Local Quality Improvement Efforts and Outcomes Descriptive Study: Final Report

Laura E. Hawkinson
Raquel L. González
Kiana Abram
Rachel A. Valentino
Deborah Parrish, AIR
Gail L. Zellman, Jill S. Cannon, Lynn A. Karoly, Beth Katz, and Teryn Mattox, RAND Corporation

Quality rating and improvement systems (QRISs) constitute an ambitious policy approach to improving early care and education practices and child outcomes. A QRIS is a uniform set of ratings, graduated by level of quality, used to assess and improve early learning and care programs. The objective ratings are intended to help families identify quality programs, guide providers in making improvements, and help policymakers make decisions about allocating resources and targeting technical assistance. A comprehensive QRIS also provides workforce development, financial incentives, and other supports to improve quality.

In December 2011, California won a federal Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant to develop a locally driven approach to establishing QRISs for early learning and care programs. In January 2013, a network of Early Learning Challenge Regional Leadership Consortia in 16 counties began implementing QRISs that expanded and strengthened pre-existing quality improvement initiatives.

The purpose of this study, conducted by AIR and the RAND Corporation, is to support the state of California and its counties in their efforts to build robust, evidence-based quality improvement systems. Specifically, the study:

  • summarizes information on QRISs in other states, including validation and impact studies of these systems;
  • describes the characteristics and strengths of pre-existing local initiatives in California;
  • reviews the planning and early implementation of the local QRISs supported by the RTT-ELC grant;
  • compares the elements of the pre-existing local systems with those proposed by the California Early Learning Quality Improvement System (CAEL QIS) Advisory Committee in 2010 and by the RTT-ELC Consortia in late 2012;
  • synthesizes information from existing evaluations of local quality improvement (QI) initiatives;
  • describes the characteristics of providers participating in local quality improvement systems (QISs) and QRISs and the children and families served by them, using data from select local systems;
  • identifies promising practices for program improvement and professional development (drawing on literature from other states as well as from California);
  • describes the dissemination of quality information to parents and describes how families use information to guide their early learning and care choices;
  • provides recommendations for refining the RTT-ELC Regional Leadership Consortia Quality Continuum Framework; and
  • offers suggestions for the implementation of local QRISs, for system monitoring and improvement, and for a state role in supporting these efforts.