Tuesday, March 27, 2012

YoungStar after Initial Rollout: Great Progress, Significant Challenges

The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families has just completed two policy briefs focused on the rollout of YoungStar quality initiative:

The YoungStar child care quality rating and improvement system is a breakthrough policy initiative that has great promise to transform child care in Wisconsin by establishing quality standards, helping parents make good choices, and providing incentives and assistance for child care programs to improve.  We believe that new initiatives of this size require careful attention during the initial rollout to track progress, to identify unintended consequences, and to ensure that implementation is efficient and effective.

The first WCCF brief describes the remarkable progress made in the rollout of YoungStar statewide, including information on ratings statewide and by region, efforts to help programs improve, and considerations and challenges for the future.  Some key findings from the analysis include:
  • A total of 3,338 child care programs were rated on a five-star in the first year of operation.
  • 79 percent of the programs received two-star ratings.
  • Star levels are considerably lower than predicted in June 2010.
  • Group child care centers have significantly higher rating than family child care programs.
  • The high percentage of programs rated at the two-star level poses a challenge for YoungStar to increase the number of high-quality programs in the short term.
  • An analysis of barriers to progress will be important in the second year of YoungStar, now that it is off to a solid start.
The second research brief offers a provider’s eye view of YoungStar, based on interviews of 50 family child care providers in Milwaukee, with an analysis of the responses and comments from the interviewees. The report highlights enthusiasm that the providers have for improving their programs, mixed with a healthy dose of skepticism and concern.

Another YoungStar report was released at the end of 2011 by the Public Policy Forum, focused on Milwaukee: YoungStar at One Year: An analysis of child care quality in Milwaukee .  Here are some of the highlights of that report, based on data as of December 2011:
  •  One-third of Milwaukee centers had 5-star ratings:  35 percent of Milwaukee group child care centers rated had received 5-star rating, compared to 1 percent of family child care providers.
  •  Many programs are close to a higher rating: Many providers are close to achieving the minimum point totals required for a higher star rating, but may be unable to afford the investments needed to move up the rating scale.
  •  Education requirements are the greatest hurdle: Meeting the staff education requirements for 3-star programs and above appears to be a major hurdle.
These reports provide a helpful snapshot of YoungStar at the point where most child care programs receiving Wisconsin Shares funding have been rated, and there has been a significant effort to help programs progress, through scholarships, training and technical assistance, and micro-grants.

By Dave Edie, WCCF Early Care and Education Analyst

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