A leader in early care and education in the state, UA’s Children’s Program is the first in Alabama to receive the highest possible rating from Alabama Quality STARS, Alabama’s Quality Rating and Improvement System.
The Children′s Program, housed on the first floor of UA’s Child Development Research Center, serves more than 100 children from 2 months through 5 years. The facility has 10 classrooms and a fully equipped kitchen that serves a hot lunch and two nutritious snacks daily. In addition, there is a large room for indoor activities, a special projects room, outdoor play space and individual rooms for working one-on-one with children.
The Children’s Program focuses on promoting optimum physical, social, emotional and intellectual development by providing children hands-on experiences based on their developmental levels. The program includes both teacher-directed and self-selected activities, placing emphasis on helping the children develop intellectual curiosity, problem-solving and socialization skills.
Earning a five star rating by meeting all requirements at each STAR level, UA’s Children’s Program boasts small class sizes, excellent staff-to-child ratios, a developmentally appropriate curriculum, extensive parent engagement and highly qualified teachers.
“The Alabama Quality STARS Rating System is important for young children, families and our state,” said Michelle Darabaris, director of the Children’s Program. “When an early childhood development program enrolls in the STARS program they are making a public statement of their commitment to quality child care. Each tier in the system builds on the level of quality a program provides. Receiving even one star is quite an accomplishment as it requires extra effort and intentionality in what we do each day in child care programs. Quality rises with each subsequent star and the children ultimately benefit.”
Alabama Quality STARS’ building block system rates child care center quality above the state minimum licensing requirements. A collaboration between the Alabama Department of Human Resources and UA, Alabama Quality STARS is part of a national systematic approach to assess, improve and communicate the level of quality in early care and education programs. It strives to improve the quality of early care and education programs, increase the number of high quality programs, increase the number of children enrolled in quality programs, and provide a way for parents to choose a child care center.
“We are thrilled that we received the highest rating of five STARS and the fact that we were the first in the state to do so is a tremendous honor,” said Darabaris. “Our teachers, support staff, families, administration and college are deeply committed to maintaining the highest quality early childhood program in the state. The five STARS quality rating represents our promotion of developmentally appropriate practice and our steadfast pledge to young children.”
Centers that participate in Alabama Quality STARS receive between one and five stars based on STARS standards in the areas of staff qualifications and professional development, management and administrative practices, learning environment and curriculum, and family involvement and community partnerships.