About this page: Frequently Asked Questions About BrightStars' Quality Rating & Improvement System

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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.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is a Quality Rating and Improvement System?

Quality Rating and Improvement Systems exist in many states across the country and measure program quality within a framework of research-based standards. A significant and growing body of research has demonstrated that sustained enrollment in high quality early learning and education programs leads to improved outcomes in several domains for children – particularly children with high needs including low income children, children with disabilities, English Language Learners, and children in the child welfare system. Quality Rating and Improvement Systems help support programs so that all children can enter Kindergarten ready to succeed.

What is BrightStars?

Like many states across the country, Rhode Island is committed to high quality early childhood care throughout the state and in all types of settings. BrightStars is Rhode Island’s Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System. BrightStars helps early care, education and school-age programs learn about best practices and apply them to the care children receive. BrightStars also helps families in Rhode Island assess quality early care, education and school-age programs. In addition, Rhode Island’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant included the BrightStars QRIS as a cornerstone of its application, and it is the state’s goal that all programs commit to the quality improvement process by participating in the Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System.

Who can participate in BrightStars?

All licensed early care and education providers, public school programs approved by the Basic Education Plan at the RI Department of Education and stand-alone licensed programs in afterschool settings are eligible to participate. This includes child care centers, preschools in public schools, family child care homes, and stand-alone licensed school-age child care programs.

What are the benefits/incentives for joining BrightStars?

  • Support in setting and achieving quality improvement goals and accessing state resources.
  • Support to market or promote your program, including parent brochures, marketing materials, and access to the BrightStars logo. BrightStars programs are also featured on our website, www.BrightStars.org, and in the Exceed database of child care, early learning, and school-age programs.
  • Priority referral to parents searching for care through our online and phone-based referral services.

What is the difference between BrightStars and state licensing/regulation?

State licensing through the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and Public School Basic Education Plan Compliance requirements establish the foundation for operating early care, education and school-age programs. These regulations specify the minimum standards that must be met to operate legally, and are the foundation of a quality rating and improvement system. Higher levels in quality rating systems recognize programs for exceeding basic regulatory requirements and implementing practices that research shows are best for children.

Is a program’s star level public?

Yes, a program’s star rating is posted on the Exceed website and all programs are included in the searchable database used by families when looking for early care, education or afterschool care. Programs are also required to prominently post a certificate in each building. Certificates includes the program’s star rating.



Is there a fee to participate in BrightStars?

There is no fee to participate in BrightStars.

If my program is eligible for and/or enrolls children receiving CCAP subsidies is participation in BrightStars mandatory?

Yes. Effective October, 2014



Where do I get the application materials?

You can access the application on our website www.BrightStars.org or by calling our office at 401-739-6100.

Can I get help with my application?

Yes, our BrightStars Navigators are able to come out to your site to assist you with the application. Application Support is also available each Wednesday from 1pm -3pm at the BrightStars office.  Call 401-739-6100 to learn more. 



Can I choose my assessor or can I refuse to permit more than one assessor to visit a classroom at the same time?

No, BrightStars assigns assessors to site observations based on their training and availability; programs cannot choose their assessor. In addition, BrightStars assessors must periodically visit programs in pairs or groups as part of their training and ongoing commitment to reliability. Assessors strive to be as unobtrusive as possible.

How can I prepare my program for an ERS observation?

BrightStars encourages programs to use the Environment Rating Scales as part of a holistic self-improvement process. Programs will want to be sure they use the most updated versions of the tools, and to print out a copy of the “Notes for Clarification” for each tool and keep these with the tool itself. Programs should also consult the most recent version of the Rhode Island Notes for ERS.  It is also critical to communicate with all staff throughout the preparation process so that all program teachers and assistants can feel confident that they understand the assessment process.

If a site has multiple classrooms how will the Environment Rating Scale (ERS) assessment be completed?

At 3 Stars and above assessors will observe one third of pre-school classrooms and one third of infant toddler classrooms, on multiple days if necessary, to complete necessary site visits. Classrooms are randomly selected.

If a program needs more than one ERS (Level 3, 4, 5) will they be conducted on more than one day?

This is one possibility. If multiple classrooms are to be observed it is possible that assessors may arrive on different days within the site visit window to observe, that multiple assessors may arrive to assess different classrooms at the same time, or that multiple assessors may observe more than one classroom.

What can I expect on the day of an observation?

BrightStars assessors will aim to arrive at approximately the same time as children so that they can observe arrivals. Assessors will always have identification and will ask to speak to the program director or on-site contact before asking to be escorted to the randomly selected classroom.  Random selections are made in advance of the assessor’s arrival onsite.

Assessors will introduce themselves to program teachers and gather some very basic information like the ages of the children in the group; from this point on the observer(s) will simply observe and will not interact with staff or children. The assessor will move about the classroom to capture language and will need to spend time going through classroom materials.

In addition, the assessor(s) will always stay with the selected group, including observing outdoor play and routines like meals and toileting. The ERS observation will last a minimum of 3 hours or until the classroom’s day ends. Following the observation, the assessor(s) will need approximately 30 minutes to complete the teacher interview portion of the observation. The assessor may need to look at teacher closets, indoor gyms or outdoor play spaces or may ask to re-enter the classroom to observe nap if not previously observed. No assessor completes more than one ERS observation on any given day, so once the observation, interview, and review of Individual Professional Development Plans or child files (if applicable) is complete, the assessor will notify the program contact that they are departing.


Quality Improvement

What is a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP)?

A Quality Improvement Plan, or QIP, is a document that all BrightStars participating programs will complete.  The plan outlines the action steps that your program will take to improve quality.

How often does the QIP to be updated?

The QIP is written within three months of the Feedback visit.  From that point on it is intended to be a living document that is updated as needed in your personal files.  An updated copy of the QIP is sent with the annual report.

I would like to apply for a higher star rating, when and how often can I apply?

You can increase at any time. You can have two additional ERS conducted in your program year.

How do I increase my rating?

Once you have evaluated your program, decided the areas that you need to improve, and made the necessary changes, you can complete star rating increase paperwork. You will only need to submit the evidence for the standards that you wish to have re-evaluated. You can contact your BrightStars Navigator for the Star Rating Increase Paperwork.

When do we renew?

You renew at the end of 3 years participation for BrightStars.  In order to renew the participating program must complete a new application.  If the program is applying for 3-, 4-, or 5-Stars ERS will be completed