October 1, 2021

One-Year Extension for Keystone STARS Designations

Beginning October 1, 2021 and through Sept. 30, 2022, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) will grant one-year extensions to current Keystone STAR designations.

Designation Extensions

Pennsylvania’s ECE programs are struggling and facing concerns of losing their Keystone STARS rating due to the difficulty in finding and maintaining a strong, qualified work force. The one-year extension is meant to alleviate the stress on programs in completing full Keystone STAR designation renewals and annual paperwork renewals.

Extensions will allow programs additional time to engage in thoughtful discussions with their current staff, the Early Learning Resource Center, and their Professional Development Organization, to plan for future staff professional development (PD) and education needs.

Designation extensions will also allow programs to focus on COVID-19 mitigation efforts and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Stabilization Grant applications.

OCDEL will use the additional time to analyze data and trends related to the ECE staffing crisis and better prepare for the field’s future needs.

Expectations for Programs

Keystone STARS programs will be expected to maintain all quality activities related to the STAR level at which they are currently designated during their one-year extensions. The following expectations will be in place for STAR programs:

  • STAR 2, 3, and 4 programs must maintain all required STAR 2 quality activities

  • STAR 3 and 4 programs must also maintain the two STAR 3 and 4 required quality activities

  • The three-year cycle associated with Internal Assessment Processes will not be affected by the one-year STAR extensions. STAR 3 and 4 programs should continue to work with their Quality Coach and member of the Program Quality Assessment team to ensure they are completing their IAP.

Any lapses in maintenance of the required quality activities could result in an appropriate action to a program’s STAR designation including a Status Review, Reduction, Suspension, or Removal. During the extensions, ELRC Quality Staff will continue to respond to complaints from parents and/or other community stakeholders regarding programs. Subsequent actions may include those outlined in the Keystone STARS Status Review, Reduction, Suspension, and Removal Process.

During the one-year STAR Designation extensions, programs are encouraged to engage in quality improvement activities with the ELRC, which will ensure they are continually pursuing excellence and will be fully prepared to resume all designation activities following the extension period.

Certificate of Compliance

Programs that have been placed on a provisional certificate of compliance (CoC) through the Department of Human Services (DHS) due to certification violations will continue to have their STAR designation suspended while on a provisional CoC. When the program regains their regular CoC, their STAR level will be restored to their previous STAR level (providing the STAR did not expire while on the provisional CoC) with the previous STAR designation expiration date and will not be granted a one-year Keystone STARS extension. These programs will be required to meet all applicable 2020 Keystone STARS Performance Standards for their STAR level at time of designation.

If a program’s current STAR expired while on a provisional CoC, the program will be moved down to a STAR 1 when a regular CoC is granted. To move up in STAR levels, the program will be required to meet all applicable 2020 Keystone STARS Performance Standards and, if successful in moving up, will not receive a Keystone STARS extension of the new STAR level.

Opting in for Normal Renewals

Programs that want to renew their STAR level as scheduled should reach out to the ELRC Region 5 at least 30 days, and up to 90 days, prior to their current STAR expiration date and communicate their desire to complete their designation renewal as normal. Programs who choose to forego the one-year extension will not be able to request a one-year extension at a later date.

Moving Up a STAR Level

Programs that want to move up in STAR levels will be able to do so using the current 2020 Keystone STARS Performance Standards. In order to move up in STAR levels, programs will be required to meet all quality indicators at the respective STAR level to which they are attempting to move. These programs should reach out to the ELRC Region 5 for guidance and next steps in moving up.

More Information

For more information, read the policy announcement here: ELRC Policy Announcement 21 #08 Keystone STARS Designation Extensions.

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