Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Implementing Quality Rating Improvement Systems for Early Education

A new report finds that Midwest states used a variety of strategies to develop and implement quality rating systems for early childhood education programs. Currently, 49 states across the nation have a quality rating improvement system (QRIS) in some form, but each differs in its approach to defining, rating, supporting, and communicating the quality of early education programs.

This report, conducted by Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest, studied QRISs in its region to describe the different approaches that states have used in development and implementation. The study also examined the ways that the Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge grants program has shifted the landscape and how states have been influenced by the grant process in developing and using their QRISs.

Findings include:

•    The process of applying for a Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge grant helped advance development of a QRIS, even in states that were not awarded a grant. However, capacity and funding to operate and sustain the systems remain challenges;

•    REL Midwest Region states use a variety of direct observations in classrooms to evaluate quality in their QRISs despite the logistical and financial burdens associated with observational assessment;

•    Five REL Midwest Region states use alternative pathways to rate certain early childhood education providers in their QRIS, most commonly accredited or state prekindergarten program providers. Alternative pathways allow providers that already meet some form of quality standards (typically accreditation) to receive a QRIS rating without completing all the self-assessment or observation requirements; and

•    Five states have gained essential provider buy-in and motivate providers to participate by linking subsidy receipt to QRIS ratings and rewarding high-quality programs with higher subsidies.

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