Let’s Talk Quality!
A Blog about Program Quality Assessment in PA

Reach the blog team at pqa@pakeys.org with questions or comments.



The Environment Rating Scales (ERS) and Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) are observation-based assessment tools used to evaluate the quality of early childhood programs.  The tools have been tested for reliability and validity in providing information about the quality of childhood programs, based on current research regarding positive child outcomes.

There are five ERS scales that are utilized in the PA Quality Initiatives: the Infant Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ITERS-R), the Early Childhood Rating Scale-Revised (ECERS-R), the Early Childhood Rating Scale-Third Edition (ECERS-3), the School-Age Environment Rating Scale – Updated (SACERS-U), and the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale-Revised (FCCERS-R). The tool(s) utilized is dependent on the setting and age range of the children in a particular program.

Each ERS scale is divided into criteria that assess the program’s physical environment, health and safety procedures, materials, interpersonal relationships, and opportunities for learning and development.

There are four CLASS tools that are used in PA’s Quality Initiatives: The CLASS – Infant, CLASS – Toddler, CLASS – Pre-K and CLASS K-3.   The tool(s) utilized is dependent on the setting and age range of the children in a particular program.

Each CLASS tool is divided into domains/dimensions that assess how the teacher supports children’s social/emotional and cognitive development through interactions and teaching practices.

What is the process to have a program observation visit at my facility?

How are the program observation instruments used?

The program observation instruments may be used by teachers, directors, technical assistance providers, Program Quality Assessors and researchers.

Program staff may use the instruments to complete a self-assessment of the quality of their classrooms, to determine areas of high quality and areas that may need additional attention in a CQI Plan.  Technical assistance providers may use the instruments to determine action plans for working with programs. Program Quality Assessors will use the instruments for Keystone STARS Monitoring and CQI support visits. Researchers may use the instruments to examine the quality of programs over time.

Why is a program observation visit important?

When providers use the ERS or CLASS to assess their own classrooms or have an outside assessor conduct assessments, they learn valuable information about strengths and areas of growth needed in each classroom and age group.  Using this information helps the providers make decisions about what areas of quality can be addressed in the early learning program.  The assessments conducted by Program Quality Assessors also help Keystone STARS providers celebrate growth as they achieve quality practices that meet the thresholds established for STAR 3 and STAR 4 and make decisions about continuous quality improvement work.

How do providers learn more about using the program observation instruments?

In Pennsylvania, providers participating in Early Childhood Initiatives may access professional development through the PD Registry.

To find out more about professional development on the topic of program observation and when it is offered in your area, visit the PD Registry, review the POI Statewide Calendar (available on the main PQA page) or contact your local Early Learning Resource Center (visit www.raiseyourstar.org and search by county or by zip code).

How do I determine the appropriate program observation instrument?

Use the document Determining the Appropriate Program Observation Instrument (PDF) to decide what scale is right for your program.



Wondering about the new Program Observation Instruments (POI) list in the Keystone STARS Program Manual?  POIs support programs in looking at the current quality of different early learning program components: classroom practices, teacher-child interactions and instructional support, program management and leadership to name a few.  Information from an assessment with a POI can be used to inform continuous quality improvement plans. Here’s a handout that introduces each of the tools.

And here are one-page handouts that provide a little more information on each instrument.




For more information and an updated calendar on professional development opportunities, visit the main Program Quality Assessment page.




Visit the main Program Quality Assessment (PQA) page for more information on PQA in Pennsylvania.