People dine at five-star restaurants or watch movies given four stars by reviewers – why shouldn’t parents looking for a quality preschool or child care center have similar guidelines? That’s being planned or implemented in nearly every state, and the people working on methods of assessing, improving and communicating the level of quality are meeting in Washington, D.C., this Thursday and Friday to share ideas. Joan Rocchetta with the Child Care Council of Suffolk said a Quality Rating Improvement System does more than just help parents find a safe place to “park” children under age 5. “So if we can improve and raise the quality of programs the children will benefit,” she said. “In the long run, we’ll all benefit, because children will be better prepared for life.” QualitystarsNY, a ratings system in the works since the middle of the last decade, currently has an estimated 350 to 400 programs participating. Rocchetta said there is “a long way to go.” Parents will benefit from a ratings system, she added, but so will the child care programs that fall short. “That’s one of the goals. Instead of just rating a program, being able to give them the resources and the guidance to raise the level of quality in those programs,” Rocchetta said. According to Debi Mathias, one of the organizers of the Washington, D.C., conference, 60 percent of children from birth to age 5 in America spend time in the care of someone other than their parents. “That’s amazing, isn’t it?,” she exclaimed. “We want to make sure that the experiences children are having are really focused on providing the best possible support for them, so that they can be solidly ready for school – and for life in general, too.” Attendees will see the latest research in the field. Mathias said a “tipping point” has been reached, with nearly every state or territory either planning, steering, rolling out or revising a Quality Rating Improvement System.