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Maryland EXCELS Standards

Maryland EXCELS programs earn ratings based upon nationally recognized quality standards and best practices.

Child Care Center Standards (includes Head Start, nursery schools)

Family Child Care Standards (includes Large Family Child Care Homes)

School-Age Only Standards (programs serving only school-age children)

Public Prekindergarten Standards (Prekindergarten programs operated by a Local School System)


For Child Care Centers, Family Child Care Homes and School-Age Only Programs:

Licensing requirements ensure that all child care programs operating in the state of Maryland provide care to infants and children with consideration for their health and safety. Maryland has rigorous standards and regulations for licensure that cover:

  • Basic health and safety practices;
  • Minimum criteria for training, professional development, and background checks;
  • Prevention of communicable disease transmission;
  • Minimum practices required to maintain licensure; and
  • Violations related to staff qualifications, supervision and treatment of children, ratios, and group sizes.

For more information on Maryland’s licensing requirements for child care, visit the Maryland State Department of Education, Office of Child Care, Child Care Licensing Branch.

Professional Development

Ongoing training helps teachers, child care providers and staff members continue to follow best practices and provide evidence-based care to children. Training builds knowledge and skills in areas such as child development, inclusive practices, learning environments, curriculum, health and safety, and assessment practices. Program managers, owners, and operators are also encouraged to obtain proper training in the areas of program administration and business practices to enhance the quality of their programs.

Accreditation and Rating Scales

Accreditation from an outside source validates and recognizes the quality of a program’s practices. Programs seeking accreditation demonstrate a commitment to continued progress toward increasing levels of quality within Maryland EXCELS. Accredited programs are also a sign of quality to parents and community members, which serves as a valuable marketing tool for programs.

For more information on accreditation, visit Maryland Accreditation.

The environment is another indicator of a program’s quality. Environment and classroom rating scales provide consistent, reliable, and comprehensive measures of learning environments, program practices, and teacher/child interactions. In Maryland EXCELS, rating scales will provide the groundwork for your program improvement plans.

Information on rating scales is available through Maryland EXCELS.

Developmentally Appropriate Activities

Children learn best when they receive instruction, guidance, and support to meet challenges and gain new knowledge. High-quality child care and early education programs identify each individual child’s needs, interests, and abilities, and create learning experiences to support a child’s growth and development.

When teachers and staff members follow developmentally appropriate practices, they examine and consider children’s needs and set reasonable expectations and goals for each individual child. Programs that are high quality, developmentally appropriate, and inclusive serve every child, including children with disabilities or special health care needs. Inclusive programs implement practices and policies that optimize the learning experiences for all children in the program.

Administrative Practices

Sound policies and practices help programs run smoothly and deliver the services families and staff expect and deserve. Early childhood professionals connected to Maryland EXCELS commit to and understand the practices and policies that govern the program.