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

Support Contact Information

Program Coordinator Contact Information

Quality Assurance Specialist Contact Information

Find Your Child Care Resource Center

24/7 Technology Support

In general, we encourage programs and providers to seek help from

Program Coordinators when you need:

  • Brief help navigating the Maryland EXCELS System and this assistance can be provided over the phone or via email;
  • Guidance on the standards, documentation and Additional Achievements;
  • Documents you have uploaded to be reviewed and rated; and
  • To give feedback about the standards, website, or the online system.

Quality Assurance Specialists when you need:

  • Face to face, on-site, or telephone/email support with the system, standards, or evidence including assistance with registering for Maryland EXCELS;
  • Assistance with other MSDE initiatives such as: Maryland Accreditation, credential applications, CLASS/Maryland EXCELS Assessments, etc.;
  • Assistance with scanning, uploading documents, and/or computer use; or
  • Training or support related to Maryland EXCELS.

NOTE: Quality Assurance Specialists also conduct Continuous Quality Improvement Visits (starting Spring 2022) to published programs to verify implementation of Maryland EXCELS standards. QASs also provide follow up and technical assistance related to Continuous Quality Improvement Visit observations.

Child Care Resource Centers when you need:

  • Assistance with Maryland Child Care Credential applications, accreditation, etc.;
  • Assistance with scanning, uploading documents, and/or computer use;
  • Approved professional development;
  • Support and technical assistance related to licensing regulations;
  • Early Childhood Mental Health and Behavior Consultation assistance; or
  • Program improvement such as room arrangement.

24/7 Technology Support when you need:

  • Assistance using the Maryland EXCELS System, such as resetting a password;
  • Support with technology, such as Microsoft applications, tablets, etc.

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

Preschool

School-Age

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

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 form is designed to help programs track progress toward and achieve program improvement goals.

Use the PIP Guidance for additional support in creating a Program Improvement Plan that includes all the required components of Maryland EXCELS as well as additional program priorities. The PIP Guidance can be used with the PIP form, or to revise an existing Program Improvement Plan.

PIP Guidance

PIP Form

Professional Development & Technical Assistance

What is Professional Development?

Professional development is approved pre-service or in-service training designed to improve knowledge, skills, and behaviors. Ongoing professional development and training is essential to providing high-quality services to children and families, with the primary mission of supporting children’s development and learning. Professional Development encompasses a range of learning and support activities designed to prepare individuals for work with and on behalf of young children and their families, as well as ongoing experiences to enhance their work. These learning opportunities lead to improvements in the knowledge, skills, practices, and abilities of early education and school-age professionals. A knowledgeable workforce increases the likelihood that all children will experience success as they move into formal school experiences and later, as citizens of the world. As new knowledge emerges about best practices in early education and school-age child care, each individual is called upon to improve their skills and abilities in this important work. While a variety of training and workshops may be of interest to child care providers and staff, only those workshops and training that are approved by MSDE will count toward the training requirements for licensing, credentialing and EXCELS.

Early childhood and school-age professionals in Maryland can locate professional development opportunities using The Statewide Training Clearinghouse.

What is Technical Assistance?

Technical assistance is the provision of targeted and customized support by an expert to an individual or program. The assistance may be long-term or short-term and may be provided on-site or remotely. Maryland EXCELS programs have access to several types of Technical Assistance:

  • Upon acceptance into Maryland EXCELS, programs are assigned a Program Coordinator to provide guidance, support and technical assistance as they progress through the Maryland EXCELS process. In addition to rating documents uploaded by the program, the Program Coordinator provides telephone and email consultation regarding the Maryland EXCELS system and standards.  Program Coordinators offer guidance to programs on what documentation is needed to progress to the next check level in the system.
  • Quality Assurance Specialists are available to provide on-site, phone and email support to programs participating in Maryland EXCELS and to provide information to groups and individuals. Quality Assurance Specialists are assigned to specific regions of the state and are available to conduct random check level verification visits as well as on-site support with the Maryland EXCELS standards and system.
  • In addition, the Maryland Child Care Resource Network, through the Child Care Resource Centers, located across the state, provides technical assistance to programs seeking help in areas such as, but not limited to, licensing and compliance, behavioral issues, children with special needs, Maryland EXCELS, the Child Care Credential Program, Environment Rating Scales, and Accreditation.

Children with Disabilities and Individual Needs

What is an Inclusive Child Care Program? What are a program’s legal responsibilities?

Inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired results of inclusive experiences for children, with and without disabilities, and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning to reach their full potential. The defining features of inclusion that can be used to identify high-quality child care and education programs are access, participation, and supports. (Adapted from: DEC/NAEYC. (2009). Early childhood inclusion: A joint position statement of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute.)

In an inclusive program, children with and without disabilities have access to the same routines, play, and learning experiences. Providers in inclusive programs learn to recognize children as individuals with unique strengths, needs, abilities, and interests. They continually make creative accommodations and modifications to routines, play, and learning activities so that each child benefits from participation.

The Maryland State Department of Education is dedicated to making high-quality child care and education programs accessible to all children. Therefore, aspects of quality related to inclusion are directly incorporated into Maryland EXCELS standards.

A Parent’s Guide to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Child Care provides families with information about how the ADA applies to child care programs.

How do I find a program that will meet my child’s needs?

Regardless of a child’s ability or disability, choosing child care can be challenging for families. Children with disabilities, according to the ADA, cannot be excluded from programs solely on the basis of their disability. It is important that families have the proper information and know the right questions to ask when looking for care for a child with special needs. Maryland Family Network offers LOCATEa free service that helps families find child care based on their child’s specific needs.

Can my child receive special services or therapy while in child care?

It is highly recommended that families involve their child care provider in the planning and/or implementation of their child’s Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Plan (IEP) so that their child receives the most comprehensive and complete system of services.

Tiered Reimbursement/EXCELS Payments

Tiered Reimbursement pays quality differential payments to providers who accept Child Care Scholarship and have a Maryland EXCELS published Quality Rating of level 3, 4, or 5.  Tier payments range from 10 percent (10%) to 44 percent (44%), depending upon the age of the child, the type of care, and the Quality Rating of the program.  The chart below shows the percentage of tiered reimbursement payments to programs.  On the Invoice Detail Report, tiered reimbursement payments are shown as EXCELS payments for each child.

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%

Purpose and Use of Tier Payment

The purpose of the Tier Payment is to provide recognition and incentive to the program for participating and achieving a Maryland EXCELS rating at the highest levels. Programs and providers have choices regarding the use of the tier payment. For example, tier payments may be utilized to:

  • Offset the cost of child care for families receiving Child Care Scholarship
  • Provide salary and benefits enhancements for staff
  • Make quality improvements to the program

As part of the continuous quality improvement process, providers and programs are encouraged to reflect and assess the needs of their program, with input from staff and families, when making decisions regarding the use of the tier payment.