For more than 20 years, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (United Way) has made high-quality early care and education a cornerstone priority of its investment strategy.United Way has also been a longtime champion of school readiness for the youngest children in southeastern Pennsylvania. In 1996, the organization joined with other collaborators to plan for the region’s first quality improvement project—Child Care Matters—and, in 2002, launched the Early to Learn: Partners for School Readiness project. These projects, along with the introduction of Pennsylvania’s Keystone STARS Quality Rating and Improvement System, influenced the design of United Way’s Success By 6® (SB6) quality improvement program.
With a commitment to increasing child care quality, United Way launched the SB6 school readiness program in 2007 to help childcare centers improve their quality level in the Keystone STARS four-STAR system. To meet the needs of centers in the community, SB6 has targeted services at Keystone STAR 2 centers, helping those that intend to improve quality for the children and families they serve. Once a center achieves STAR 3 or 4, SB6 provides ongoing resources to help maintain changes and seek continued improvements. This dual focus on promoting initial center quality improvements and sustaining quality over time is unique nationally; quality improvement programs typically focus on initial improvements without addressing the challenges of maintaining improvements after participation ends. As a community-based program aimed at promoting and sustaining quality in child care centers, SB6 provides insights and lessons that can be applied to existing quality improvement initiatives locally, statewide, and nationally. This paper describes the history and components of SB6 and synthesizes the results of recent evaluation findings to highlight successes and challenges. Key themes and quotes from recent interviews with the SB6 management team, program participants, and technical assistance consultants help situate the evaluation results within the program’s current context.
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