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Introduction to the Environment Rating Scales

There are four Environment Rating Scales (ERS), each designed for a different segment of the early childhood field.

  • Each one of the scales has items to evaluate: Physical Environment; Basic Care; Curriculum; Interaction; Schedule and Program Structure; and Provisions for Parent and Staff.
  • The scales are suitable for use in evaluating inclusive and culturally diverse programs.
  • The scales have proven reliability and validity.

Our scales are designed to assess process quality in an early childhood or school age care group.  Process quality is what children directly experience in their programs that has a direct effect on their development, including the various interactions that go on in a classroom between staff and children and 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 even type of care, for example child care center or family child care home (Whitebook, Howes & Phillips, 1995).  The scales also examine other less directly experienced quality which are more structural, such as staff provisions,  parent participation and information, and interactions among adults,

The scales view child development from a comprehensive, or global, point of view, examining a wide variety of areas that all contribute to positive children development. 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 of all children:

  • Protection of their health and safety
  • Supporting and guiding social/emotional development
  • Opportunities for intellectual and language stimulation and appropriate learning activities

No one component is more or less important than the others, nor can one substitute for another.  It takes all three to create quality and education.  Each of the three basic components or quality 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 our 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 inter-rater reliability and validity, thus making them suitable for research and program evaluation, as well as program improvement efforts.  Each scale has a training program.  The ECERS-R, ITERS-R and FCCERS training programs include both print and video (DVD) materials.  Online introductory courses are also available.


- Introduction
- Brief History
- Research Use
- Translations
- The Environment Rating      Scales in Program      Improvement
- Related Work

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