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

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Working with care providers and schools to create a detailed plan and timeline, address availability of funding, and assess capacity allows for more seamless implementation of the rating system.
  • Partnerships with local governments and monitoring organizations and building relationships with parents can generate support for quality rating systems and facilitate buy-in from educational service providers.
  • Quality ratings systems should facilitate opportunities for providers to make improvements and boost their standing in rankings.