Independent Evaluation of California’s Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Quality Rating and Improvement System: Cumulative Technical Report

Laura Hawkinson
Deborah Parrish
Alejandra Martin
Dong Hoon Lee, AIR
Jill S. Cannon, Lynn A. Karoly, Gail L. Zellman, Susannah Faxon-Mills, Ashley Muchow, and Tiffany Tsai, RAND Corporation
Mechele Small Haggard, Allen, Shea & Associates

The purpose of the Independent Evaluation of California’s Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge (RTT–ELC) Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) is to inform California stakeholders about the ability of the QRIS to accurately measure program quality, differentiate programs with better learning outcomes for children, and provide quality improvement (QI) supports that meet program improvement needs. In January 2014, CDE contracted with AIR and its partners at RAND, Survey Research Management, and Allen, Shea & Associates to conduct a two-year independent evaluation of California’s QRIS during its pilot phase.

This final comprehensive report highlights key findings from the half-term report and presents additional results related to the implementation of the system, quality improvement supports provided through the system, program quality and children’s developmental outcomes, and perceptions of quality and the rating system.

Study Highlights

  • Implementation of the RTT-ELC QRIS was in an early stage at the time the study began, but significant progress has been made over the course of the system’s development, from 2012 to 2015.
  • The dissemination of QRIS ratings has been limited, but analyses of the ratings as well as community input suggest that providing detailed quality element scores in addition to the overall rating may be beneficial.
  • The study provides some evidence of the validity of California’s QRIS ratings, though it is too early in the system’s implementation to draw many conclusions.
  • Study analyses reveal high levels of participation in QI activities by program staff and point to coaching as a promising approach to improving quality.