Maryland EXCELS Payments

Maryland EXCELS payments reward your program for providing high-quality services to families using Child Care Scholarship. At Maryland EXCELS Quality Ratings 3, 4, and 5, your program will receive increased reimbursement amounts ranging from 10% to 44% based on the age of the child, the type of care, and your program’s quality rating. 

The chart below shows the percentage of payments to programs. On the Invoice Detail Report, Maryland EXCELS Payments are shown as “EXCELS” payments for each child.

Maryland EXCELS Payments Maryland EXCELS Quality Rating
Level 3 Level 4 Level 5
Family Child Care

Under 2 years of age

11% 22% 29%

2 years of age and over

10% 21% 28%
Child Care Center

Under 2 years of age

22% 37% 44%

2 years of age and over

10% 19% 26%


Recognized Accrediting Organizations

Accreditation is a method by which a program demonstrates to an outside organization or agency that the program is meeting the quality standards set by that organization. The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) recognizes national accrediting organizations as aligning with the overall mission and high standards for early childhood, public prekindergarten and school-age child care programs. Quality Assurance Specialists offer guidance and support to programs seeking accreditation. Additionally, the Accreditation Support Fund is available to assist programs with the cost of national accreditation fees and reimbursement of expenses related to Maryland Accreditation.

To recognize the importance of meeting and demonstrating standards at this highest level of quality, Maryland EXCELS participating programs must achieve accreditation in order to reach a Quality Rating 5. In addition, accredited programs entering Maryland EXCELS will receive credit for requirements already demonstrated to the accrediting organization.

Recognized Accrediting Organizations

Child Care Centers

Family and Large Family Child Care Homes

School-Age Only Programs

Public Prekindergarten Programs

Updated: September 2023

Program Improvement Plan (PIP)

A Program Improvement Plan (PIP) provides programs with an individualized guide for continuous quality improvement. Programs participating in Maryland EXCELS submit a PIP, along with a statement describing their process for developing it, to meet the requirements of Accreditation and Rating Scales (ACR) 3.3, 3.4, and 3.5 or Accreditation/Validation and Rating Scale (AVR) 3.4 and 3.5. The Maryland EXCELS Program Improvement Plan Guidance and Form is designed to provide support in creating a Program Improvement Plan and help programs track progress toward and achieve program improvement goals.

PIP Guidance and Form


Program Assessments

Program Self-Assessments

Positive teacher-child interactions are a critical component of the quality of care provided in a program. By conducting self-assessments, a program has the opportunity to identify teacher strengths and areas for improvement. This process is used to create individual staff development plans and ongoing program improvement. 

Maryland EXCELS has developed the following self-assessments and associated companion guides to help participants achieve quality rating 3 requirements.

Family Child Care Homes:

Child Care Centers:

Infant and Toddler



If you have questions or concerns about conducting your self-assessment at this time, please contact your Quality Assurance Specialist, for additional guidance.

Program Assessments Conducted by MSDE

The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®) measures teacher-child classroom interactions. CLASS provides an objective, consistent, valid measure of teacher-child interactions, from supporting cognitive development to connecting with children individually. 

The School-Age Care Environment Rating Scale, Updated Edition (SACERS-U™) is designed to assess group-care programs for children of school age, 5 to 12, during their out-of-school time. It identifies areas of strength and areas needing improvement in the following categories: Space and Furnishings; Health and Safety; Activities; Interactions; Program Structure; and Staff Development.

Programs that have achieved a draft rating 3 or quality rating 3 that request an assessment or programs that have achieved a quality rating 5 will have CLASS® and/or SACERS assessments, depending on the ages of children enrolled.

Visit the Maryland EXCELS and CLASS page on the Teachstone website to learn more and explore other resources.

Updated: May 2024