Counting the STARS

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

For many years, Pennsylvania’s involvement in child care included helping eligible, low-income, working families pay for child care and regulating the industry for health and safety standards. Three years ago, the state took the additional step of establishing a system to rate, recognize, and improve the quality of child care programs in Pennsylvania.

Keystone STARS is a voluntary quality rating system available to all providers, home and center-based, that are regulated by the state’s Department of Public Welfare.

STARS stands for Standards, Training/Professional Development, Assistance, Resources, and Support. Child care providers are awarded a quality rating of STAR One, STAR Two, STAR Three, or STAR Four. Ratings are based on their achievement of research-based quality performance standards in the areas of staff education, learning environment, and business practices.

STAR One is relatively easy to obtain for any provider who has achieved the minimal health and safety standards required by licensing. Achieving a STAR Four rating is similar to meeting accreditation standards developed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Keystone STARS provides parents with a means of identifying higher quality programs, while offering grants, professional development, and other supports to child care providers to improve the quality of their programs.

For more information about Keystone STARS or to obtain a list of Keystone STARS participants, visit or call toll-free 877-660-2273.