Step Up To Quality ranks child care centers

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -- There are more than 3,000 early child care center options in Nebraska, 470 of them are right here in Lincoln . This provides several options for parents when deciding where to send their children.

Step Up To Quality is a five step rating and improvement system for child care centers. It began in Nebraska in 2014 and is funded by the state of Nebraska, through the Step Up the Quality Act that passed in 2013.

361 centers in Lincoln have signed up for the program, 77 of those have rankings.

Westminster Preschool is the first program in Lincoln to reach five steps.

"When the program came out to raise the bar and give programs an option to do something better and raise the quality, we decided as an already quality program we could just do better and do more," said Suzanne Schneider, Director at Westminster Preschool.

Schneider has worked at Westminster for eight years.

"It's pretty rewarding and it's exciting for the staff to know that they work in a high quality environment, and I think for parents who bring their children here it feels very good to know that not only do we say we have a high quality program, we have the seal of approval, we have the outside stamp to say yes this is what quality is," she said.

Signing up for Step Up to Quality isn't mandatory. Joyce Kinney is a coach who works with Step Up To Quality and worked with Westminster for the two years it took them to reach step five.

"When childcare began to grow 50 years ago there was no guidance, so it grew up with family childcare homes here, and preschools over here, and day care over here and people looking for a quick buck over here, and what happened was we got this kind of willy-nilly system and some of it is high quality but most of it is not," said Kinney.

Kinney said signing up is simple and can be done here.

The first step is signing up the child care center online. The second step involves orientation and staff training. The final three steps inclue an assigned coach who observes and suggests where a center can improve.

"Our goal at step up to quality is to use nationally accepted definitions of best practice for working with children 0 to 5 to help all programs become quality because we know that it makes a difference," said Kinney.

Schneider said although they've reached step five they're still going to meet with Kinney to make sure they stay up to quality and see where else they can improve.