Keystone STARS

Keystone STARS is an initiative of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) to improve, support, and recognize the continuous quality improvement efforts of early learning programs in Pennsylvania.

 The Keystone STARS Performance Standards provide the foundation for the program.  The Performance Standards are grouped into four levels: STAR 1, STAR 2, STAR 3, and STAR 4.

Each level builds on the previous level and utilizes research-based best practices to promote quality early learning environments and positive child outcomes. The standards address staff qualifications and professional development, the early learning program, partnerships with family and community, and leadership and management.

Keystone STARS is managed through a partnership of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) and the Pennsylvania and Regional Keys.

STARS Enrollment

Keystone STARS is a voluntary program and open to any Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare certified or registered day care. CLICK HERE to download the Keystone STARS Enrollment Application.

STARS Standards

The FY16 Keystone STARS Performance Standards define quality and outline the expectations for meeting each STAR level. Keystone STARS Specialists work with providers to assess how the standards are met now and how enhancement can be made to move up a STAR level.To read the STARS Standards click on the following links:

STARS worksheets

Providers use the FY16 Keystone STARS worksheets to document progress with the Performance Standards.

To download the STARS worksheets click on the following links:

Center Facilities:

Family Child Care Facilities:

Group Facilities:

School Age Programs:

Head Start Programs:


Questions regarding the STARS Performance Standards or the worksheets can be directed to the STARS Specialists. Click here to view the STARS Specialist contacts.


Grant Requests

The Keystone STARS program provides the following types of grants: STARS Merit awards, Education and Retention awards and Child Care Works Add-On funds. CLICK HERE to learn more about these grants.

Click on the links below to download grant request and budget forms. New FY16 MERA Request paperwork is now available! CLICK HERE to read the “cliff notes” version of instructions for submitting, spending and closing your MERA request.

STAR 2, 3 or 4 facility

Click on the links below to download the appropriate forms.

  > 2015-2016 STARS Financial Award Request Center Group (Word document)

  > 2015-2016 STARS Financial Award Request Family (Word document)
  > REVISED! Attachment #1 Keystone STARS Excel Budget Workbook as of 2-4-16 (electronic submission)
  > Attachment #2 Keystone STARS Budget Worksheet (PDF paper submission)
  > NEW! Attachment #3 Keystone STARS ERA Budget Worksheet (PDF paper submission)


Grant Receipt Collection Documents

Beginning in 2015-16, providers will not submit receipts to the Regional Key.  Providers must keep original receipts for their records and for review by Regional Keys and state/federal agents who may need to review receipts for auditing/monitoring purposes.  All grant related documents must be maintained for seven years.

For monitoring purposes original receipts must have at a minimum:

  • A purchase date (within the current Fiscal Year July 1– June 30);

  • The name of the vendor or supplier;

  • Descriptions of purchased items;

  • Cost of each item and evidence of payment – the receipt must indicate balance due or, if paid, a balance due of $-0-. If the receipt or invoice shows a balance due, proof of payment must be provided either by cancelled check or a document indicating balance due of $-0-;

  • Dollar figures for total purchases must equal or exceed the requested Merit Award subcategory (and care levels) indicated for each item (Classroom Furnishings / Learning Materials / Minor Renovations / Gross Motor Equipment / DHS Certification Business Practices, Computer Technology / Professional Development, Accreditation Costs, Staff Benefitsand Other Expenses).

Please refer to the document Best Practices in Keystokne STARS Financial Award Spending.


Direct Deposit

SERK wants to help practitioners receive their grant payments as quickly as possible, in part through direct deposit payment. Payments will be transferred directly to your bank accounts and providers will be notified by email when the transaction occurs. Click here to download the direct deposit request form.


Grant Support Resources

Sample Bonus Policy 41 KB alt

Sample Education and Retention Award Policy 44 KB alt

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