Recommended Quality Standards of Program Practice

Recommended Quality Standards of Program Practice for Maine public preschool programs are based on national research and input from diverse early childhood groups and individuals throughout Maine.

In addition, the following two rule chapters set the overall guidance for Maine schools in guiding program practice.

Recommended Program Practice for Public Preschool Programs

1. Class Size

  • Maximum class size: 16 children

2. Adult to Child Ratio 

  • Maximum adult to child ratio is 1 adult to 8 children
  • Ratios include, at a minimum, one teacher holding appropriate teacher certification from the Maine Department of Education (as per current statute) and a support staff with a minimum of an Educational Technician Authorization II from the Maine DOE. These ratios are maintained during both indoor and outdoor activities.

3. Degree Requirements

  • Teacher degree requirement: Teachers hold (as per current statue) the required Maine DOE Early Childhood 081 (B-5) endorsement. Participation in the Maine Roads to Quality Professional Registry is highly recommended.
  • Assistant teacher requirements: An assistant teacher holds (as per current statute), at a minimum, an Educational Technician II Authorization from the Maine DOE. A background in Early Childhood Education documented by participation in the Maine Roads to Quality Registry is highly recommended.

4. Curriculum and Instruction

Four-year-old programs demonstrate curriculum practice that implements the Maine Early Childhood Learning Guidelines and is appropriate for the age and developmental level of the students. Teachers organize space and select materials in all content and developmental areas to stimulate exploration, experimentation, discovery and conceptual learning. How four-year-old programs implement the guidelines remains entirely a local decision.

  • There are a variety of activity areas including, but not limited to: block building, dramatic play, art, music, science, math, literacy, sand/water play, woodworking, manipulatives, gross motor activities and mealtime routines.      
  • Equipment, materials and furnishings are available and are accessible to all children, including children with disabilities.
  • A daily schedule is posted that includes:
    • Opportunities for physical movement, sensory stimulation, fresh air and nourishment.
    • Opportunities for individual, small group and whole group activities. The amount of time spent in large group, teacher-directed activity is limited.
    • Opportunity for rest in a full-day program.
    • The schedule and program activities minimize the transitions that children make from one classroom space to another. Most special supports or therapies are provided in-class to minimize transitions for children with disabilities.
    • Program development and services to any and all English learners are overseen by an English as a Second Language-endorsed teacher.

5. Screening and Assessment

Programs provide assessment of children’s learning and development, which includes:

  • A hearing, vision and health screening. The health screening includes information pertaining to oral health and lead poisoning awareness.
  • A system for screening individual children to identify those who may be in need of specialized services or intervention.
  • Administration of a home language survey to identify possible English learners.
  • Regular and ongoing assessments that:
    • Document each child’s interests, needs and progress to help plan instruction, relying on demonstrated performance of real, not contrived, activities. Individual child portfolio should contain: work samples, anecdotal notes, checklists and inventories, parent conference notes, health screening reports and referral records for support services.
    • Provide a mechanism for communicating with families (sharing with and obtaining feedback from parents/guardians), in a language understandable to parents/guardians, including providing interpreters and translators.
    • Are aligned with the Early Childhood Learning Guidelines to inform curriculum & instruction.
    • Are informed by family culture, experiences, children’s abilities and disabilities, and home language; are meaningful and accurate; and are used in settings familiar to the children.
    • Allow for differences in learning style and rate.
    • Inform program planning and improvement activities to support individualization.

An initial school record must be established that will follow the child upon entry to kindergarten.

6. Nutrition

The program serves well-balanced meals and/or snacks that follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Child and Adult Care Food Program guidelines.

  • The program serves at least one meal and/or snacks at regularly established times. Meals and snacks are not more than three hours apart.
  • Children are given sufficient time at mealtimes and snacks for each child to eat at a reasonable, leisurely rate.
  • Classroom ratios will be maintained during mealtimes.
  • Meals and/or snacks are culturally responsive to participating families.

7. Physical Environment

Indoor:

Minimum requirement: 45 square feet per child. Areas not to be calculated as usable space include but are not limited to: hallways, lockers, cubbies, door swings, closets, supply cabinets, corridors, bathrooms, teacher spaces, food preparation areas and offices.

  • All classroom spaces are accessible to all children, including children with disabilities.
  • There is a water source in the classroom for hand washing, and drinking water is readily available to children throughout the day.
  • The indoor environment is designed so staff can supervise children by sight and sound at all times. Supervision for short intervals by sound is permissible, as long as teachers check frequently on children who are out of sight (e.g., independent toileting).
  • Toilets, accessible for use by all participating children, are within 40 feet of the indoor areas that children use.
  • Electrical outlets in areas used by preschool-age children shall be protected by safety caps, plugs or other means.
  • Natural light is present in any classroom used for four-year-old program activities.
  • Doors and windows used for ventilation shall be equipped with securely fastened screens.        
  • Easily accessible and individual space shall be made available for children’s outside clothing and personal possessions.     

Outdoor:

The program has access to an outdoor play area with sufficient space for safe play and with equipment of a size suitable to the age and needs of four-year-old children. Recommended outdoor square footage is a minimum of 75 square feet per child.

  • The outdoor play area is protected by fences or natural barriers.
  • Surfaces used under climbers, swings and at the bottom of slides are energy-absorbing materials such as mulch, sand or bark. Concrete or asphalt is not used.
  • Outdoor play areas provide both shade and sun.
  • There are established protocols for emergencies.
  • The playground areas and equipment are accessible to all children.

8. Family and Community Involvement and Support

  • Programs engage in a process of partnership-building with parents to establish mutual trust and to identify family goals, strengths and necessary services and other supports.
  • Programs have written policies and procedures that demonstrate intentional practices designed to foster strong reciprocal relationships with families (e.g., application information, family orientation, parent conferences, parent education, newsletters, PTA participation, home visits, family events, program evaluations, resource and referral), and these policies and procedures are to be translated in a language understandable to parents/guardians.
  • Programs establish relationships with community resources and agencies, such as regional child care resource development centers, child development services (early intervention), child care and area Head Start programs.     

9. Transitions

A process to provide transition between four-year-old programs and the kindergarten program is established. This includes links, by the elementary school, with other area Head Start and early childhood programs serving young children who will be entering kindergarten.

10. Program Evaluation

Programs have an evaluation system that includes:

  • An annual process for gathering information for the purpose of continuous quality improvement.
  • Input from multiple sources including staff, families and broader community.

Recommended program evaluation tools:

  • Classroom Assessment Scoring System. A system for observing and assessing the quality of interactions between teachers and students in classrooms. Measures instructional and social interactions proven to contribute to students' academic achievements and social competencies.
  • Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale. Scale consists of 43 items organized into seven subscales: space and furnishings; personal care routines; language-reasoning; activities; interactions; program structure; and parents and staff.
  • Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation. This toolkit contains three assessment tools: a literacy environment checklist; a protocol to conduct classroom observations and administer teacher interviews; and a literacy activities rating scale.
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children Accreditation. This national, voluntary accreditation system has set professional standards for early childhood education programs and helps families identify high-quality programs for their young children.

11. Transportation

If a school transports public preschool children, it is recommended that the standard of care offered to public preschool students meet the standard of care as defined by “Guideline for the Safe Transportation of Preschool Age Children in School Buses,” which is provided by the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency, as follows:

  • Children should be in a child safety restraint system appropriate for the age, weight and height of the student.
  • There should be at least one aide on board the bus to assist with loading, unloading, correct securement and behavior/emotional support.
  • There will be training, communication and operational policy items for drivers, aides, parents, students and routes.

Learn more about public preschool transportation.