The Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised Edition (ITERS-R™) is a thorough revision of the original Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale (ITERS, 1990). It is one of a series of four scales that share the same format and scoring system but vary considerably in requirements, because each scale assesses a different age group and/or type of child development setting. The ITERS-R™ retains the original broad definition of environment including organization of space, interaction, activities, schedule, and provisions for parents and staff. The 39 items are organized into seven subscales: Space and Furnishings, Personal Care Routines, Listening and Talking, Activities, Interaction, Program Structure, and Parents and Staff. This scale is designed to assess programs for children from birth to 30 months of age, the age group that is most vulnerable physically, mentally, and emotionally. Therefore, the ITERS-R™ contains items to assess provision in the environment for the protection of children's health and safety, appropriate stimulation through language and activities, and warm, supportive interaction.
Admittedly, it is very challenging to meet the needs of infants and toddlers in a group care setting because each of these very young children requires a great deal of personal attention in order to thrive. The economic pressure of raising a family continues to make the use of out-of-home group care for infants and toddlers the norm rather than the exception. Therefore, as a society, we are increasingly aware that we must face the challenge of providing child care settings for very young children that promote optimal development. It has long been the personal challenge of professional early childhood educators to provide the nurturance and stimulation that very young children need on a daily basis. A comprehensive, reliable, and valid instrument that assesses process quality and quantifies what is observed to be happening in a classroom, can play an important role in improving the quality of infant/toddler care.
In order to define and measure quality, the ITERS-R™ draws from three main sources: research evidence from a number of relevant fields (health, development, and education), professional views of best practice, and the practical constraints of real life in a child care setting. The requirements of the ITERS-R™ are based on what these sources judge to be important conditions for positive outcomes in children both while they are in the program and long afterward. The guiding principle here, as in all of our environment rating scales, has been to focus on what we know to be good for children.
Process of Revision
The process of revision drew on four main sources of information: (1) research on development in the early years and findings related to the impact of child care environments on children's health and development; (2) a content comparison of the original ITERS with other assessment instruments designed for a similar age group, and additional documents describing aspects of program quality; (3) feedback from ITERS users, solicited through a questionnaire that was circulated and also put on our website, as well as from a focus group of professionals familiar with the ITERS; and (4) intensive use for more than two years by two of the ITERS co-authors and over 25 ITERS trained assessors for The North Carolina Rated License Project.
The data from studies of program quality gave us information about the range of scores on various items, the relative difficulty of items, and their validity. The content comparison helped us to identify items to consider for addition or deletion. By far the most helpful guidance for the revision was the feedback from direct use in the field. Colleagues from the US, Canada, and Europe who had used the ITERS in research, monitoring, and program improvement gave us valuable suggestions based on their experience with the scale. The focus group discussed in particular what was needed to make the revised ITERS more sensitive to issues of inclusion and diversity.
Changes in the ITERS-R™
While retaining the basic similarities in format and content that provide continuity between the ITERS and ITERS-R™, the following changes were made:
- The indicators under each level of quality in an item were numbered so that they could be given a score of "Yes", "No", or "Not Applicable" (NA) on the scoresheet. This makes it possible to be more exact in reflecting observed strengths and weaknesses in an item.
- Negative indicators on the minimal level were removed from one item and are now found only in the 1 (inadequate) level. In levels 3 (minimal), 5 (good), and 7 (excellent) only indicators of positive attributes are listed. This eliminates the one exception to the scoring rule in the original ITERS.
- The Notes for Clarification have been expanded to give additional information to improve accuracy in scoring and to explain the intent of specific items and indicators.
- Indicators and examples were added throughout the scale to make the items more inclusive and culturally sensitive. This follows the advice given to us by scales users to include indicators and examples in the scale instead of adding a subscale.
- New items were added to several subscales including the following: Listening and Talking: Item 12. Helping children understand language, and Item 13. Helping children use language; Activities: Item 22. Nature/science, and Item 23. Use of TV, video and/or computer; Program Structure: Item 30. Free play, and Item 31. Group play activities; Parents and Staff: Item 37. Staff continuity, and Item 38. Supervision and evaluation of staff.
- Some items in the Space and Furnishings subscale were combined to remove redundancies, and two items were dropped in Personal Care Routines: Item 12. Health policy, and Item 14. Safety policy. Research showed that these items were routinely rated with high scores because they were based on regulation but the corresponding items assessing practice were rated much lower. It is practice that the ITERS-R™ should concentrate on since the aim is to assess process quality.
- The scaling of some of the items in the subscale Personal Care Routines was made more gradual to better reflect varying levels of health practices in real life situations, including Item 6. Greeting/departing, Item 7. Meals/snacks, Item 9. Diapering/toileting, Item 10. Health practices, and Item 11. Safety practices. 8. Each item is printed on a separate page, followed by the Notes for Clarification.
- Sample questions are included for indicators that are difficult to observe.