Program observation is a way of gathering information about a program’s practices. Program observation helps support early childhood and school-age professionals and program leadership by looking at the current quality of different early learning and school-age program components: classroom practices, teacher-child interactions, instructional support, and program management and leadership. It helps to identify the program’s strengths and areas to consider for improvement. Information from a program observation can be used to inform continuous quality improvement plans (CQI).
How are Program Observations Completed for Keystone STARS?
Since the inception of Keystone STARS program observations primarily occurred through assessments conducted by reliable Program Quality Assessors from the Pennsylvania Key. Programs at STAR 2, 3 and 4 also completed internal assessments (previously called self-assessments) after learning about the Program Observation Instrument (POI) they would be using. Feedback from both types of observations (internal and external) provided programs with information on strengths and areas for growth to use in setting CQI goals.
Recently, updates to the expectations for program observations have expanded the scope of activities associated with the internal assessments. The addition of the Internal Assessment Process (IAP) increases the opportunities for programs to interact with Program Quality Assessors and to fully explore how observing their own practices can support improving the quality of programming for children. Developing a program specific internal assessment team that partners with an Assessor, establishing yearly plans for conducting internal assessments, and using the results to develop goals for the yearly CQI plan, programs establish a pattern of ongoing review of practice quality and children’s experiences that becomes a part of their culture. Additionally, a two optional STARS Standard indicators offer programs the opportunity to expand their use of POIs by adding additional instruments to their IAP. Programs are also encouraged to consider asking for a Program Quality Assessor to provide feedback through external assessments to add to their own internally collected feedback. Bringing internal reviews of practice together with external reviews conducted by experienced assessors creates a rich story of the experiences children are able to access in the moment.