The Environment Rating Scales (ECERS-3, FCCERS-3, ITERS-3, SACERS Updated Edition) are designed to assess process quality in an early childhood or school age care group. Process quality consists of the various interactions that go on in a classroom between staff and children, staff, parents, and other adults, among the children themselves, and the interactions children have with the many materials and activities in the environment, as well as those features such as space, schedule, and materials that support these interactions. Process quality is assessed primarily through observation and has been found to be more predictive of child outcomes than structural indicators such as staff to child ratio, group size, cost of care, and type of care (for example, child care center or family child care home).
In order to provide care and education that will permit children to experience a high quality of life while helping them develop their abilities, a quality program must provide for the three basic needs all children have: protection of their health and safety; building positive relationships; and opportunities for stimulation and learning from experience. No one component is more or less important than the others, nor can one substitute for another. It takes all three to create quality care. Each of the three basic components of quality care manifests itself in tangible forms in the program's environment, curriculum, schedule, supervision and interaction, and can be observed. These are the key aspects of process quality that are included in the environment rating scales.
Our scales define environment in a broad sense and guide the observer to assess the arrangement of space both indoors and outdoors, the materials and activities offered to the children, the supervision and interactions (including language) that occur in the classroom, and the schedule of the day, including routines and activities. The support offered to parents and staff is also included.
All of our scales have been developed in close collaboration with realistic field-based sites. They have good interrater reliability and validity, thus making them suitable for research and program evaluation, as well as program improvement efforts.