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Success starts at the beginning in quality early learning and development programs. As an early learning and development program, giving our youngest children the best start in life starts with you.

ExceleRate Illinois helps you prepare children for success in school and in life!

ExceleRate Illinois is the quality rating and improvement system that gives early learning and development programs the framework to make continuous quality improvements and gain recognition for their quality achievements. It also provides standards, guidelines, best practices, benchmarks and resources that they need to support children effectively in quality settings.

ExceleRate is a comprehensive system that includes licensed childcare centers, Preschool for All programs, Head Start programs, and licensed family child care homes. It is administered through Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies under the joint direction of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, the Illinois Department of Human Services, and the Illinois State Board of Education.


To be eligible, DCFS-licensed childcare programs need to be licensed for one year and have attended an ExceleRate Illinois orientation (other eligibility may be required). Please check our training calendar for the next available ExceleRate orientation.

To learn more about this program and opportunities within it, visit the ExceleRate Illinois website.


The Quality Recognition and Improvement System (QRIS) offers progressive levels called Circles of Quality which licensed providers can achieve based on meeting certain standards. Once a childcare provider has met the required criteria for a level, they will be recognized for their achievement and will receive a quality add-on rate to the CCAP standard daily reimbursement rate for any approved CCAP children they are caring for.

ExceleRate IL

The Licensed Circle of Quality is the foundational circle of quality, and recognizes compliance with the licensing  standards of the State of Illinois 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 which 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.


The Quality Improvement Funds grant program is offered through the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to offer continued quality improvement for childcare programs.

Quality Improvement Funds are designed to assist childcare programs to improve program quality and achieve or advance an ExceleRate Illinois Circle of Quality.

The deadline to apply for ExceleRate IL Cohort for center-based programs: October 19, 2023

The deadline to apply for ExceleRate IL Cohort for home-based programs: October 19, 2023

The deadline to apply for FY24 ExceleRate IL Training Stipends is: May 31, 2024

The deadline to apply for FY24 Accreditation Assistance is: May 31, 2024


To find out more about the opportunities available with this funding, please download a copy of the FY24 Quality Improvement Funds Guidelines and Application below.


To download the required W9 form, please click here.

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