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Management Bulletin 21-02

Early Learning and Care Division

Subject: Guidance on Implementation of Program Quality Requirements during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Number: 21-02

Date: January 2021

Expires: June 30, 2021

Authority: California Education Code (EC) Sections 8203 and 8261

Attention: Executive Directors and Program Directors of All Early Learning and Care Programs


This Management Bulletin (MB) provides guidance and reminders to contractors related to meeting contractual requirements in regards to program quality. In addition, this MB provides contractors with additional guidance regarding the implementation of requirements during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.


The California Education Code (EC) Section 8203 requires that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) develop standards and indicators for the implementation of quality programs.

The California Code of Regulations, Title 5 (5 CCR) Section 18272 requires contractors to complete a Desired Results Developmental Profile 2015 (DRDP [2015]) for each child who is enrolled in the program at least ten (10) hours per week, within sixty (60) calendar days of enrollment, and at least once every six (6) months.

The 5 CCR Section 18273 requires contractors to provide program activities and services that are age appropriate, meet the developmental needs of each child, meet the cultural and linguistic needs of children and families, and meet the needs of children with special needs, including children with disabilities, and their families.

The 5 CCR Section 18274 requires contractors to develop and implement a staff development program.

The 5 CCR Section 18275 requires contractors to provide parent involvement and education that includes, but is not limited to, sharing information and conducting at least two (2) individual conferences with parents each year.

The 5 CCR Section 18279 sets forth requirements for contractors for submitting Program Self Evaluations (PSE).

The 5 CCR Section 18280 requires contractors to annually distribute the Desired Results Parent Survey, to parents; collect the surveys from the parents; and analyze the results to plan and conduct activities to help parents support their child's learning and development and to meet the family's needs.

The 5 CCR Section 18281 requires contractors to complete an environment rating scale that is appropriate for the type of setting and age of children served, to measure program quality.

The EC Section 8261 requires the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) to adopt rules and regulations for monitoring and reporting requirements. The 5 CCR Section 18023 requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to complete compliance reviews of contractors. The 5 CCR Section 18279 sets forth requirements for contractors for submitting PSEs.


Contractors operating any one (1) or more of General Child Care and Development Programs (CCTR), California State Preschool Programs (CSPP), Family Child Care Home Education Network (CFCC), Migrant Child Care and Development Programs (CMIG), California Alternative Payment Programs (CAPP), California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Stage 2 (C2AP), CalWORKs Stage 3 (C3AP), California Resource and Referral Programs (CRRP), and/or Severely Disabled Programs (CHAN) must adhere to applicable program quality requirements for children, families, and staff, pursuant to 5 CCR sections 18270.5 through 18281, and to staffing ratios requirements, pursuant to 5 CCR sections 18290 through 18292.


Program Quality Contractural Requirements

State-subsidized early learning and care (ELC) programs are required to continue to provide quality program components to all currently enrolled children and families in compliance with 5 CCR sections 18273 through 18281 and EC 8203, as directed below.

Some program quality contractual requirements only apply to California Alternative Payment Programs (CAPP), California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Stage 2 (C2AP), CalWORKs Stage 3 (C3AP), and California Resource and Referral Programs (CRRP).

Distance learning services may be offered through various methods to maintain the developmental progress of currently enrolled children that are not receiving in-person services. Distance learning services and outreach efforts may include, but are not limited to, home activity packages, lending libraries, phone calls, text messages, emails, online learning platforms and/or video. Contractors preparing activity packets should ensure the delivery of these packets comply with all social distancing requirements.

Parent Involvement and Education (CCTR, CSPP, CMIG, CHAN, CFCC)

Each contractor shall include in its program a parent involvement and education component that includes the following:

  • An orientation for parents that includes topics such as program philosophy, program goals and objectives, program activities, eligibility criteria and priorities for enrollment, fee requirements, and due process procedures
  • At least two (2) individual conferences with the parent(s) per year
  • Parent meetings with program staff
  • An open-door policy that encourages parents to participate in the daily activities whenever possible
    • Per Title 22 (22 CCR) regulations, parents have the right to access their children at all times; however, temporary measures should be taken to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19.
    • Coordination for parents’ visit to the classroom could be made in advance and parents must follow safety procedures (i.e. social distancing [6 feet], facial covering, washing hands or sanitizing prior to entry, health check with temperature check). If more restrictive, local public health guidance must be followed.
  • A Parent Advisory Committee that advises the contractor on issues related to services to families and children
  • Sharing information between staff and parents concerning their child’s progress

Parent orientations, individual conferences, parent meetings, and Parent Advisory Committee meetings should be offered in a virtual space in light of COVID-19. To the greatest extent possible, services should be provided in the family's preferred language.

Education Programs (CCTR, CSPP, CMIG, CHAN, CFCC)

Contractors shall include a child development and education program component that includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • The program approach is developmentally, linguistically, and culturally appropriate to the greatest extent possible
  • The program is inclusive of children with disabilities
    • The program and its staff should participate with the parents and Individualized Education Plan/Individualized Family Service Plan (IEP/IFSP) team to support the care and education of a child with disabilities.
    • The program should work with the IEP/IFSP team to provide appropriate activities and instruction that align with the goals or outcomes set forth in the IEP/IFSP.
  • The program encourages respect for the feelings and rights of others and ensures equitable treatment of all children and eliminates bias through practices
  • The program supports children’s social and emotional development by:
    • Building trust;
    • Planning routines and transitions so they can occur in a timely, predictable, and unhurried manner;
    • Helping children develop emotional security and facility in social relationships.
  • The program provides for the development of each child’s cognitive and language skills by:
    • Using various strategies, including experimentation, inquiry, observation, play, and exploration.
    • Ensuring opportunities for creative self-expression through activities such as art, music, movement, and dialogue.
    • Promoting interaction and language use among children and between children and adults; and
    • Supporting emerging literacy and numeracy development.
  • The program promotes each child’s physical development by providing sufficient time, indoor and outdoor space, equipment, materials, and guidelines for active play and movement.
  • The program promotes and maintains practices that are healthy and safe.

These components must be provided to all children enrolled and should be delivered in-person or in a distance learning format depending upon whether children are receiving in-person or distance learning services. This includes providing the program and services outlined in a child’s IEP/IFSP as applicable. All services provided to enrolled children, whether in person and/or via distance learning, must be individualized and focused on activities that would have meaning and interest to the family and the child.

Staff Development (CCTR, CSPP, CMIG, CHAN, CFCC, CAPP, C2AP, C3AP, CRRP)

Contractors who are currently open or who are physically closed, but funded to be operational, will provide all staff members professional development. Staff Development will comply with 5 CCR Section 18274 and must be documented.

Contractors should provide staff development, or access to professional development through distance learning opportunities for priority topics including, but not limited to, health and safety, child development, supporting resilience and trauma-informed care, implicit bias, effective interactions, and serving children with disabilities.

Contractors should provide staff development using, but not limited to, the resources located on the Early Learning and Care Division (ELCD) COVID-19 Resources web page at, as well as the resources below:

  • View additional resources, including eight (8) comprehensive 60–80-minute Health and Safety Modules for Child Care, by visiting the California Early Childhood Online website at
  • Contact your local Quality Counts California to participate in professional communities of practice by visiting the Quality Counts California website at
  • Contact your local Resource and Referral (R&R) agency for professional development opportunities. Resources are also available on the R&R website at
  • Access to resources, inclusive practices, training and supports for working with children and families with disabilities by visiting the California Department of Developmental Services website at

Early learning and care educators play a role in dismantling systemic racism, the following resources may be useful:

Contractors should also contact the local R&R agency via the CDE R&R Agency List web page at and the local Quality Counts California (QCC) consortia to identify additional resources to meet the needs of children, families, and staff.

Developmental Profile Requirements (CCTR, CSPP, CMIG, CHAN, CFCC)

The DRDP is required for all direct service programs providing ELC services, whether those services are provided in-person or via distance learning. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2020–21, in light of the difficulties programs and teachers are facing due to the pandemic, ELCD will not be monitoring this year to the 60-day requirement set forth in 5 CCR Section 18272(b) and outlined in MB 15-03. The ELCD will allow contractors up to 90 days from the time of a child’s enrollment, to complete the DRDP. In addition, ELCD is allowing all programs to utilize a modified version of the DRDP, the DRDP Modified Essential View, which consists of fewer measures.

The CCTR, CSPP, CFCC, and CMIG contractors are required to submit data in DRDP Online for any rating period for which complete data has been collected. Contractors shall not upload partial data into DRDP Online. Information, resources, and training on the DRDP assessment and DRDP Online can be found on the Desired Results for Children and Families website at Programs had until December 4, 2020, to enter the first assessment into DRDP Online. The system will allow the data for the second assessment to be entered no later than June 1, 2021.

To the best of their ability, programs should be gathering family perspectives about their child’s development and behavior. This information provides important and valid data and facilitates partnering to support children's learning and development. If a family has chosen to shelter-in-place and cannot participate in distance learning services, teachers should document attempts to gather data regarding the child’s development.

Parent Survey (CCTR, CSPP, CMIG, CHAN, CFCC)

All contractors shall annually distribute the Desired Results Parent Survey, as defined in 5 CCR Section 18270.5(d), to parents, collect the surveys from parents and analyze the results. The contractor shall use the parent survey results to plan and conduct activities to help parents support their child’s learning and development and to meet the family’s needs. The contractor shall use the results and analysis of the parent survey as part of its annual self-evaluation process.

Contractors may deliver and collect surveys in a format that is easily accessible and convenient to families. This may include digital surveys, electronic submissions, and/or mailed hard copies. To the greatest extent possible, surveys should be provided in the family's preferred language.

Health and Social Services (CCTR, CSPP, CMIG, CHAN, CFCC)

The CCTR, CSPP, CFCC, and CMIG contractors are required to communicate with families about their progress and the family’s overall well-being. Contractors must identify, refer, and ensure that the families’ health and social services needs are being met. To the greatest extent possible, services should be provided in the family's preferred language.

During this pandemic it is critical to attempt to assess the health and social service needs of all enrolled families on an ongoing basis. For children and families that are receiving distance learning services, contractors must contact each family a minimum of once (1) per week to keep updated on the child and family. Services and outreach efforts must be documented in accordance with 5 CCR sections 18273, 18275, and 18276.

Environment Rating Scales (CCTR, CSPP, CMIG, CHAN, CFCC)

Contractors who operate direct service contract programs and family child care home networks, shall complete an Environment Rating Scale (ERS), as defined in 5 CCR Sections 18270.5 (f), that is appropriate for the type of setting and age of children served to measure program quality (i.e., The Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale [ITERS], The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale [ECERS], The Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale [FCCERS], and The School-Age Care Environment Rating Scale [SACERS]).

  1. Every three (3) years as part of the program compliance review

    For FY 20–21, ELC programs being reviewed by ELCD will complete a questionnaire to describe how the program/family child care home has adapted their environment to meet health and safety guidelines while providing quality learning experiences for the children in the program. Agencies will submit one (1) for each classroom/provider home that is providing in person services, and has been selected as a part of the Contract Monitoring Review (CMR). The questionnaire will be provided by the assigned Program Quality Implementation Regional Consultant.
  2. Annually as part of the self-evaluation process

    Contractors may refer to the document Use of the Environment Rating Scales during Pandemic Conditions, located on the Environment Rating Scales Institute (ERSI) website at Contractors are not expected to meet requirements of a five (5) or above on all subscales as the ELCD understands that scores on some subscales may be lower during the pandemic. The ELCD does expect that Personal Care Routines should be at a five (5) or higher as it is critical for health and safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Contractors must attempt to complete ERS on classrooms and family childcare homes in a manner that will not increase the health risks to the children and childcare providers. Staff who typically complete ERS assessments on multiple classrooms and/or family childcare homes, should ensure that the children, families, and providers are comfortable with them entering the environment. When entering the environment, the CDE encourages all individuals to take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (i.e.: wearing masks and other Personal Protective Equipment).

If children, families, and providers are not comfortable with an individual entering the environment or when local health orders restrict individuals outside of the cohort group from entering an environment, the contractor may do the following:

  • Complete a virtual assessment in partnership with the family childcare provider or center staff
  • Have family childcare providers or center staff complete their own ERS assessment
  • Contractor staff should provide training and technical assistance to support the completion of the ERS

For children that are being provided distance learning services, contractors will not complete ERS virtually on a child’s home.


Each contractor shall include in its program a nutrition component that ensures that the children have nutritious meals and snacks during the time in which they are in the program. The meals and snacks shall be culturally and developmentally appropriate for the children being served and shall meet the nutritional requirements specified by the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) or the School Nutrition Programs (SNP).

The CDE encourages programs, who are providing distance learning services, to provide meals and snacks to meet the needs of children impacted by the food and housing crisis brought on by the pandemic. Contractors that are offering distance learning services are encouraged to provide meals and snacks for children enrolled in the program, but are not required to. Meals can be delivered directly to families and/or available for pick-up at the early learning program.

Under a waiver issued by United States Department of Agriculture, child-care programs may provide non-congregate meals and snacks during FY 2020–21 and be reimbursed for those meals and snacks. The Nutrition Service Division (NSD) hosts a recurring townhall every Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. The NSD discusses policy guidance and sharing best practices for operating the CACFP and SNP programs. The townhall is free to join and you can register by following the link to the NSD’s Webinar: Tuesdays at 2 p.m. School Nutrition Town Hall web page at

Program Self-Evaluation Process (CCTR, CSPP, CMIG, CHAN, CFCC, CAPP, C2AP, C3AP, CRRP)

Each contractor shall develop and implement an annual plan for its program self-evaluation process.

Pursuant to 5 CCR Section 18279, the annual plan shall include the following:

  1. A self-evaluation based on the use of the Federal Program Monitoring (FPM) or Contract Monitoring Review (CMR).
  2. An assessment of the program by parents using the Desired Results Parent Survey, as defined in 5 CCR Section 18270.5(d).
  3. An assessment of the program by staff and board members as evidenced by written documentation.
  4. An analysis of the FPM/CMR findings, including the Desired Results Developmental Profiles, the Environment Rating Scales, and the Desired Results Parent Survey, each of which are defined in 5 CCR Section18270.5, together with all other self-evaluation findings.
  5. A written list of tasks needed to modify the program in order to address all areas that need improvement, as indicated in the analysis in (4) above.
  6. Procedures for the ongoing monitoring of the program to assure that areas of the program that are satisfactory continue to meet standards, and areas requiring modification are addressed in a timely and effective manner.

The contractor shall use the Agency Self-Evaluation Report, as defined in 5 CCR Section 18270.5, to submit a summary of the findings of the program self-evaluation to the CDE by June 1 of each year.

The contractor shall modify its program to address any areas identified during the self-evaluation as needing improvement.

The ELCD will be providing additional guidance about the narrative and submission of the Program Self Evaluation in Spring 2021.

Staffing Ratios (CCTR, CSPP, CMIG, CHAN, CFCC)

Contractors shall maintain at least the following minimum ratios in all centers:

  • Infant (birth to 18 months old)
    • 1:3 adult-child ratio
    • 1:18 teacher-child ratio
  • Toddler (18 months to 36 months old)
    • 1:4 adult-child ratio
    • 1:16 teacher-child ratio
  • Preschool (36 months to enrollment in kindergarten)
    • 1:8 adult-child ratio
    • 1:24 teacher-child ratio
  • Children enrolled in kindergarten to 13 years old
    • 1:14 adult-child ratio
    • 1:28 teacher-child ratio

The program may exceed adult-child ratios prescribed by 5 CCR section 18290 by fifteen percent of the total number of children in attendance, for a period of time not to exceed one hundred twenty (120) minutes in any one (1) day.

The ratio for preschool during a scheduled nap period may be a 1:24 teacher–child ratio, provided that the remaining staff necessary to meet the adult–child ratio specified in 5 CCR Section 18290 are immediately available at the center. All napping children shall remain on a cot/mat. If one (1) child gets up, additional staff need to be called in immediately to meet the required adult–child ratio.

Contractors providing distance learning services shall maintain ratios in a virtual environment, when possible.

A qualified teacher is an individual with a permit issued by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing authorizing service in the care, development, and instruction of children in an ELC program. This can be any of the following permits:

  • Regular Children’s Center Instructional Permit
  • Limited Children’s Center Instructional Permit
  • Emergency Children’s Center Instructional Permit
  • Child Development Master Teacher Permit
  • Child Development Teacher Permit
  • Child Development Associate Teacher Permit (Note: This permit authorizes the holder to supervise Assistant Permit holders and an aide.)


A current credential issued by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing authorizing teaching service in elementary school or a single subject credential in home economics, and 12 units in Early Childhood Education and/or Child Development or two (2) years’ experience in early childhood education or a child care and development program.

Contract Monitoring Reviews (CMR)

The CDE will continue to conduct CMRs however, in light of COVID-19, most reviews will be conducted through virtual means, except as otherwise deemed necessary. The CDE will continue to support contractors, as always, by providing technical assistance, training and updating information.


The California Department of Education (CDE), Early Learning and Care Division (ELCD) has developed a COVID-19 guidance and resource web page that includes answers to frequently asked questions, all management bulletins issued to implement pertinent legislation, and other relevant resources which can be found at

To be informed of the updated information, please sign up for Early Learning and Care Division's email distribution list at

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Community Care Licensing Division (CCDL) has developed Provider Information Notices (PINs) to formal communicate important license-related information to CCLD-licensed providers. These PINs can be found on the CDSS website at

For more information about federal and state guidance and response to COVID-19, please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at, the California Department of Public Health’s website at, and the California COVID-19 Response website at

If you have any questions regarding the information in this MB, please contact your assigned ELCD, Program Quality Implementation (PQI) Office Regional Consultant via the CDE Consultant Regional Assignments web page at or by phone at 916-322-6233.

This MB is mandatory only to the extent that it cites a specific statutory and/or regulatory requirement. Any portion of this MB that is not supported by a specific statutory and/or regulatory requirement is not prescriptive pursuant to California EC Section 33308.5.

Stephen Propheter, Director
Early Learning and Care Division

Questions:   Early Learning and Care Division | 916-322-6223
Last Reviewed: Thursday, July 27, 2023
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