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).


Program Observation Instruments

Program Observation Instruments (POI) are evidence-based, reliable tools used to measure early learning and school-age care program quality. POIs can be used to inform decision-making on all or part of a program’s services and support program evaluation efforts. They can help early childhood and school-age professionals review their program’s practices to see what they are doing well and identify areas for growth. POIs examine a range of practices and can be used by early childhood and school-age professionals, directors, technical assistance consultants, Program Quality Assessors, and researchers. For additional info on POIs, please see the Program Observation Instruments POI Overview (PDF).


Who Uses Program Observation Instruments?

Early childhood and school-age professionals can use POIs to complete a self-assessment of the quality of their classroom practices to determine areas of high quality and areas where more focused attention is needed. Technical assistance consultants can use the tools to determine action plans for working with programs. Program Quality Assessors use the POIs for Keystone STARS monitoring and movement assessment, CQI support, and for other quality initiatives implemented by the Commonwealth. Researchers can use the POIs to examine the quality of programs over time.


Program Observation Instruments for Keystone STARS Monitoring or Movement

For STAR 3 and 4 designation purposes, programs must choose the Environment Rating Scale (ERS) or Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) for their primary POI.


Environment Rating Scales

ERS is a suite of age specific POIs that a program can use to measure the experiences of teachers and children in a classroom, family, or group setting. There is an ERS POI for use with infant/toddlers, preschool, school age, and mixed age groups in a family or group child care home. Each ERS POI is divided into subscales with criteria that assesses the program’s physical environment, health and safety procedures, materials, interpersonal relationships, and opportunities for learning and development. The following one-page handout provides additional information: Environment Rating Scales (ERS) (PDF)


Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ECERS-R)


Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Third Edition (ECERS-3)


Infant Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ITERS-R)


School-Age Care Environment Rating Scale-Updated (SACERS-U)


Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale-Revised (FCCERS-R)


Determining the Appropriate ERS Tool to Use with Your Program

The following Department of Human Services Certification age-range definitions refer to typically developing children when applied to the use of the observation tools. In classrooms where at least half of the children are experiencing significant developmental delays, the developmental age of the majority of the children will determine the appropriate scale to use.

The charts below provide guidance for early learning professionals to use in determining which POIs are most appropriate for their facility and which are appropriate for an individual classroom/group of children.


Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)

CLASS is a suite of age specific POIs that a program can use to measure interactions between teachers and children in a classroom or group setting. There is a CLASS POI for use with infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age groups.

  • Infant Classroom Assessment Scoring System (Infant CLASS)
  • Toddler Classroom Assessment Scoring System (Todder CLASS)
  • Preschool Classroom Assessment Scoring System (Pre-KCLASS)
  • School-age Classroom Assessment Scoring System (K-3 CLASS)
  • Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) (PDF)

For more information on CLASS and any of the scoring system’s above, visit the Teachstone website.


Program Administration Scale (PAS)

PAS is used to gather information that measures the quality of administrative, management, and leadership practices of early childhood programs. The PAS helps a program dig deeper into various aspects of their business and leadership practices. Please see the following for additional information:

Please make the following clickable links:


Business Administration Scale (BAS)

BAS is used to collect information about the quality of business and professional practices in family child care settings. Please see the following for additional information:


Parenting Interactions with Children: Checklist of Observations Linked to Outcomes (PICCOLO)

PICCOLO is a program observation instrument that can be used to measure interactions between an adult and a child in a group setting. Although titled “Parenting Interactions,” research supports the use of PICCOLO in group settings with caregivers. The assessment process is a 10-minute observation that focuses on practices that include affection, responsiveness, encouragement, and teaching. Please see the following for additional information:


Additional PQA Pages