC; Montessori; Head Start/Early Head Start only programCOA (OST only); 21st Century Community Learning Centers (OST only)

STAR 2,3,4 level for out of school time only Providers using After School Quality (ASQ) program


Standards Structure

STAR level specific standards organized by four domains:

Staff Qualifications & Professional Development;
Early Care and Education Program; Partnerships with Families & Communities;
Leadership & Management

Required standards at STAR 1 & 2

Choice of standards to meet minimum points at STAR 3 & 4[iii]



Staff Qualifications & PD

PD Registry profile

Individual annual PD plans

Flexibility in PD content and delivery system

PA Director Credential held by a member of the program’s on-site leadership team (formerly required of the director)

STARS Orientation courses for program leadership and all staff

STAR 3 & 4 points based on % of staff enrolled in or completed an academic program

Emphasis on career planning/development

Required number of annual PQAS certified PD hours

Career Lattice requirements

Professional Growth Activities






Early Care & Education Program

PA Early Learning Standards used to support children’s learning and at STAR 3 & 4 implements appropriate learning curriculum

A developmental screening tool is used within 45 days  of program entry

Program assessment: minimum threshold score for STAR 3 & 4

Programs adopt policies that support OCDEL state policies, practices and supports regarding inclusion, and suspension/expulsion

Choice between ERS or CLASS assessment tool

Required demographic entry in Early Learning Network (ELN)

Partnerships with Families & Communities

Minimum one family conference per year

Written transition policy for classroom or program change

Family handbook distributed


“Getting to Know You” Meetings/Offering of a meeting within 45 days of enrollment

Leadership & Management

Financial record keeping in place

Tracking injury and illness

Site safety review

Staff policy manual


Annual independent financial review by a CPA at STAR 4

Mission Statement and Strategic Plan

[i] With submission of Annual Review Form, and as long as in good standing and no triggers: 15% staff turnover; new director; certification issue
[ii] Refer to  Keystone STARS Program Performance Standard, June 2017 for specific requirements for each program type
[iii] Minimum points threshold in each domain