University of Illinois Urbana‑Champaign

ExceleRate: Licensed Child Care Centers in the ExceleRate Program

ExceleRate Illinois is a statewide quality recognition and improvement system for early learning providers, including licensed child care centers.

teacher with student at child care center

The ExceleRate program is designed to make continuous quality improvement an everyday priority among early learning providers. The program establishes standards for helping infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children develop intellectually, physically, socially, and emotionally. It provides a framework for early learning professionals to identify opportunities for improvement, increase their skills, and take steps to make positive changes.

There are four Circle of Quality designations:

  • The Licensed Circle of Quality is the foundational circle of quality and recognizes compliance with the licensing standards of the state Department of Children and Family Services.
  • The Bronze Circle of Quality recognizes qualifications and professional development, with completion of a robust series of trainings. Bronze Circle trainings are aligned with the standards of ExceleRate Illinois and prepare programs for success as they progress through the Circles of Quality.
  • The Silver Circle of Quality recognizes completion of a rigorous self-assessment and implementation of a continuous quality improvement process, as verified by an independent assessor. Silver Circle programs meet or exceed specific quality benchmarks on learning environment and instructional quality, along with selected administrative standards, qualifications, and professional development.
  • The Gold Circle of Quality recognizes programs that have demonstrated quality on all standards, as validated by an independent assessor. Gold Circle programs meet or exceed specific quality benchmarks on learning environment, instructional quality, and all administrative standards; group size and ratios; qualifications; and professional development.

Child care centers serve families and children from 6 weeks old up to age 13.

Source of definition: ExceleRate Program

Data available on IECAM

Latest data: FY2023 (July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023)

These data are available for all geographic regions on the IECAM database.

IECAM provides data on the total number of sites, which are child care centers licensed by DCFS in a geographic area. Note that:

  • The centers included are those whose regulation status is “regulated/licensed” and whose center type is “Child Care Center,” “CCC Park/Recreation only,” or “Preschool.”
  • Sites that are Head Start-only or Preschool for All-only are not included in these data.
  • Centers that served no children and centers that served “summer only” were not counted in the number of sites.

IECAM also provides data on the number of licensed child care centers with a licensed circle of quality and with bronze, silver, and gold ratings.

Source of data: Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (INCCRRA)