Observation Tools

Observation Tools

Programs must select either the Environment Rating Scale (ERS) and/or the Classroom Assessment Scoring System™ (CLASS™) observation tool and complete the required training for that tool.

Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)

CLASS is an observation tool that measures the effectiveness of classroom interactions among teachers and children, including emotional support, classroom organization and instructional support. These daily interactions promote children’s social and cognitive development.

CLASS observation tools have been developed for Infant, Toddler, Pre–K, K–3, Upper Elementary and Secondary age groups. At every age level, CLASS focuses on interactions that support learning.

The CLASS Self Assessment Form can be used by directors and teachers to internally identify strengths and focus on changes the program plans to make. Click here to access the CLASS Self Assessment form.

Environment Rating Scales (ERS)

ERS is an observation tool that assesses the quality of interactions between adults and children, including classroom schedules, materials and spaces available and accessible to children. The use of ERS is a widely accepted method of evaluating and improving the quality of home– and center–based programs.

Environment Rating Scales is broadly defined and currently includes the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Third Edition (ECERS-3), the Infant Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Third Edition (ITERS–3), and the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale–Revised (FCCERS–R).

The ERS Self Assessment Form can be used by directors and teachers to internally identify strengths and focus on changes the program plans to make. Click here to access the ERS Self Assessment form.



One area that will impact your Step Up to Quality rating is your choice of curriculum. Step Up to Quality recommends curriculum tools that:

If your curriculum does not appear on this list, you can submit your curriculum for review and approval by completing the Curriculum Alignment Form.



Step Up to Quality assists participating programs and providers in improving quality and increasing positive child outcomes, including nutrition and physical activity outcomes.

Go NAP SACC, the Go Nutrition and Physical Activity Self–Assessment for Child Care, provides free resources to equip programs with the education, skills and tools necessary to achieve their goals and earn points related to health, nutrition and physical activity. Go NAP SACC targets children from birth to 5.

Step Up to Quality programs interested in achieving Step 2 or higher must complete the online Go NAP SACC Orientation Training and Pre Self–Assessment.

Additional Go NAP SACC elements are available for programs at Step 3 and higher. A Go NAP SACC trainer can help providers develop actions plans and reach goals related to health, nutrition and physical activity.

Go NAP SACC Orientation Training

To complete the Go NAP SACC Orientation Training, visit the Go NAP SACC website. Once on the site, enter your login information or create a new account.

Professional Development + Training

Training Opportunities

Child care and early childhood education programs have access to many professional development opportunities through Step Up to Quality. Some trainings are free and some have a registration fee. Training opportunities include:

  • Safe with You
  • Management Training
  • Getting Down to Business
  • Early Learning Guidelines
  • Environment Rating Scales
  • Classroom Assessment and Scoring System
  • Curriculum Training

Visit the Nebraska Early Childhood Training Calendar to find a current listing of trainings offered.

Step Up to Quality Orientation

To learn more about Step Up to Quality, register for an online or in-person orientation session.

Training Approval

The Early Childhood Training Center approves training used to satisfy child care licensing criteria, annual in-service and training needed for participation or advancement in Step Up to Quality. For more information on training approval, click here.

Early Learning Connection

Nebraska’s Early Learning Connection (ELC) is an integrated system of early childhood professional development. The ELC consists of a statewide hub at the Early Childhood Training Center and seven regional ELC partnerships, along with other state and regional partners. It is designed as a system that supports the career and professional development of all who provide programs and services for young children, birth to 8, that includes:

  • Professional development for early childhood and school-age
  • Supports for implementation utilizing early childhood coaches
  • Program quality assessments
  • Strategic planning with higher education and other adult learning organizations
  • Community engagement and outreach

Click here for more information about ELC.


You don’t have to walk this path alone!

Step Up to Quality coaches help programs of all types, big or small, create individualized goals and action plans to improve quality. Your coach will help you identify and maximize your strengths and guide you along your path to quality improvement.

Step Up to Quality coaches are an asset for ANY program. Our coach provided resources to help us learn more about what we needed to accomplish to raise quality. She worked one–on–one with staff that needed assistance and together we developed action plans and goals.

— Center director, Step 4, Lincoln

Questions your coach might ask:

  • What do you want your program to accomplish?
  • What have you tried so far? How has it worked?
  • What options do you and your staff see for moving forward?
  • What kind of input do you want from a coach?
  • What is your program’s plan for moving up to the next step?
  • How can a coach best support your program?

You are not required to have a coach, but many participating programs agree that this is the most beneficial form of support offered by Step Up to Quality. Coaches provide an extra layer of support and encouragement for you and your program staff as you work toward your goals.

Our coach has been wonderful –– every interaction is positive and individualized for our program and our needs. She has helped us see things from a new perspective, but has also stayed open to how we do things based on our philosophies and goals.

— Center director, Step 2, Omaha

How do I get a Step Up to Quality coach?

Programs enrolled in Step Up to Quality are eligible to request a coach once they complete the requirements for Step 2. If you are interested in a coach, you must complete the Coach Interest Questionnaire over the phone with Step Up to Quality. You can request a call by contacting Morgan Krull at 844-807-5712 or at nde.stepuptoquality@nebraska.gov.

Interested in becoming a Step Up to Quality coach?

If you are a looking for a rewarding career in early childhood and are committed to helping programs understand and implement quality, consider applying to be a Step Up to Quality coach.

Coaches provide constructive feedback and suggestions to programs and collaborate with providers to draft and implement quality improvement plans. They implement a variety of strategies to engage providers in goal–setting and to facilitate growth.

Coach candidates should have a degree in early childhood education or a related field, have excellent oral and written communication skills, strong interpersonal skills and the ability to develop reports and track data. The ideal candidate has five or more years experience working in early childhood or a related field in a leadership role or as a coach or mentor.

For information about coach qualifications, click here.

To apply to be a Step Up to Quality coach, complete the coach application and submit to the Nebraska Department of Education.

For questions about becoming a Step Up to Quality coach, contact Lynne Cook at lynne.cook@nebraska.gov or at 402.471.3501.

Promote Your Participation

Step Up to Quality Toolkit

Congratulations! Your Step Up to Quality rating is a big achievement of which you should be very proud. We know you were already doing a remarkable job with young children and families before this recognition – but Step Up to Quality can help you demonstrate your commitment to your parents and community.

To help you share your big accomplishment with the community, we’ve developed some tools to help you promote your quality-rated status. Feel free to use any or all of the following in your own communications materials.

Press Release & Media Outreach Tips

One way to share your accomplishment with your community is via earned media. Earned media can increase your organization’s credibility and exposure in the community and gain the attention of families in your area.

To help you share your successes through the media, we’ve included a customizable press release template and tips on how to distribute the press release to your local media outlets.

Social Media

If you use Facebook or other social media platforms for your program, we encourage you to promote your participation online! We’ve created a cover photo you can use to identify yourself as a quality-rated provider and have provided a few sample posts for you to use.

Newsletter/Website Blurb

Identifying yourself as a Step Up to Quality provider on your website and/or in your newsletter is a great way to share your quality rating. Just copy and paste!

Parent Letter

Your parents will be thrilled to hear your good news! We’ve put together a simple letter for you to distribute to parents and families.

Program Guide


Program Benefits

Step Up to Quality programs have special access to support and resources that improve quality.

Coaching. You won’t be on this journey alone! Step Up to Quality coaches are provided free of charge to help programs of all types, big or small, create individualized goals and action plans. Your coach will help you identify and maximize your strengths and guide you along your path to quality improvement.

Professional development and training. Access a variety of professional development and networking opportunities, at little to no cost.

Child Care Subsidy reimbursement. If your program receives child care subsidies, you may receive an increase to your subsidy rates once you reach Steps 3-5. You may receive an increase of 5 percent once you move up to Step 3 and an additional 5 percent for each additional step achieved. If your program enters at Step 3, you will not receive an increase until you reach Step 4.

Incentive bonuses. You’ll receive your first incentive bonus when you move up a step for the first time. Use incentive bonuses to pay for program materials like books, toys or professional development opportunities.

 Child Care CentersFamily Child Care Homes
Step 2$500$250
Step 3$750$400
Step 4$1,000$500
Step 5$1,250$600

Financial support and grants. Your Step Up to Quality coach can provide resources and information to help you access additional support and funding via Step Up to Quality partners.

Participating in Step Up to Quality helps us prove or share our level of quality with families. We feel like we do a stand-up job – but having the credentials to validate our work is a huge benefit of the program.

— Center director, Step 4, Lincoln


Our Office

301 Centennial Mall South
P.O. Box 94987
Lincoln, NE 68509-4987

General Contact


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Have a question? We have an answer!

Contact us using the form below or email nde.stepuptoquality@nebraska.gov.

Meet our team!

headshot of Lauri Cimino

Lauri Cimino

Step Up to Quality Director

headshot of Lynne Cook

Lynne Cook

Step Up to Quality Coach Specialist

headshot of Jenny Fleming

Jenny Fleming

Step Up to Quality Quality Specialist

Morgan Krull

Step Up to Quality Program Coordinator

headshot of Diane Lewis

Diane Lewis

Step Up to Quality Rating Specialist

headshot of Ann Adams

Ann Adams

Early Childhood Program Associate

headshot of Melody Hobson

Melody Hobson

Early Childhood Administrator

headshot of Tammi Hicken

Tammi Hicken

Early Childhood Data Manager

headshot of Nicole Vint

Nicole Vint

Child Care Subsidy Administrator

Parents + Families