STARS: Supporting Teachers and Ready Students is a $618,000 early childhood learning initiative from GAR Foundation. STARS engages a group of 24 community-based preschools and day care providers to participate in a two-year program to receive professional development and training on high-quality and engaged learning techniques to advance early learning in Akron. STARS also provides expert tools and support to help early learning centers navigate the state’s quality rating system, Step Up to Quality (SUTQ), and increase their ratings by 2020.

Participating centers:

  • Abacus Childcare Center
  • Abacus Infant/Toddler Center
  • Above and Beyond
  • Cascade Village YMCA
  • Emmanuel Christian Academy
  • Forward Thinking Caring Hearts
  • Glory Hallelujah Childcare
  • Grandma’s Place
  • Here For You Childcare
  • Hope Early Care & Education Center
  • Irma Jones Preschool
  • Kozmic Korner (East Akron)
  • Kozmic Korner (Downtown Akron)
  • Kozmic Korner (Fairlawn)
  • Little’s Academy
  • Lois Lester’s Learning Center
  • Once Upon A Daycare & Preschool Center
  • Rosa’s Playhouse
  • Salvation Army Learning Zone Preschool
  • The Growing Patch
  • Westminster YMCA
  • Wonder World
  • Wonder World Infant Center
  • YMCA Family Enrichment Center


Helping young children get the right start is the most important investment we can make in the educational continuum

Research tells us that high-quality teaching and engaged learning means better outcomes for kids and greater kindergarten readiness. We know that helping young children ages 3-5 get the right start is the most important investment we can make in the educational continuum, especially in neighborhoods with the greatest needs.

Many preschools lack the resources to invest in their teachers

Most early learning centers and preschools are staffed only to meet the minimum ratios to serve the children in their care. Low wages and staff turnover impact the quality of learning in preschools. There is broad agreement about the importance of early childhood experiences and the return on investment that high-quality early learning can have for students’ later years, yet there’s significant underinvestment in the workforce supporting our youngest learners. STARS helps alleviate the financial and capacity challenges many centers face to meet these requirements.

It complements the State of Ohio’s investment in early learning

This initiative complements the State of Ohio’s $73 million annual investment in improving quality in early learning centers. Our initiative supports quality at community-based preschools, thereby lifting the entire local sector.

Adult-child interactions are crucial to success

High-quality learning and teaching begins with teachers. Each moment that teachers and children interact with one another is an opportunity to develop positive relationships. Children are happier, healthier, more confident, and excited to learn when adults nurture relationships and interactions.  If we want to see systemic progress in early learning, the system needs an infusion of quality professional development, resources, and support for those caring for and teaching our youngest learners.

60% of children entering kindergarten in Akron are not ready to learn

Children who begin kindergarten on track for success are more than twice as likely to read on grade level during the first years of school. We must provide the tools teachers need to prepare our next generation of learners.

Public funding is at stake

Early learning providers that receive public funding must enroll in the state’s quality rating system, called Step up to Quality by 2020 and earn three or more stars by 2025 in order to continue receiving public subsidy. Many centers cannot afford the training and necessary supports to improve their SUTQ ratings. STARS provides expert tools and resources to help preschools navigate the state’s rating system.

How will we reach for the STARS?


GAR Foundation’s investment will advance success for our children by supporting the critical adult relationships in their lives.


STARS provides expert tools and resources to help early learning centers increase their Step Up to Quality rating over two years.


Teachers will receive expert coaching, training on data-informed teaching, and support to complete their Child Development Associate certificate.


Develop family engagement strategies, with a focus on fatherhood programs.


Twenty-four preschools in Akron’s neighborhoods with the greatest needs will participate in the STARS program over two years.


The Early Childhood Resource Center will provide intensive training and coaching in selected early learning centers. Summit Education Initiative will coordinate CLASS™ teacher observations and Transition Skills Summary data.


An overall evaluation of STARS will be conducted by Dr. Peter Leahy from Kent State University’s Center for Public Policy & Health. We seek to demonstrate the value of the various elements of the initiative, and to be transparent about what works.


STARS will provide research-based curricula and tools to help early learning teachers give Akron’s students the right start.

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