About Great Start to Quality

Great Start to Quality helps parents find the best child care and preschool for their child, and helps providers improve the care and education they give to children. Five categories of program quality indicators, aligned with Michigan's Early Childhood Standards of Quality for Infant and Toddler Programs and Early Childhood Standards of Quality for Prekindergarten are used to rate child care and preschool programs to ensure that Michigan’s youngest children have high-quality early learning experiences.




How does Great Start to Quality work?

Great Start to Quality uses more than 40 different program quality indicators across five categories to measure quality.  Categories include:


  • Staff qualifications and professional development
  • Family and community partnerships
  • Administration and management
  • Environment
  • Curriculum and instruction


Participation in Great Start to Quality is 100% voluntary, but other states have found that more parents choose quality when they have an easy and reliable way to find it. This also pressures providers to improve their programs.


Much like online hotel ratings, programs are awarded quality stars from one to five based on the number of program quality indicators met.


Unlicensed providers - often relatives who receive payments from the state for taking care of a child/children or unlicensed, publicly subsidized providers offering home-based child care - are not rated.  However, they can choose to improve their quality by using books, puzzles and other educational items from the Great Start to Quality Resource Center Lending Libraries and taking advantage of professional development opportunities.  


Child care and preschool programs licensed by the state of Michigan have the opportunity to move through five star levels. All licensed programs are awarded one Empty Star. Programs wishing to move beyond the first level must complete an online surveyBack to top


Star Ratings


Program meets licensing requirements.
Program meets licensing requirements and is participating in Great Start to Quality.
Program demonstrates quality across some categories of program quality indicators.
Program demonstrates quality across several categories of program quality indicators.
Program demonstrates quality across almost all categories of program quality indicators. Program demonstrates high quality.
Program demonstrates highest quality.




Program Quality Indicators for Child Care and Preschool 


Great Start to Quality program quality indicators for child care and preschool were developed by early learning professionals and parents, including national experts. Programs/providers are rated in five key areas, as briefly outlined below.  

Staff Qualifications and Professional Development – provider/program staff have attained higher education levels, Child Development Associate or Montessori credentials, training, relevant experience, etc. 

Family and Community Partnerships – program/provider communicates with parents and assists them in finding other resources in the community, etc. 
Administration and Management – program/provider has written personnel policies, evaluates staff performance and takes other steps to retain staff, etc. 
Environment – program’s/provider’s facility is free of environmental risks such as asbestos; has nutrition and physical activity plans for children; monitors children’s development and advises parents of concerns, etc. 
Curriculum and Instruction – program/provider has a statement of educational/developmental priorities for children; an approved curriculum; a routine but flexible daily schedule, etc.


What is the difference between Great Start to Quality and licensing or registration?

All child care centers and group child care homes in Michigan must be licensed by the State Department of Human Services. Licensing ensures that all safety and basic levels of quality early learning and care standards have been met. Family child care homes providing care and education for up to six children unrelated to the provider are registered by the Department of Human Services Bureau of Children and Adult Licensing.


The program quality indicators set by Great Start to Quality go above and beyond the Michigan’s registration procedures or licensing requirements. For example, Great Start to Quality awards points for smaller provider-child ratios than required by state licensing rules and for higher education levels and professional development of staff. Back to top 


Who runs Great Start to Quality?

Great Start to Quality was designed in Michigan by early childhood development experts from the state and local levels, including parents.


The Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Great Start is the lead agency with funding provided by the federal Child Care Development Fund and the state.


The Early Childhood Investment Corporation, an independent and publicly-owned nonprofit coordinating Michigan’s efforts to build an efficient and effective early childhood development system, is directly responsible for the development and implementation of Great Start to Quality.


The Great Start to Quality Core Team includes members from the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Great Start – Child Development and Care Program, Great Start Readiness Program, and Head Start Collaboration Office; Michigan Department of Human Services, Bureau of Children and Adult Licensing; Michigan Department of Community Health; Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children; the Early Childhood Investment Corporation; Michigan Head Start Association; Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators; the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Grand Rapids Community College; and Madonna University. Back to top 



Early Learning and Care in Michigan
In Michigan, 64% of children under the age of 6 are in the care of someone other than a family member on a regular basis. Research clearly shows that it is the quality of this early learning and care that matters most. The typical child care and/or early learning setting in Michigan is licensed but not accredited (less than 4% of center-based programs are accredited), so there is currently no widespread objective basis by which to judge the quality of programs.  Click here for more information. Back to top