Development and Implementation of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems in Midwest Region States
Recent federal and state policies that recognize the benefits of high-quality early childhood education and care, such as the Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge and the Preschool for All initiative, have led to a rapid expansion of quality rating and improvement systems (QRISs). Although 49 states implement a QRIS in some form, each system differs in its approach to defining, rating, supporting, and communicating program quality.
This study examined QRISs in use across the Midwest Region to describe approaches that states use in developing and implementing a QRIS. The purpose was to create a resource for QRIS administrators to use as they refine their systems over time. Researchers used qualitative techniques, including a review of existing documents and semistructured interviews with state officials in the Midwest Region to document the unique and common approaches to QRIS implementation.
Findings suggest that the process of applying for a Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge grant helped advance the development of a QRIS system, even in states that were not awarded funding. Also, all seven states in the Midwest Region use a variety of direct observations in classrooms to measure quality within each QRIS, despite the logistical and financial burdens associated with observational assessment.
Five of the states in the Midwest Region use alternate pathways to rate certain early childhood education programs in their QRIS, most commonly for accredited or state prekindergarten programs. Finally, linking state subsidies and other early childhood education funding to QRIS participation encouraged early childhood education providers to participate in a QRIS. Developing and refining a QRIS is an ongoing process for all states in the Midwest Region and systems are continually evolving. Ongoing changes require policymakers, researchers, providers, and families to periodically relearn the exact requirements of their QRISs, but if changes are based on evidence in the field of changing needs of children and families, revised QRISs may better measure quality and better serve the public. Findings from this report can help inform the decisions of state QRIS administrators as they expand and refine their systems.