Early childhood quality rating and improvement systems

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities and promote healthy childhood environments. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

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)

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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

1990s-present

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.
Resources