About this page: Blog Articles by BrightStars of Rhode Island

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BrightStars, Rhode Island’s Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement system, assists families in finding care and recognizes and supports quality in early care and education programs.

From Our Blog

Meet our new BrightStars Navigator: Jen!

What is your professional background?
My professional background consists of over a decade of classroom experience at the preschool level. I have taught in age-specific preschool classrooms, as well as multi-age preschool settings that served preschool children ages 3-5. During my time spent in the classroom, I especially enjoyed integrating multi-sensory experiences, nature, kindness, yoga, and open ended art experiences into the curriculum daily. As I taught over the years, I also learned so much from my young students!  Most recently, I served as an administrator at an early learning center. I found this position rewarding as I had the honor of mentoring emerging early childhood educators as well as working alongside some inspiring longtime early childhood educators.

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Meet our new Program Assessment Specialist: Emily!

What is your professional background?
In college, I volunteered at a childcare center to fulfill my community service requirement, and I fell in love with the school, the staff, and of course, all the children there. After my service hours were done, I became a substitute teacher, and then upon my graduation, I was offered a full time position as their Infant classroom teacher. I then chose to pursue a new opportunity in a much more corporate environment, answering phone calls and processing peoples’ refinance and home purchase transactions from a title perspective, along with organizing and implementing a New Hire Orientation Program. I learned a ton in my 3 ½ years there, but truly missed working in a field and environment that is fulfilling and rewarding. When I learned that RIAEYC was hiring, I knew I had to give it a shot and try to get back into the field I am passionate about.

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ATTN! ERSI Updates Diapering/Handwashing Procedures

Since its inception, BrightStars has utilized the Environment Rating Scales to measure quality within the “Learning Environment” standard of the BrightStars Framework. ERSI, the organization that authors the tool, often releases updated information that modifies the way BrightStars conducts its observations.

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Meet our New Program Assessment Specialist: Alex!

What is your professional background?

My professional background involves experience in a little bit of everything, but I identify my professional background mostly with social work. In 2013, I taught an English Second Language Class at the Cape Henlopen Public Schools in Delaware for a year. Afterwards, I pursued service abroad with the Peace Corps on the coast of Ecuador for two years. My main project involved risk management and awareness about first aid, fire prevention, rip currents, and marine biology. After I completed my service abroad, I became interested in law and worked as an advocate for farmworkers across the state of New York. During the harvest season I explained health insurance, wages, taxes, and labor rights to hundreds of apple, dairy, bean, and produce farmers. One of my most enjoyable work experiences recently includes interpreting at the Rhode Island Free Clinic as a volunteer. I was able to offer help to those in desperately in need of medical and mental professional attention.

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BrightStars Program Focus- Over the Rainbow II- Providence, RI

BrightStars is happy to report that Over the Rainbow II has renewed their participation and has earned 4 stars!

Over the Rainbow Learning Center II is located in Providence and it is the second center of Over the Rainbow Learning Centers. The center has 1 infant classroom, 1 toddler classroom, and 1 preschool classroom. The program’s philosophy is geared to providing a developmentally appropriate curriculum that is presented in a nurturing, fun and creative way that encourages the power of play. Along with providing a curriculum that encourages children to explore, manipulate, and problem solve, the teachers at Over the Rainbow provide meaningful lessons for each child’s individual learning style, and goals. With bi-lingual teachers, the center is able to incorporate Spanish into their lessons.

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BrightStars Navigators Roll Out New Annual Report Process

Since BrightStars began in 2009, programs have been asked to submit Annual Reports to their BrightStars Navigator in order to update us on your licensing status and Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) goals. This year, the team decided to rework this process to make it more meaningful, to build relationships with more programs, and help program improve their quality in a more effective way.

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Special Delivery!

Special Delivery! At Emmanuel Day School we write so many love letters in February that we need our very own Post Office to process them. Our dramatic play center transforms into a working mail room with everything from envelopes, boxes and stamps, to mail bins, a scale and even a real mail bag for delivery. The children eagerly explore all jobs at our Emmanuel Day School Post office. They enjoy writing messages, addressing and stamping envelopes, weighing their packages, using the register to sell stamps and ship boxes, sorting various sizes and most importantly delivering the mail throughout the school to their friends and teachers.

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New Release of the RI Notes

It is time for a new release of the Rhode Island Notes! These are released twice a year. You may be asking, “What are the RI Notes?” The Rhode Island Notes are a running record of Environment Rating Scale (ERS) consensus decisions BrightStars’ reliable assessors have made following ERS-related questions or discussions. Why do we have them? BrightStars manages all of the reliable assessors for the Environmental Rating Scales in RI. These notes support Rhode Island in having a cohesive assessment system that provides a comparable program experience regardless of the assessor who visits the program.

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2018: Reflecting Back on the Year

The end of the year is a time of reflection, and 2018 has given us so much to think about. With legislative successes, like doubling CCDBG and Tiered Reimbursement, and a productive BrightStars Think Tank, child care in Rhode Island has experienced a year of tremendous growth. We want to take the time to reflect on these successes, and encourage you to think about your engagement with BrightStars in the year ahead.

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Weather Permitting and the ERS

As temperatures drop and winter approaches, the term, “weather permitting,” becomes an important consideration for programs seeking to emphasize outdoor play and improve their scores on the Environment Rating Scales. Opportunities for outdoor play, gross motor play and experiences with nature are emphasized appear in several items of each of the scales: the ECERS-R, ITERS-R, FCCERS-R, SACERS-R and even the newly released ECERS-3.

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Congratulations to Chariho Integrated Preschool on receiving a 5-Star rating!

Chariho Integrated Preschool began its participation with BrightStars in the fall of 2015 with a 2-Star rating.  Under the direction of Lori Lambert, the dedicated work of the preschool staff and the support from Chariho Regional School District, Chariho Integrated increased to 5 stars right before the 2017-2018 school year began.

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BrightStars Program Focus: Fallon Memorial Preschool, Pawtucket

Fallon Memorial Preschool began its participation with BrightStars in March of 2016 as a 1-star program.  In less than two years Fallon has witnessed many positive changes and has increased their star rating to 4 Stars. Fallon has six (6) preschool classrooms; three (3) classrooms are state-funded and four (4) are integrated.  All classrooms maintain a play-based learning approach and all follow the guidelines for the state’s Comprehensive Early Childhood Education (CECE) Standards.   

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Choosing and Using Cleaning Products for your Classroom

Some general tips for cleaning surfaces in your classroom:

Use the appropriate EPA registered product for each job: cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, noting whether the surface must be pre-cleaned, how long the product must remain on the surface before wiping and whether the surface must be rinsed with water after use.

Avoid spraying any product when children are nearby.

Post manufacturer’s instructions clearly, preferably directly on the bottle.

Use a separate paper towel on each surface.

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New USDA Nutrition Guidelines In Effect October 1st!

Helping children develop healthy eating habits is an important goal in every quality childcare setting. In April 2016, the USDA released new guidelines for healthy meals and snacks for all ages effective starting October 1, 2017; as of this date these are the standards BrightStars assessors will use during an ERS observation when assessing adherence to USDA guidelines.

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BrightStars Program Focus: BrightStart Academy, Smithfield

Bright Start Academy in Smithfield recently renewed its BrightStars participation and maintained their quality rating of 4-Stars. The program also scored nearly identical overall ERS results, exceeding a score of 5.0 for the second participation cycle in a row. These consistent, high quality results are a testament to the program’s overall environment. “The program offers a safe, clean, and caring environment that actively engages children in acquiring new skills and knowledge,” says assistant director Jill Cabral-Boni, who joined Bright Start’s team in 2017. “Each classroom contains well-equipped learning centers that are arranged to promote independence, foster decision making, encourage involvement, and include all developmental domains.”

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Independent Outdoor Play Without Barriers

BrightStars promotes the importance of providing safe environments to children and we see the incredible value of independent outdoor play without barriers. Outdoor play as an essential part of a child’s development.  It provides opportunities for children to advance physically, emotionally and intellectually.

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Learn More about BrightStars’ New Environment Rating Scale Reports

In order to better support programs, BrightStars has recently revised their Environment Rating Scale (ERS) reports and supplementary materials. These revisions reflect a thorough review of several QRIS and their report systems. The new reports are different in three important ways: 1) The reports are more customized to the specific classroom observed, 2) the reports focus specifically on areas where programs can make the most meaningful improvements and less on sanitation and procedures and 3) they reports have further integrated positive feedback so that programs can reflect on practices they may wish to continue or expand.

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The Benefits of Classroom Pets

The Environment Rating Scales, including the ECERS, ITERS, FCCERS, and SACERS, consider several different types of activities that encourage the development of a wide range of learning goals. One area of curriculum that is considered in all four scales is Nature/Science. The purpose of this item is to expose children to the natural world through a wide variety of materials that promote discovery and a beginning understanding of the scientific method. This can be achieved in several ways including collections of natural objects in the classroom (rocks, pinecones, leaves, etc.), books, games and toys that show science a nature in a lifelike manner, or science activities such as the use of magnets, sinking/floating activities, etc.

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BrightStars Program Focus: Emmanuel Day School

Emmanuel Day School, located in Newport, began its BrightStars participation in 2015. The program “offers a nurturing, intimate, and exciting learning environment with enriching opportunities for preschool children to discover and explore,” says Carissa Perkowski, director and lead teacher.

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BrightStars Program Focus: Positive Start in North Smithfield

Positive Start in North Smithfield is a family child care program first rated by BrightStars in 2009 and has continued to strive for quality improvement and to maintain their star rating. In October 2016, Positive Start renewed their participation on the new BrightStars standards and achieved an overall rating of 4 stars. Connie Lepine, the family child care provider, has worked incredibly hard to increase the program’s overall Environment Rating Scale (ERS) score. Connie has worked collaboratively with BrightStars throughout this process and has partnered with BrightStars by providing her program as a site for practice observations for BrightStars staff trainings.

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The ERS and Books and Language Materials

As one of many items considered in each scale, The Environment Rating Scales (ECERS-R, ITERS-R, FCCERS-R, SACERS-U) each include at least one item that is used to assess how books, language materials and language activities are experienced by children. One of the criteria considered in certain items is whether the books and language materials are appropriate for the ages and abilities of the children enrolled in the group being observed.

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BrightStars Program Focus: The Children’s Workshop-Westerly

The Children’s Workshop – Westerly was first rated by BrightStars in September 2014, and has worked diligently to continually improve the quality of its programming since. This month, The Children’s Workshop increased their overall star rating to 4 Stars. The program’s director, Chrissy Stanlewicz, and staff have worked incredibly hard to increase the program’s overall Environment Rating Scale (ERS) scores. The team worked collaboratively with BrightStars throughout this process, and partnered with BrightStars by providing their program as a site for practice observations for BrightStars staff training on the ERS tool and the tablets used to conduct observations. The program then had the opportunity to use these scores to increase their rating. Chrissy said, “I am very proud of the dedicated team of educators that provide high quality care to our children. Through our teachers’ hard work and implementation of BrightStars standards, we were able to achieve a high quality rating.”

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Incorporating Dance and Creative Movement Into the Classroom

Child Care Plus shares a facility with a dance studio, The Rita Beaulieu Dance & Performing Arts Center. Once a month, our Preschool students takes a dance class with Miss Erin where they learn about movement, dance, stretching, and of course have tons of fun! However, you do not need to have a dance studio to incorporate dance and creative movement in your center or homes, all you need is an open space! 

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Rhode Island Notes

BrightStars manages all of the reliable assessors for the Environmental Rating Scales.  Part of this management is to ensure that all assessors remain reliable on the tools.  This reliability is two-fold.  First, each assessor will have a reliability check on their tenth observation.  This consists of conducting an ERS in tandem with the Senior Assessment Specialist.  Second, each assessor is also reliably to the pool of assessors.  Together they have created the Rhode Island Notes. 

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Weather Permitting

As temperatures drop and winter approaches, the term, “weather permitting,” becomes an important consideration for programs seeking to emphasize outdoor play and improve their scores on the Environment Rating Scales. Opportunities for outdoor play, gross motor play and experiences with nature are emphasized appear in several items of each of the scales: the ECERS-R, ITERS-R, FCCERS-R, SACERS-R and even the newly released ECERS-3.

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On-going Professional Development

Professional development is important for all professions.  This is especially true for the field of early care and education.  

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Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Rhode Island

Indoor and outdoor facilities improvements are currently a popular topic for child care programs and providers In Rhode Island. Renovations to facilities may lead to exciting improvements to program accessibility and safety can have a meaningful impact on overall program quality..

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New BrightStars Quality Frameworks

The BrightStars Quality Frameworks have been updated to reflect new policy changes that have gone into effect and to align design with other state agency standards.

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Rising Star Awards: Questions and Answers

This month, the Department of Human Services announced Rising Star Awards to recognize BrightStars programs converting to the new standards or achieving advanced levels. The following are frequently asked questions about the Rising Star Award Program.

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BrightStars Validation Study

The Rhode Island Department of Human Services has contracted with Child Trends to conduct a statewide study of early care and education programs. The study will provide valuable information about the BrightStars Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (TQRIS).

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The Genesis Center Garden Kick-Off

On May 7, 2015, five BrightStars staff members participated in the Genesis Center Garden Kick-Off to clean up the garden and start planting for the 2015 growing season.

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The Importance of Fine Motor Activities in the Early Childhood Years

Fine motor skills is the coordination of small muscle movements – usually involving small, precise thumb, finger, hand, and wrist movements. Fine motor activity in the early year’s help children refine their pincer grasp (grasping an object with their thumb and pointer finger using their preferred hand) and are a precursor to handwriting.
 

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BrightStars Program Focus: Virginia’s Family ChildCare

The first in an ongoing series, Quality Improvement Specialist Elena Vasquez nominated Virginia Najarro, owner of Virginia’s Family ChildCare, to highlight as a BrightStars participant making quality improvements in her program to apply best practice to the care that children receive. Stay tuned for more in the BrightStars Program Focus Series!

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Welcome to the BrightStars Educator Blog

I’m so glad you are here! My name is Jo-Anne DeGiacomo Petrie, Manager of Operations at RIAEYC/BrightStars.  As a children’s author, mother of three grown children, and more than 30 years of experience in the field of Early Childhood Education I am thrilled to be a part of the BrightStars team and introducing you to our blog. 

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