At a glance
The following child care centers in Forsyth County have applied to be rated:
* Carrington Academy at Midway on Campground Road
* Coal Mountain Academy on Matt Highway
* Johns Creek Academy on McGinnis Ferry Road
* Kids ‘R Kids No 38 on Buford Highway
* KinderCare Learning Center No. 1527 on Bluegrass Valley Parkway
* Willow Brook Academy on Majors Road
* Akers Academy, two locations, on North Corners Parkway and Old Alpharetta Road
* The Goddard School, three locations, on Bethelview Road, Johns Creek Parkway and Old Atlanta Road
Source: State of Georgia
Akers Academy is nationally accredited and has worked with several organizations to maintain a high standard of quality care.
That’s why when director Samantha Seitz learned of Georgia’s new Quality Rated program, through the state’s Department of Early Care and Learning, or DECAL, she signed up.
“Child care is no longer day care,” she said. “It’s becoming an early learning academic situation for children. We’re trying to give them the absolute best possible academic future, and it starts at such an early age.”
Akers is one of more than 1,300 programs in the state and one of 11 in Forsyth County that have voluntarily enrolled in the Quality Rated program, said Reg Griffin, DECAL spokesman.
There are about 6,000 centers in the state, according to Griffin, but sign-ups likely will be a gradual process because the program is so new.
Securing a license to run a child care center through the state currently has little to do with curriculum, and mainly focuses on health and safety. Griffin said Quality Rated takes child care to the next level and “assures parents that this is more than babysitting going on.”
“If parents are looking for a quality early childhood education for their child, not just baby-sitters, these are the centers you might want to take a look at,” he said.
“We want people to know that any program that’s participating in Quality Rated has agreed to exceed the licensing requirements and they’re committed to improving quality care for children.”
The program adheres to five standards: staff qualification; family partnerships; intentional learning practices; ratio and group size requirements; and child health, nutrition and physical activity.
A Bright from the Start assessor will assess those standards during random visits to program classrooms for three hours per age group.
Between the portfolio and site visits, Griffin said a center will receive a one-, two- or three-star rating, much like hotels and restaurants, with the higher score being the best.
However, he noted that a child care that receives one star is still a good program.
“Any Quality Rated program is good,” he said. “[They] have agreed to exceed the licensing requirements and they’re committed to improving quality care for children.”
One star means a center has “demonstrated commitment to meeting standards that exceed health and safety requirements and meet several quality thresholds and score sufficiently on the independent observation,” Griffin said.
Two-star centers have met many quality thresholds and score well on the observation, while three-star centers meet many thresholds and score high on the observation.
Seitz said she hopes her center will receive three stars.
“We may get a two, but we’re going to go for a three. We’re always going to work to strive for higher and higher,” she said.
Like Seitz, Joanna Findley, director of Kids R Kids on Buford Highway, said she was looking forward to getting started with the program.
“Anything we can do to enhance the quality of our center, especially if it comes from Bright From the Start,” she said.
According to Griffin, while the program is a guarantee centers adhere to standards, those that don’t volunteer for the initiative aren’t necessarily bad.
“When you really look at it, this program is probably more for a center that is struggling but wants to improve than it is for a center that’s already arrived,” he said. “We have others that have really gotten on board and worked very hard to raise the level of education in their programs that were graded with one star or two stars and they told us just the process of volunteering, we immediately helped them.
“There’s really not a downside. At the very least, it improves what you’ve been doing all along, and at the very most it will take a program and raise the level of education that’s going on in the classrooms.”