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

Child Care Center Standards: Licensed Child Care Centers (including Head Start programs licensed as Child Care Centers) and programs operating with a Letter of Compliance

Family Child Care Standards: Registered Family and Large Family Child Care Homes

School-Age Only Standards: Licensed Child Care Centers approved for children ages 5+ only

Public Prekindergarten Standards: Public school Prekindergarten programs and Head Start programs operating under a school approval number

Licensing and Compliance (LIC) 

Child care centers and family child care homes must be licensed by the Maryland State Department of Education in order to participate in Maryland EXCELS. Licensing requirements ensure that all child care programs operating in Maryland provide care to infants, toddlers, and children with consideration for their health and safety. Maryland has rigorous standards and regulations for licensure that cover:

  • Basic health and safety practices
  • Criteria for training, professional development, and background checks
  • Prevention of communicable disease transmission
  • Practices required to maintain licensure
  • 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

Staff Qualifications and Professional Development (STF) 

Professional development helps teachers, child care providers, and administrators follow current best practices and improve the knowledge and skills essential for providing children and families with quality programs. Professional development builds knowledge and skills in areas such as child development, inclusive practices, learning environments, curriculum, health and safety, assessment practices, program administration, and current business practices. 

Programs participating in Maryland EXCELS are encouraged to seek ongoing training for their staff and to participate in Maryland’s Child Care Credential Program. The Maryland Child Care Credential Program recognizes individual child care providers who go beyond the requirements of state licensing and registration regulations for training, education, and experience. 

Accreditation and Rating Scales (ACR) 

The accreditation process validates the quality of a program’s practices based on an individual accrediting organization’s standards. Being an accredited program is a sign of quality to parents and community members, which serves as a valuable marketing tool for programs. To achieve the highest Maryland EXCELS quality ratings, programs must demonstrate a commitment to pursuing and attaining accreditation by an organization recognized by MSDE. For more information about Maryland Accreditation and a list of MSDE-recognized accrediting organizations, visit Maryland Accreditation.

Positive teacher-child interactions are another indicator of a program’s quality. Program assessment tools provide consistent, reliable, and comprehensive measures of teacher-child interactions and learning environments. In Maryland EXCELS, assessment tools provide the foundation for developing program improvement plans and support continuous program quality improvement. Information on program assessments is available at Program Assessments.

Developmentally Appropriate Learning and Practice (DAP)

Children learn best when they receive instruction, guidance, and support to gain knowledge and develop skills. Quality child care and early education programs identify each individual child’s needs, interests, and abilities, and create learning experiences to support each child’s growth and development. When teachers, child care providers, and administrators follow developmentally appropriate practices, they examine and consider children’s needs and set reasonable expectations and goals for each individual child. 

Maryland EXCELS recognizes quality programs as those that:

  • Are inclusive 
  • Implement practices and policies that optimize the learning experiences of all children in the program

Administrative Policies and Practices (ADM)

Sound policies and practices help programs run smoothly and deliver the quality services that families and staff expect and deserve. Quality programs clearly communicate their policies and practices to their families and staff. They embrace practices that broaden children’s and families’ access to a variety of resources, including those within the local community. Programs participating in Maryland EXCELS commit to engaging families and ensuring that families and all staff understand the program’s current policies and practices.