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

Compensation Parity for Pre-K Teachers 

Equal Pay for Preschool Teachers (Alyssa Haywoode in Eye on Early Education, A Blog of Strategies for Children posted on May 9, 2017) identifies the components of preschool teacher compensation, compares compensation for preschool teachers with that of K-3 teachers, and presents policy data around educational requirements for teachers, state spending for pre-k (both as a whole and per pupil), and pre-k quality standards that impact the current conundrum.  Preschool teachers earn less than other teachers of young children, although brain and educational research continue to point to the importance of quality early childhood education and the important role of teachers in raising quality in early childhood education classrooms.

Defining compensation parity

Using national research and recent policy briefs, the blog defines pre-k teacher compensation parity as “parity with K-3 teachers for salary and benefits for equivalent levels of education and experience, prorated to reflect differences in hours of work in private settings where applicable, and including payment for non-child contact hours (such as paid time for planning).”  Nationally, only one state (Tennessee) uses this definition of comprehensive compensation parity explicitly in its early and elementary education teacher policies.

Philadelphia’s pre-k program

Locally, Philadelphia’s PHLpreK program was implemented with several policies addressing teacher compensation and quality standards.  However, these policies are not designed with the explicit goal of pre-K teacher compensation parity. 

PHLpreK teacher educational requirements

The educational requirement for a teacher in a classroom with children enrolled in PHLpreK is a two-year Associate’s Degree.  This differs significantly from the requirement for a teacher working in Kindergarten through 4th grade classrooms in Pennsylvania’s public schools in Pennsylvania.  These teachers must possess a Bachelor’s Degree from a state-approved ECE teacher education program and a PK-4 teacher’s certificate.  The state-funded pre-k program, called Pre-K Counts, requires the same teacher education and certification as those required for teaching young children in Pennsylvania’s elementary schools.  Because Philadelphia does not require equivalent levels of education and experience for its pre-k teachers working in PHLpreK classrooms as those required of teachers working in public elementary schools, pre-k teacher compensation parity is not possible for this set of teachers.

Compensation for PHLpreK teachers

As described above, because education requirements are lower for PHLpreK teachers than for PA Pre-K Counts and elementary school teachers, compensation parity is not a reasonable policy to pursue in support of pre-k teacher compensation.  However, Philadelphia policy makers have used another tool to push hourly rates for pre-k teachers above the state and federal minimum wages.  Philadelphia contractually obligates PHLpreK providers to compensate teachers working in a classroom with children enrolled in PHLpreK using the City’s Minimum Wage Standard.  Currently, this rate is $12.10 an hour for new contracts and the rate is calculated and updated annually.  While this rate is an improvement over minimum wage, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator ( accessed on May 16, 2017), the living wage in Philadelphia for a single adult with one child is $23.64 per hour and for a single adult with two children the hourly rate is $29.43 per hour.


While the PHLpreK program works to address preschool teacher compensation, it does so using the policy tool of the City’s Minimum Wage Standard rather than the policy tool of compensation parity.  This choice is not aligned with current best practices around preschool teacher minimum education requirements (i.e. Keystone STARS career lattice, PA Pre-K Counts program, and the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation for a Bachelor’s degree and specialization in education-related knowledge and competencies).  As the PHLpreK program continues to grow and as the program is analyzed using data collected from the evaluation currently underway, the pros and cons of this choice will become clearer.  Aligning preschool teacher education and certification requirements across the preschool and K-12 systems and setting an explicit policy goal around teacher compensation parity, may be a more expedient means to achieve the critical goals of ensuring qualified teachers and quality classrooms for all our young learners. 

Amy Friedlander served as the Director of the Early Childhood Education Workforce Transformation Initiative from May 2015 – April 2016.  Previously, Amy led the Southeast Regional Key at PHMC, and grew PHMC’s ECE programs and services to include ChildWare and  As a consultant, Amy now works for ECE providers, funders, advocates, and others, to conduct strategic planning, collect and analyze data, develop and implement programs, write proposals, develop and deliver training, and manage a variety of complex projects.Amy can be reached at and her website is

Early Childhood Education Teachers 2.0: Strategies to Transform the Profession...Where are we today?

One year ago, the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC), Montgomery Early Learning Centers (MELC), and Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) released a report called: Early Childhood Education Teachers 2.0: Strategies to Transform the Profession.  The report presented local data, findings, and recommendations regarding Early Childhood Education (ECE) workforce compensation, preparation, and other key factors. 

Since publishing that report, much has changed.  Some of it, such as state-wide Pre-K expansion and Philadelphia City Pre-K initiation, PHLpreK, was anticipated and is positive.  Other changes, such as the unprecedented concentration of power within the Republican Party at the federal level, were unforeseen and are potentially detrimental to children, families, and the working poor.  Due to low wages and minimal employer-sponsored benefits, many ECE teachers rely on public benefits to meet their basic needs and those of their families.  As discussion at the federal level focuses on deep cuts to these benefits, without increases to the minimum wage or the addition of new government programs to cover the full cost of quality care for children birth to five, the ECE workforce is at risk for increased financial hardship.  Some of the issues in the broader environment of public and education policy that impact our ability to increase ECE teacher compensation and improve ECE teacher preparation are listed below.     

Landscape Impact on Teacher Compensation


In spite of the challenging environment, during the past year we have made progress in moving forward recommendations made and programs envisioned in our report.  For instance, PHMC has continued its work to better align Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) with the needs of the ECE sector and District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund has initiated the ECE Apprenticeship Program.  Also, the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute at the City University of New York provided expertise and supports to the Mayor’s Office of Education around ECE workforce issues.  The Early Childhood Education Teachers 2.0: Strategies to Transform the Profession report itself continues to be used as a baseline for system changes and systems building in Philadelphia and surrounding region.  A more detailed summary of progress is provided in the table, below.



Support ECE teacher affinity groups (males, Latinas, etc.) to expand opportunity for new populations to enter the workforce.

No work has begun in this area.


Introduce middle school students to the ECE career and education pathway while expanding high school CDA programs.

Discussions with Philadelphia School District, Mayor’s Office of Education, DVAEYC, 1199C Training Fund, PHMC, Parkway West, and Big Picture Alliance to expand programs are ongoing.

Create volunteer opportunities within ECE for high school students.

No work has begun in this area.

Introduce students in teacher preparation programs to the ECE career and education pathway to promote teaching in the early childhood sector as a viable alternative to teaching in elementary schools.

PHMC continues to meet regularly with IHE and to create opportunities for IHEs to develop partnerships with ECE providers to address this issue.  Children’s Village, a large, high quality ECE center, is partnering with IHEs to further this work.


Create local experts fluent in Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) regulation related to teacher certification.

Through several meetings with PDE staff and representatives from other relevant state offices, PHMC has gained a deeper understanding of these issues.

Convene local IHEs, public leaders, ECE employers and ECE experts to support implementation, testing, refinement, and promulgation of best practice teacher preparation strategies.

PHMC and the ECE Teachers Transformation Initiative continue to convene IHEs around regional Gold Standards, have updated the Gold Standards to clarify language and better support measurement, and initiated a Gold Standards pilot project for NAEYC-accredited IHEs.

Create a process for IHEs to access funds and other supports in order to meet the Gold Standards.

Through the NAEYC Gold Standards Pilot Project and the development of templates, case studies and other resources PHMC is supporting IHEs to advance through the Gold Standards.

Create a website to serve as a comprehensive source of comparable and actionable data regarding local teacher preparation programs.


The T.E.A.C.H. database of participating PA IHEs can be expanded to accommodate more information, including that related to the IHE Gold Standards.  PHMC intends to create a platform for matching adult teacher preparation students to clinical experiences and mentors via

Leverage Pennsylvania’s existing professional development (PD) resources to promote best practices in credit-bearing PD.

PHMC continues to promote the idea of transforming PQAS credits into college credits. 


Leverage new federal education and workforce development regulations in support of innovative ECE teacher preparation programs.


Philadelphia successfully convened a diverse group of advocates, public and private agencies that secured high priority occupancy status for ECE. Workforce development organizations have joined ECE coalitions and planning groups and are now participating regularly in meetings.

Provide technical assistance to providers in operating more efficiently and drawing down multiple funding sources to enable them to direct more funding to staff compensation.

The Mayor’s Office of Education secured a grant and hired Children’s Village to provide business management and administration professional development and coaching to PHLpreK providers.

Work with OCDEL to ensure that child care subsidy rates are based on cost calculations that include appropriate salaries.

OCDEL recently hired Research for Action to complete a true cost of care study that includes scenarios for teacher compensation and impact on CCIS rates.

Fund research to pilot and study the impact of the integration of occupational health and safety practices (wellness, stress reduction and self-care) into ECE settings.

PHMC has incorporated teacher self-care into its Induction and Alternate Certificate Program plans.


Increase access to credentials for incumbent workers through apprenticeship programs and credit for prior learning.

The ECE Apprenticeship Program is now operational. As part of this initiative, Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) will confer up to nine credits for on-the-job training.  DVAEYC is designing a process for confirming competencies aligned with CCP course work, and will develop a model that is replicable for current workers not formally enrolled in an apprenticeship program.

Study the impact of career advising and tuition assistance programs in helping teachers earn BAs and teacher certification.

Now that T.E.A.C.H. counselors and tuition assistance are available again, PHMC will add T.E.A.C.H. data to the Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program data that it reviews quarterly.

This work will continue to evolve in the days and months ahead.  As new challenges, such as the Philadelphia School District’s recently announced plan to hire 1,000 teachers, and as yet unimagined opportunities arise, we will continue to prioritize the need for attention, resources, policies, and initiatives in support of the ECE workforce.

Amy Friedlander served as the Director of the Early Childhood Education Workforce Transformation Initiative from May 2015 – April 2016.  Previously, Amy led the Southeast Regional Key at PHMC, and grew PHMC’s ECE programs and services to include ChildWare and  As a consultant, Amy now works for ECE providers, funders, advocates, and others, to conduct strategic planning, collect and analyze data, develop and implement programs, write proposals, develop and deliver training, and manage a variety of complex projects.Amy can be reached at and her web site is

Funding for the Early Childhood Education Teachers 2.0 was provided by the William Penn Foundation.  The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation.


A Snapshot of Early Childhood Education in Philadelphia

Last week we introduced data from the April 2017 release of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) Program Reach and Risk Assessment, which presents useful county-level information about the number of children at risk for poor school outcomes and the number of children served through OCDEL early childhood educational (ECE) programs in fiscal year 2015 - 2016.

Here’s what it looks like in Philadelphia, the “reach” of ECE programs was impressive:

> Over 46,000 children had access to publicly-funded early learning services in 2016.

> Keystone STARS programs provided care to over 19,000 children from birth to four years old and 11,000 children five years or older.

> Close to 10,000 children –under the age of 5 with disabilities/developmental delays received early intervention services.

Philadelphia performed better than other counties statewide with regard to the risks associated with school failure. The City had neither the highest percentage of births born at low birthweight, nor the highest rate of births born to young teenagers; both factors that put children at risk.

Likewise, other counties had higher percentages than Philadelphia of births born to mothers who smoked tobacco or had higher percentages of substantiated abuse and neglect for young children. These findings are promising for our City.

However, the percentage of 3rd graders scoring below proficient in both reading and math remain alarmingly high.

Figure 1 illustrates the percentage of the 46,000 Philadelphia children under age 5 who were served by the early childhood education programs described in OCDEL’s report.

Figure 1. Programs Providing Services to Children under the Age of 5 in Philadelphia 2016

Source: Office of Child Development and Early Learning Program Reach and Risk Assessment State Fiscal Year 2015-16.