Making Transitions Work

As early education professionals, we know a structured environment enables children to feel safe and comfortable.  Even still, routines that involve any type of transition between activities, locations, or people throughout a day can be stressful for them. Whether children are leaving the care of their families for the first time, entering a new age group, or going to a different program, children need to know what to expect. 

Helping children and parents through transitions is an important part of having a quality program and can help children and parents adjust successfully. Developing transition plans will not only help families adjust to the necessary changes in their child’s life but will also give children valuable skills they can apply throughout their lives.

Please refer to the Maryland EXCELS Toolkit for TIPS on making transitions work

Utilizing Observation Practices

One of the ways to gain knowledge about the interests, strengths, and challenges of young children through observation. Observing can give insight about how each child thinks, hears, and learns. Information gained through observation can be helpful when planning lessons and activities or selecting materials that will encourage each child’s development and growth

Please refer to the Maryland EXCELS Toolkit for more TIPS on effective assessment tools and techniques for observing children.

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