Name of Initiative: QUALITYstarsNY
Interview with: Leslie Capello, Director
Regions served: QUALITYstarsNY serves programs in all 10 economic regions of New York State, Housed within New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute, 16 Court Street, 31st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11241
Populations served: All regulated sites in NYS are eligible to apply for participation including center-based child care, family child care, prekindergarten in both child care centers and schools, and Head Start, Early Head Start. Focusing on programs serving high-need and vulnerable communities.
Funding: Blended and braided public and private dollars; the hiring of new Quality Improvement Specialists across the state was made possible through the PDGB5 federal funds (Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson, and New York City) and private funds (New York City/Eastern New York/Brooklyn, Western New York/Chautauqua County and North Country). The expansion continues with PDGB5 renewal FY20 (New York City/Bronx, Mohawk Valley, and Capital District).
Vision statement: All of New York’s young children have access to excellence. QUALITYstarsNY is New York State’s voluntary 5-Star early childhood Quality Rating and Improvement System. Since its inception, QUALITYstarsNY has focused its evidence-based practices to ensure young children in participating programs have access to excellence and, their families can trust the level of quality in the programs they choose.
Currently QUALITYstarsNY operates in all 10 economic regions across the state and supports more than 800 sites serving low income families in high-need communities. All regulated sites are eligible to apply for participation including child care, family child care, pre-k in both centers and schools, and Head Start/Early Head Start.
Each participating site works closely with a Quality Improvement Specialist focusing on Quality Standards that fall into four key categories: Children’s Learning Environment, Family Engagement, Leadership & Management, and Staff Qualifications & Experience. Quality Improvement Specialists, experts in the early childhood profession, provide individualized technical assistance to support each participant with continuous quality improvement. An individual Quality Improvement Plan is developed in partnership with the program leader to support the development and implementation of goals. A wide range of resources are made available to each site to support continuous quality improvement.
Phone: (718) 254-7727
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently passed the 2021 budget amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor highlights this accomplishment noting that: “It would have been very easy to say that ‘this is an extraordinary year let’s just do the bare minimum and go home.’ They said the opposite, they said ‘we have a lot of needs, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed.’’ The FY20-21 budget maintains funding for QUALITYstarsNY. Since the pandemic hit New York, QUALITYstarsNY has collected powerful data demonstrating their essential role in our changing landscape of early care and education. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in March 2020, QUALITYstarsNY collected information from 96% of their programs through their Quality Improvement Specialists, highlighting the strong relationships and true partnership that exists between Quality Improvement Specialists and program leaders. The data shows that about 60% of participating programs have continued serving young children by remaining open or through remote learning and family engagement. 80% of all participating programs, including those that are currently closed, continue to work closely with their Quality Improvement Specialist on continuous quality improvement as determined by their Quality Improvement Plans. Leslie Capello, the director of QUALITYstarsNY, speaks to the value of QUALITYstarsNY, especially in this uncharted territory as providing a constancy by perpetuating this vital service in spite of the upheaval caused by COVID-19.
The leadership of QUALITYstarsNY used the data collected to inform the adaptation of quality improvement to include meeting the shifting needs of participating programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic: “Because we had such a great response from our participants early on, we were able to really understand what their immediate needs were and take action.” This included providing necessary supplies and learning materials to support classroom staff as they shifted to remote learning or for those who remained open, adapted to revised health and safety practices in the interest of increasing the protection of children and staff. Capello notes that the organization’s biggest focus has been meeting the increased need for emotional support: “The emotional impact affects everyone: it’s each individual, the Quality Improvement Specialists, the program leaders, families, communities, and most importantly, the children we all care for. Even with backgrounds and expertise in early childhood education and social emotional development, there is this level of trauma, grief, and loss that no one was necessarily prepared for so that’s been a challenge but it’s also something that we are addressing head on.” Providing emotional support is at the foundation of quality: “We are making sure we have the tools and the resources and understanding that we need to provide that level of support in addition to the work that we continue to do around the other dimensions of quality. One step we have taken is connecting with experts in mental health to deepen our understanding of compassion fatigue, secondary trauma and protective factors as we address the challenges that the COVID-19 Pandemic has presented.”
In speaking to QUALITYstarsNY’s success in adapting to the changing needs of the participating programs these past two months, Capello highlights the importance of flexibility and responsiveness: “It was important for us to be flexible with our processes and deadlines. The Specialists remain connected and continue to support high need family child care providers and centers across the state and that is a really essential piece of our work.” This, Capello states, is grounded in trust and relationship building: “The foundation of our work is those essential relationships that were built early on; we have not veered away from that and I think that the commitment to quality is still there and that’s why we see the progress and movement forward; it is rooted in what was already established and our approach to our work in general.”
Due to this adaptability and responsiveness to the needs of programs and centers, QUALITYstarsNY is not only maintaining its considerable progress, it is building new partnerships across the state. With stabilized state funding and some new federal resources, QUALITYstarsNY is recruiting new programs to participate in this evidence-based project. The goal is to serve as many children as possible throughout New York. In speaking to this process, Capello states: “We had a little period of focusing and getting things in place and now with resolve to go forward in a COVID-19 environment we are bringing more stability to New York. These programs will be a critical part of New York’s economic recovery, enabling families to get back to work as the state re-opens for business. Our role in ensuring that families have the peace of mind, knowing that their children are in programs of high quality is essential. Only then will New York State be ready to fully recover.”