Early Education Quality Standards

The Early Education Quality Standards are an internal continuous quality improvement tool. (PDF, 927KB)

Why Have Standards?

As a license-exempt care provider, the City has a unique opportunity. We can improve early learning quality and options for families. We can do this by adopting a citywide quality rating and improvement system. This system helps us accomplish the following:

  • Create common definitions and standards.
  • Utilize ratings and assessments. These ratings and assessments help us demonstrate quality.
  • Coordinate supports to help providers with compliance.

This Quality Standards tool was built to support the City’s Early Education programming across all departments. It defines standards and identifies strategies to improve the quality of City programs. These standards help us make our programs better.

Interpreting the Standards

Quality Standard Areas

The Early Education Quality Standards include eight Program Quality Standard Areas (Standard Area). These areas are proven to promote positive child outcomes. Within each Standard Area, there are a number of essential Focus Areas. Those Focus Areas are described in Table 1.

Each Standard Area is equally important. Together, they provide a framework for building strong early education programming.

Table 1: Early Education Program Quality Standard Areas and Focus Areas
Standard Areas Focus Areas
Health and Safety
  • Child Supervision
  • Facility Safety
  • Staff Training and Certification
Child Learning and Development
  • Evaluation with Children
  • Adult/Education/Child Interactions
  • Developmentally Appropriate Practices
Curriculum and Teaching Practices
  • Evidence-based Curriculum
  • Adaptive Teaching Strategies
  • Outcome-based Program Evaluation
Learning Environments
  • Physical Environment
Staffing and Professional Development
  • Qualifications and Expertise
  • Training and Professional Development
Program Leadership and Management
  • Ethical Standards
  • Practices, Policies, and Procedures
  • Vision, Mission, and Values
  • Community Stakeholder Connections
  • Partnership Engagement
Family Engagement
  • Parent/Caregiver Voice/Decision-Making
  • Balanced Communication
  • Strengthening Families
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
  • Inclusive and Supportive Practices
  • Physical, Behavioral, and Developmental Screenings and Referrals
  • Promoting Racial Equity

Quality Continuum: Measuring Success

The Early Education Quality Standards in each Standard Area are organized into four categories that make up a Quality Continuum. The Quality Contiuum measures progressive levels of program quality, as follows:

  • Basic Quality Not Met
  • Basic Standard
  • Proficient Quality
  • Advanced Quality

Taking Action

Within each Standard Area, the quality expectations are detailed for each more specific Focus Area. This defines a “Basic Standard” of quality that all City programs for young children must meet. These are the actions taken when a program is assessed:

  • Basic Quality Not Met: If a program does not reach the Basic Standard, then it is categorized as “Basic Quality Not Met”. This requires immediate corrective action.
  • Proficient and Advanced: Strategies that achieve “Proficient Quality” and “Advanced Quality” reflect a pathway for progressive continuous quality improvement. City programs might adopt these strategies. However, this depends on their level of readiness and allocation of internal and external resources.

Quality Improvement Implementation & Outcomes

Beginning in fiscal year 2019-2020, City departments began or continued compliance efforts. Those compliance efforts covered all of the following City programs for young children:

  • City-provided
  • City-funded
  • City-sponsored
  • City-partnered

These programs need to meet the Basic Standard level. To make this work, we needed to implement appropriate assessment tools. These tools help to identify which programs meet Basic Standard and which programs need to improve.

As a result of these efforts, the City will have improved license-exempt early education options for approximately 34,900 children and their families.

The Master Plan: Our Foundation

A precursor to our current strategy was the 2017 Early Learning Master Plan (ELMP). The City of San José had been utilizing the ELMP along with Strong Start of Santa Clara County. Together, they recognized a major challenge to a joint long-term goal. That joint goal was increasing the number of licensed preschool seats. Increasing seats requires significant funding for facilities.

The Education and Digital Literacy (EDL) Strategy identified the need to continue to work with the Santa Clara County Office of Education and the ELMP. This engagement included identifying areas of opportunity to address the lack of affordable, quality preschool sites in San José. Once these opportunities were identified, they returned to Council with recommendations for action. These actions included adopting the Quality Standards.

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