What is QRIS – Quality Rating and Improvement System?
The QRIS system was developed on a state-by-state basis beginning in the late 1990’s to support the standardization of quality for child care. In a general sense, QRIS functions as a star system (similar to hotels and restaurants) for child care organizations.
The goal of these systems is to support and guide the improvement of program quality, empower parents with the information needed to pick the right provider for their children, and bring more transparency on a policy and funding level so that investments are made appropriately.
In the last 20 years, each state has engaged in developing their own unique systems that typically measure quality based on a variety of elements that account for licensing, learning environment, program quality, professional development, administration, family engagement and assessments. Here are some examples:
- Pennsylvania Keystone Stars
- Texas Rising Stars
- Oklahoma Reaching For The Stars
- Wisconsin Youngstar Program
With states developing these systems on different timelines, there has been a shift towards national coalitions to bring systems together. The National Association for the Education of Young Children even began an initiative in 2005 to make the quality rating and accreditation process more streamlined on a federal level.
Why Is QRIS Important For Your Child Care Business?
Participation in the QRIS is usually voluntary in most states. Engaging in your state’s QRIS system is a good way to establish best practices at your child care center. By doing this, it will be helpful for you and your team to identify areas of improvement and focus on them.
Getting your child care business quality rated has a direct impact on your credibility as a child care business. State agencies and funding sources usually use an organization’s QRIS as a way to determine which businesses to give grants to.
The public nature of the rating also empowers parents with the knowledge to evaluate their options and find the best fit for their families. This transparency is great for ensuring that all parties are on the same page in terms of defining what “quality” looks like in the sector.
Elements of QRIS For Child Care
Now, we’ll unpack the different areas that impact how a child care center scores on the QRIS system. As a child care business owner, these are the main things that should be on your radar in order to run a successful program.
Each state has its own agency that issues and regulates child care licenses. Licensing covers the basic standards of operating a program including health and safety, teacher-child ratios, group size, emergency plans, staff requirements. Getting your program licensed by your state should be the first step before opening your business to ensure that you are meeting the minimum requirements to care for young children.
While each program is allowed to design their space differently, it is important to consider the physical environment that children will be learning in. The space needs to be safe but also include engaging and developmentally appropriate materials to provide children with opportunities to interact with their environment in an age- and developmentally-appropriate way.
The quality of early childhood educators that staff your child care center plays a big role in influencing your quality rating. As a business owner or director, ensuring that your staff have time dedicated to professional development is key to ensuring that your team is always keeping up with the latest developments in the field. Investing in your team with the mindset of growing talent as your business grows is a sustainable way of expanding your child care.
Administration is another part of running your center. It’s important that processes and policies are put in place to manage the daily operations of your center so that everything can run smoothly. This includes having a family policy document that outlines things like nutrition, hygiene, procedures for incidents and such. The key is to be transparent when setting expectations so that all parties are on the same page.
Quality is not purely defined internally. Working with young children naturally means working really closely with their families. It’s all about building relationships and QRIS takes family relationships into account when assessing the quality of a program. The communication between home and preschool is key to building a feedback loop that will enrich a child’s experience at your center.
When working with children, observing and documenting is key. Having an in-house assessment tool that teachers can use to track their children’s progress will enhance the way educators develop their lesson plans. Having individualized notes on each child will allow more attention to each child during small group time. The goal with assessments is to have a running log of how a child is developing in order to support them in the best way possible.
Program quality is a collection of all these factors – from basic operational details to the way your teachers are documenting and using that information to adapt lesson plans. A good quality program is constantly evolving to keep up with the times, while providing children with a rich environment to learn with their peers.
HiMama And Pearson Assessment Integration To Improve Quality Rating
A common challenge faced by early education programs that prioritize quality is the amount of work required to send observation updates to parents while also documenting developmental milestones for assessment purposes. With a research-based assessment available within HiMama, educators can now utilize their observational notes for parent updates and assessments.
From a quality rating perspective, this shift has the potential to have a huge impact on three key elements: Authentic Assessments, Family Engagement and Professional Development.
By removing repetitive written documentation traditionally required to log this information, the teacher’s documentation process becomes more authentic. This method of tracking a child’s development also makes sense for a workforce that is comfortable with technology.
Having The Ounce Scale and Work Sampling System available in a centralized tool also supports professional development as educators have the developmental milestones available at their fingertips. This ease-of-access supports educators in tailoring their lesson plans and adapting their activities according to the individual needs of the children they are working with.
As educators consistently map their observations onto assessments for each developmental domain, a holistic picture of the child’s development can be built by taking multiple educators’ input into account. This assessment grows with the child throughout their time at the child care and gives educators and parents better insight into their development. From a family perspective, this changes the way they engage with their child’s education as they become more informed and more involved in the process by virtue of the knowledge sharing.
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Interested in seeing how HiMama & Pearson Assessments can improve the quality of your programming? Learn more today!