Red Balloon and YoungStar

Red Balloon and YoungStar

What is YoungStar? YoungStar is a government program that assess and rates the quality of early childhood (EC) programs based on pre-determined assessment criteria. Wisconsin's EC programs participant in YoungStar to be eligible to receive financial assistance for low income families.

What is Red Balloon's position? The Red Balloon team chooses to participate at the three star level to be able to continue to serve low income families. We recognize, however, that YoungStar's definition and assessment of quality is, in some ways, in contrast with Red Balloon's mission and philosophy. At this time we withhold our full endorsement of the YoungStar program to be consistent with our mission and philosophical practices. The following points articulate our position on YoungStar participation.

1. We believe that all parents (low income included) should have the right to choose their child care center based on an alignment of the parent's values for early learning and the program's philosophy and mission of care. We are concerned that YoungStar's narrow interpretation of quality early learning standards impedes this process and disadvantages low income families.

2. We believe that Early Learning educators and administrators have long struggled with issues of poor compensation and low professional regard. YoungStar's requirements put additional financial burdens on EC programs further limiting the delicate balance of EC non-profit organizations. Moreover, the punitive tone of the YoungStar rating system demoralizes EC professionals who often lack the time and energy to challenge unfair evaluations.

3. We believe children birth to 3 years old cannot fully thrive under a school district model designed for older children. The assessments and expectations for young children under YoungStar conflict with our collective professional understanding of child development. We feel fully meeting YoungStar's standards for young children takes away from the nurturing and spontaneous teaching moments that are critical at young developmental stages.

Youngstar was first implemented in 2009. It is still a young program, in its early childhood years you might say. In theory, the YoungStar program is a wonderful idea. In application, the YoungStar program is falling short of the diverse and unique needs of the early childhood field. For our part, we have been advocating for change by voicing our opinion with the State of Wisconsin, meeting with a Wisconsin State Representative and through ongoing research of the current best practices of early learning programs.