Early childhood quality rating and improvement systems

Program basics

  • Systemic approach to assess and improve the quality in early and school-age care and education programs
  • Systems generally define a set of program standards and award ratings to educational institutions that meet them
  • Well-developed systems include quality standards, supports for providers, financial assistance and incentives, monitoring processes, and public engagement
  • Can be implemented at the local, regional, or state level

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Strong (second-highest tier)


Strong (second-highest tier)

Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

Target population

All school-aged children

Program cost

Not available

Implementation locations

Dates active


Outcomes and impact

  • Some evidence for improved quality of participating early childhood programs
  • Programs participating appear to improve over time
  • Associated in some cases with increased cognitive skills, literacy growth, and school readiness among children
  • Increase in parents' understanding of local early care and education quality landscape
  • Associated with an increase in teaching quality, including knowledge in instructional and emotional support
  • Creates financial incentives and opportunities for educators to improve their learning environment and strategies; incentives include CCDF subsidy reimbursement rates, bonuses, quality grants, merit awards, refundable tax credits, and scholarships

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Work with care providers and schools to create a detailed plan and timeline, address availability of funding, and assess capacity in order to ensure a more seamless implementation of the rating system.
  • Partner with local governments, monitoring organizations, and parents to generate support for quality rating systems and facilitate buy-in from educational service providers.
  • Implement ratings systems that facilitate opportunities for providers to make improvements and boost their standing in rankings.
  • Collect data on providers’ improvements once the program is implemented, and subsequently restructure programs in an appropriate manner to maximize effectiveness.
  • Motivate governments to offer subsidy funds or other financial incentives for programs in order to boost participation and effectiveness.
  • Implement quality rating and improvement systems that are customized to your childhood programs’ needs; sufficient data collection and evaluation, pilot programs, and redesign before implementation all lead to more successful QRIS.