News

May 13, 2022

UPDATED: Streamlined Keystone STARS Designation System to Launch July 1

The Keystone STARS designation system will be live in the PA PD Registry beginning July 1, 2022.

The new designation system will feature the updated 2022 Keystone STARS Performance Standards. As such, all designations initiated after July 1, 2022, will use the 2022 Keystone STARS Performance Standards and the new Streamlined Keystone STARS Designation System.

(This page was updated on May 13, 2022 to reflect new information from OCDEL).

About

The new designation system in the PA PD Registry is replacing SMART Designation Software, the Keystone STARS Document Uploader, and portions of Provider Self Service (PSS).

The new system features a Document Vault that will replace the current STARS Document Uploader, which will no longer be available after May 31, 2022. Providers can begin using the Document Vault feature, which is currently live in the PA PD Registry.

Programs currently using the Document Uploader to complete a designation must ensure that all evidence is uploaded by May 31, 2022. From June 1, 2022 through June 30, 2022, there will be a black out period for any new Request for Keystone STAR Designations (RFSD) to be completed. During this time, programs will be unable to complete any new RFSDs either via Provider Self Service (PSS) from the Keystone STARS home page or via a paper RFSD.

Details

For complete details about the new designation system, read the Office of Child Development and Early Learning’s full announcement (UPDATED).

Programs who require help in uploading documents to their Document Vault and/or attaching documents to quality indicators should reach out to the ELRC Region 5 at elrc5@alleghenycounty.us or the PD Registry team at registry@pakeys.org.

Information about demonstrations and trainings , video tutorials, and tip sheets on the Keystone STARS Designation system will be housed on the PA Keys website.

News

February 3, 2022

Child Care Providers Needed for Keystone STARS Focus Groups

Early childhood education providers working in Pennsylvania child care who have knowledge of, or experience with, the Keystone STARS system are invited to participate in an online focus group in February.

About

The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) wants to learn more about the experience of leaders of center-based, family child care, and group child care providers with the Keystone STARS quality rating and improvement system, what is working, what is not working and how the system could be improved.

Register

Focus groups will be held virtually through Zoom on the following days and times, and will last no more than two hours:

  • For all providers: February 10, 2022 at 9:30 a.m.

  • For family child care home providers: February 17, 2022 at 6 p.m.

  • For all providers: February 19, 2022 at 1 p.m.

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News

November 23, 2021

Tip Sheet: Using the PD Registry Document Vault

As part of the new process for Keystone STARS pre-designation and designation applications, an updated Tip Sheet for Using the Document Vault within the PD Registry has been developed.

About

Though the new process has been delayed until 2022, child care providers can begin using the Document Vault feature, which aims to help them store important designation information in a centralized location for future designation purposes.

The tip sheet includes information on Vault functionality, naming documents, and instructions for uploading documents.

The Document Vault can be seen as a centralized storage location where important documentation and evidence can be stored for use in future Keystone STARS Designation activities. It is important to note that documents that were previously uploaded into the Keystone STARS Document Uploader will not automatically transfer into a program’s Document Vault.

View the Document Vault tip sheet on the PA Keys website. The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) will release additional guidance related to the rollout of the streamlined Keystone STARS Designation System in the upcoming months and will continue to offer training for both providers and ELRC staff until the go-live date in early 2022.

News

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.

News

February 17, 2021

Child Care Providers and State Legislators Discuss Policy Changes

Trying Together and child care providers joined Pennsylvania state policymakers on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 to voice their concerns about recent state-level program and policy changes that have widely destabilized the child care sector.  

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, child care subsidy payments in Pennsylvania were modified so reimbursement was based on enrollment versus attendance. At the time, this measure was taken to ensure financial stability as child care providers were encountering complex challenges that exceeded the scope of their normal operations, including mandated closures. In September 2020, at Governor Tom Wolf’s direction, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) restored the original subsidy payment practices from enrollment-based back to attendance-based, which has had a devastating effect since many programs continue to be under-enrolled due to COVID-19.

“At this point we are at 66% of our pre-COVID enrollment. This loss of about 35% equates to more than $1.5 million in tuition. We are feeling it big time,” said Jason Kunzman, Chief Program Officer, Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh. “We believe that the primary driver in not being able to admit more children into our programs is actually the difficulty we’ve experienced in trying to recruit qualified staff. It goes without saying that operating in a COVID environment, everything is harder. What used to take one person to do now takes three people…this has been a real hardship to the entire industry.  

“[We need] more sustainable, longer-lasting changes to the financial model that can make high-quality  care accessible to as many families as possible while allowing providers to pay their educators a livable wage.”

To compound these constraints, OCDEL repurposed the Education & Retention Award (ERA) for STAR 3 and STAR 4 high-quality educators to a Pandemic Relief Award (PRA) in December 2020, providing $600 to 33,000 child care employees across the state with many programs waitlisted due to a lack of funds. 

Currently in Pennsylvania, the average wage of a child care professional is $9.71 per hour with 50% of them receiving government benefits.

“Many of my staff are single moms or low-income who qualify for subsidies themselves… They returned to work during a pandemic, they risked their lives and their family’s lives for the greater good of the Pennsylvania economy, and the money was taken from them,” said Tracy O’Connell, Child Care Director, Catholic Youth Association. “To take away the only extra money these hardworking, dedicated teachers earn each year – during the year they deserve it the most – is heartless. There has to be a way to keep the ERA money for what it is designed to do, and that is to retain and reward degreed staff.”

Since the ERA typically awarded more funds than this to its recipients, the loss of the ERA further disincentivizes high-quality educators to remain in the field. Essentially, Pennsylvania doesn’t have the funds to meet the full needs of child care providers due to this change.

Senator Jay Costa, Senate Minority Leader (D-Allegheny), said child care providers are faced with a “catch-22” if the ERA is permanently taken away. 

STARS requires you to have degreed  folks but you don’t have money to retain them because [their money is being taken away],” Senator Costa said. “We shouldn’t tie your hands behind your back to try to have you meet standards that let people know the quality of service that you’re providing because here are criteria you have to meet. Both Democrats and Republicans are committed to working with you on this.” 

The Commonwealth will receive $302 million in federal dollars to support child care via the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds from the most recent COVID-19 relief package.

Senator Lindsey Williams, Education – Minority Chair (D-Allegheny), said it’s important to invest in early childhood education.

It’s heartbreaking that we as a legislature haven’t found a way as of yet to take care of the child care workforce because that’s the only way we get our economy going,” she said. “You have my support to use existing federal dollars, hopefully future federal dollars and whatever state funding we can come up with to actually address these policy issues…so that it’s a big structural change on how we fund child care.” 

Senator Camera Bartolotta, Labor & Industry, Chair (R- Beaver, Greene, Washington) also stressed that the early childhood education workforce is essential to the state’s economic recovery.

“It is vital – it is imperative – that we get folks back to work. When we are opening our economy safely, these parents need their kids to be in a safe, healthy learning environment,” she said. “We’ve got to make sure that all of these institutions stay healthy economically as well as physically. That’s something that we have to prioritize. We are not going to open our economy if parents don’t have a safe place for their kids to go.”

The child care providers, families, and early learning advocates throughout the state like Trying Together look forward to the concerns discussed during yesterday’s call being addressed and resolved.

Read More

Child Care Worker Subsidy Replaced An Award That Providers Say Incentivized Staff Higher Education, 90.5 WESA

Child Care Facilities Call On Pennsylvania Lawmakers For Financial Assistance, KDKA-TV

Child care providers say Pa. policy shifts are causing financial strain, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Child care facilities struggling, PublicSource

News

August 31, 2020

Virtual Community of Practice Meetings

Are you interested in discussing topics of interest and current trends with fellow professionals in the early childhood field? Join ELRC Region 5 for their virtual Community of Practice sessions!

About

Community of Practice sessions provide early learning professionals with opportunities to discuss topics of interest, current trends in the early childhood field, and offer insight and inspiration to their fellow professionals.

In October, these virtual sessions will focus on tips, how-tos, and tools for participants to navigate through Provider Self Service (PSS), where you can apply for or renew child care licensing, submit ELRC online attendance invoices, submit Keystone STARS requests, and update provider profiles; and STARS Management and Reliability Tracking (SMART), a document uploader for the Keystone STARS Designation process.

Available Sessions

    • Saturday, October 10: SMART Document Uploader, Provider Self Service & Keystone STARS Supporting Documents
      10 a.m.  |  Zoom Meetings  |  Attend the Session
    • Thursday, October 15: SMART Document Uploader, Provider Self Service & Keystone STARS Supporting Documents
      10 a.m.  | Zoom Meetings  |  Attend the Session
      1 p.m.  |  Zoom Meetings  |  Attend the Session

More Information

For questions, contact ELRC Region 5 at  elrc5@alleghenycounty.us or 412.350.3577.

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August 5, 2020

Virtual Community of Practice Meetings

Are you interested in discussing topics of interest and current trends with fellow professionals in the early childhood field? Join ELRC Region 5 for their virtual Community of Practice sessions!

About

Community of Practice sessions provide early learning professionals with opportunities to discuss topics of interest, current trends in the early childhood field, and offer insight and inspiration to their fellow professionals.

In August, these virtual sessions will provide an overview of using the Pennsylvania Professional Development (PD) Registry. Participants will learn how to use the PD Registry as a tool to organize staff and will receive support and clear instruction on renewal requirements for the Keystone STARS program.

Available Sessions

    • Saturday, August 8
      10 a.m.  |  Zoom Meetings  |  Register
    • Thursday, August 20
      10 a.m.  | Zoom Meetings  |  Register
      1 p.m.  |  Zoom Meetings  |  Register

More Information

Information about the meetings will be sent to participants following registration. For questions, contact ELRC Region 5 at  elrc5@alleghenycounty.us or 412.350.3577.

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News

November 26, 2019

Professional Development Catalog

About

For more than 55 years, Trying Together has supported the work of early childhood with a dedication to making sure every caregiver feels valued. In pursuit of this vision, Trying Together delivers professional growth services that connect with high-quality early childhood practices.

Our Professional Development Catalog

To view a list of Trying Together’s professional growth services, see our Professional Development Catalog (PDF). Course focus areas include Inclusion, Play, Interactions, Leadership, and Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP).

See Our Upcoming Courses

Visit Our Course Calendar

To register for our upcoming courses, visit Trying Together’s Courses page.

Request a Custom Course

You can request a customized offering by submitting the online Request for Professional Services Form. Customized courses can be created to meet individual or group goals, interests, and needs. All custom course requests must be submitted at least four weeks prior to the desired course start date.

To view custom course fees, see our Professional Development Fee for Service document (PDF).

PD Credit, Standards, and Competencies

All of our courses are instructed by a certified PQAS instructor and are ACT 48 approved. We strive to ensure that all of our courses align with:

    • Pennsylvania Core Knowledge Competencies,
    • NAEYC Standards,
    • Danielson Framework, and
    • Keystone STARS performance standards.

To best meet the needs of each professional growth content request, Trying Together may draw on an External Instructor’s expertise.

COVID-19 Restrictions

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trying Together has suspended in-person professional growth sessions until October 2021. At this time, only virtual and online sessions are available. Starting October, both in-person and virtual opportunities will be available to interested professionals.

More Information

For more information, contact Allison Hritz at allison@tryingtogether.org. To receive updates, sign up to receive our newsletter or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

News

August 1, 2018

New Keystone STARS Performance Standards Available

In 2017, The Keystone STARS Think Tank Team, in partnership with thousands of stakeholders, developed principles to guide the STARS revision process. During the 2017-18 program year, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) refined Keystone STARS to be more efficient for providers to participate and more effective at improving child outcomes.

The new Keystone STARS Performance Standards and Program Manual became available on July 1, 2018.

For more information on updates to the program, listen to the Keystone STARS July 2018 Update webinar. This brief presentation covers changes to the Keystone STARS Performance Standards and Indicators, Alternate Pathways to STARS Designation, and Program Quality Assessment. For more information on the Keystone STARS program visit the PA Key website.

For questions or comments, please contact OCDEL at RA-OCDEarlyLearning@pa.gov.

(Shared via PA Key)