TRS Categories

Providers that voluntarily achieve TRS provider certification offer quality care that exceeds the State’s Minimum Child Care Licensing Standards for director and staff qualifications, caregiver-child interactions, age-appropriate curricula and activities, nutrition and indoor/outdoor activities, and parent involvement and education, are in a better position to contribute to the early development of children. As providers progress through the levels of TRS provider certification, they contribute progressively more to the development of the children they serve on a daily basis.

The Texas Rising Star program organizes measures into five categories. Learn more about each of these categories below. For more in-depth information, please review the TRS Provider Certification Guidelines.

  • Category 1: Director and Staff Qualifications and Training
  • Category 2: Caregiver-Child Interactions
  • Category 3: Curriculum
  • Category 4: Nutrition and Indoor/Outdoor Activities
  • Category 5: Parent Education and Involvement
Category 1: Director and Staff Qualifications and Training

It is now well recognized that teachers and caregivers (i.e., caregivers) are a guiding influence on children’s development on a day-to-day and moment-by-moment basis (Bowman, Donovan & Burns, 2001; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). This understanding- that caregivers can have a profound impact on young children’s developmental outcomes – has been a driver of major shifts in education policy over the past decade (Pianta, Barnett, Burchinal, & Thornburg, 2009; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). The focus on caregiving quality- across child care and preschool settings and across preschool and K-12 classrooms- emphasizes experiences which are consistent, stimulating, and nurturing to young children.

The standards that seek to define quality child care and quality classrooms reflect high expectations for those charged with the day-to-day caregiving in those environments. It is expected that caregivers are able to think broadly to support children’s social, emotional, cognitive/academic, and physical wellbeing (Bowman, et al., 2001; see also U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012). Yet caregivers must also attune to children’s individual diversity of cultures, languages and developmental differences. This vision of quality caregiving has enhanced the demanded for professionalism by those working in various caregiving settings and has linked the concept of a caregiver to the broader idea of educator (Bogard, Traylor, & Takanishi, 2008).

Measures in this category relate to the education, experience, and training of the staff, including directors and all caregivers.

Sub-Category Required (Met/Not Met) Points-Based
Director Qualifications and Training X X
Caregiver Qualifications, Orientation, and Training X
Caregiver Qualifications and Training X
Category 2: Caregiver-Child Interactions

One of the most important aspects of high-quality caregiving is in the nature of the moment by moment interactions that an adult has with a child (Hamre, et al., 2013; Howes, et al., 2008; Mashburn, et al., 2008; McCartney, Dearing, Taylor, & Bub,2007). Children learn to navigate the world around them and navigate their own internal world of thoughts and feelings with the guidance and modeling of adults in their everyday environments. For this reason, the predominant measures of caregiving quality now emphasize the importance of observing caregivers and children together to understand the nature of their interactions (Hamre et al., 2013). There are specific ways that caregiver behaviors can promote positive interactions and positive growth in children. These include a warm, responsive and supportive style, support for language and learning, support for children’s behavior and organization, and support for children’s play and autonomy (Bodrova & Leong, 2013; Bredekamp, 2004; Dickinson & Porche, 2011; Hamre et al., 2013; Rimm-Kaufman & Wanless, 2013). These dimensions of caregiving reflect processes that occur between adults and children on a moment-by moment basis. The extent to which these aspects of high quality behaviors are evident and consistent—across activities, times of the day, and children—define a high quality environment. The extent to which these behaviors are absent because of missed opportunities or are replaced by more negative behaviors (e.g., controlling vs. responsive style; reactive behavior management vs. proactive support) define more mid-range to lower quality environments (Pianta, La Paro, Hamre, 2007).

Measures in this category relate to the group size, caregiver:child ratio, and quality of interactions between caregivers and children in the classroom.

Sub-Category Required (Met/Not Met) Points-Based
Group Size X
Staff Ratios X
Warm and Responsive Style X
Language Facilitation and Support X
Play-based Interactions and Guidance X
Support for Children’s Regulation X
Category 3: Curriculum

On the surface, the activities of many preschool classrooms can appear quite similar, with children engaging in art, play, physical movement, books, blocks, and other toys and games. Yet, the extent to which these activities are instructional—that is, organized and managed, intentionally, to promote critical areas of development—is a distinguishing feature between higher and lower quality programs. Organizing instruction for clear developmental impact is not an easy task. For example, research shows that a key aspect of impactful instruction is that it follows a progressive approach when introducing young children to new skills and activities. A progressive approach supports children’s learning as it mirrors the natural trajectories of children’s development (Clements & Sarama, 2012; Clements, Sarama, Spitler, Lange & Wolfe, 2011). Research support for this idea has been seen within mathematics (Clements & Sarama, 2012), as well as in language/literacy (Piasta & Wagner, 2010 ).

Organizing instruction in a progressive way—in which the developmental impact is maximized—requires intentionality. Decisions must be made on what to teach (i.e., what are the most fundamental skills linked to later learning), what order to teach these skills, how to pace learning within and across skills, how to structure activities to ensure the ‘right’ level of difficulty (Bodrova & Leong, 2006; Middleton & Spanias, 1999), and how to assess and measure progress (i.e., for this age, what is an acceptable benchmark; what reflects meaningful growth?). In a high quality classroom, a progressive, developmentally-oriented approach would be seen across key outcome areas—from language, literacy, math, and science to art, physical movement, and social and emotional development (Note: this is an exemplary list of skills based on common early learning standards, not a specific or comprehensive list). It would be difficult, if not impossible, for any one person to have the necessary depth of understanding of development to guide such nuanced decisions across such a broad spectrum of developmental outcomes. Indeed, research across the fields of literacy, math, science, and language all speak to the challenge of providing teachers sufficient training in children’s development (Clements & Sarama, 2009; Dickinson & Brady, 2006; Garbett, 2003; Roskos, Rosemary, & Varner, 2006; Tu, 2006). Thus, curricula— at least a research-based and validated curricula—provides teachers a structural tool that is increasingly seen as necessary for creating an intentional and developmentally-oriented structure to classroom instruction.

Measures in this category relate to the lesson plans, curriculum, and instructional formats that caregivers use in the classroom.

Sub-Category Required (Met/Not Met) Points-Based
Lesson Plans and Curriculum X
Planning for Special Needs and Respecting Diversity X
Instructional Formats and Approaches to Learning X
Category 4: Nutrition and Indoor/Outdoor Activities

Environmental factors affect children’s development and obesity risk during their early years, when eating, physical activity and sleep habits are developing. These habits continue to influence obesity, health, and well-being throughout life. Recently, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued policy recommendations to prevent obesity in infancy and early childhood by encouraging a healthy early environment in settings outside the home (Institute of Medicine, 2011). These included:

  • Increase physical activity in young children
  • Decrease sedentary behavior in young children
  • Help adults increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior in young children
  • Promote the consumption of a variety of nutritious foods, and encourage and support breastfeeding during infancy
  • Create a healthy eating environment that is responsive to children’s hunger and fullness cues
  • Help adults increase children’s healthy eating
  • Promote age-appropriate sleep durations among young children

A well planned environment promotes and enhances children’s development through learning and playing activities. It builds schedules, routines and procedures to move children throughout the day from activities and settings. How the environment is developed directly influences children’s understanding of cognitive, social, emotional, language and physical skills (Early Head Start National Resource Center, 2010). Enriching early childhood environments are important to the development of children because young children’s brain connections are developing rapidly in the first few years. Having intriguing, fun materials and experiences for children will provide them with tools for this development (National Scientific Council, 2007). Another reason for providing an enriching environment is the amount of time children spend in care, for example a baby who starts child care at 6 months will spend as much as 12, 000 hours in care away from parents (Greenman, 2005a).

Measures in this category relate to the nutrition policies and practices, as well as the equipment, materials, and arrangement of the indoor and outdoor learning environment.

Sub-Category Required (Met/Not Met) Points-Based
Nutrition X X
Indoor Learning Environments X X
Outdoor Learning Environments X
Category 5: Parent Involvement and Education

Historically, parent involvement has implied a relatively superficial engagement of parents in classrooms and classroom-based activities (e.g., presence at a special event, chaperoning field trips) (Henrich, 2013). Although this type of parent-initiated involvement does foster positive relationships between families and schools, its impact is limited when compared to more comprehensive approaches to parent involvement or engagement (Epstein, 2001; Fantuzzo, McWayne, Perry, & Childs, 2004;Weiss, Bouffard, Bridglall, & Gordon, 2009). Indeed, when parent involvement focuses primarily on limited participation in school activities in traditional, school-led ways (e.g., classroom volunteering), there are often tensions in terms of sensitivity to family schedules, resources, and capacities, and these can lead to biases within home-school relationships. This is particularly true in groups that may not share the same mainstream views as the school or teacher regarding their role in children’s education or schooling (Souto-Manning & Swick, 2006). Indeed, these traditional, and more limited, models of parent involvement have tended to disenfranchise groups of parents with varied ethnic or language backgrounds, as well as fail to integrate family strengths with school strengths in support of children (Souto-Manning & Swick, 2006; Wong & Hughes, 2006).

More recent models of parent involvement have emphasized a deeper partnership between parents and schools (Weiss et al., 2009). Parents, like teachers, have a significant influence on children’s cognitive, academic, social/behavioral, and wellness outcomes (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). In fact, the idea—that parents and teachers are joint stewards of children’s developmental outcomes—is supported by research showing a strong parallel between high quality parenting behaviors and high quality teaching behaviors (Smith, Robbins, Stagman, & Mahur , 2013). For example, behaviors like shared reading, cognitive stimulation, rich language and conversation, and warmth and responsiveness are all seen as markers of high quality parenting (e.g., Burns, Donovan, & Bowman, 2000; Landry et al., 2012; Ramani & Siegler, 2008; Senechal, Pagan, Lever, & Ouellette, 2008). Likewise, these very same behaviors are seen as being at the center of high quality teaching behaviors (e.g., Hamre, Hatfield, Pianta, & Jamil, 2014).

Measures in this category relate to the education and involvement of parents and families in the program.

Sub-Category Required (Met/Not Met) Points-Based
Parent Education X X
Parent Involvement X X