Contra Costa is one of 17 counties in California implementing a pilot QRIS thanks to funding from a federal Race to the Top (RTT) Early Learning Challenge Grant. Our original portion of the grant was $1.4 million, but was increased to $2 million last year. The extra funds will be used to serve more sites and benefit additional children.
QRIS’s rate child care programs using consistent criteria and provide ongoing support to help child care programs improve their quality. QRIS’s also help families easily identify high-quality child care for their children.
The programs in our QRIS represent family child care homes, Head Start sites, state preschool programs, and licensed and license-exempt child development programs. Most sites, as mandated by the grant, are located in low-income communities and serve infants and toddlers, dual language learners, children with special needs, and children eligible for state and federally subsidized programs.
Sites piloting our new system will be rated using the Quality Continuum Framework which includes various elements of quality, such as teacher-child ratios, teacher qualifications, and teacher-child interactions, and will receive scores based on their ratings. In states where QRIS systems are fully implemented, parents are able to refer to ratings to inform their child care choices.
In addition to ratings, our QRIS also creates a system for ongoing quality improvement, including one-on-one coaching, training, and financial incentives for participating programs to make improvements that lead to higher ratings and ultimately higher quality child care.
The federal grant ends in December 2015. Until then, we will continue piloting our rating tools and technical assistance and coaching support, while also working with local, regional and state level stakeholders to determine how to secure funding to take the pilot to scale. The 2014-15 California state budget also includes $50 million to support QRIS efforts, although it has not yet been determined how these funds will be allocated.
Our partners on the QRIS include the Contra Costa County Office of Education, Contra Costa Child Care Council, Contra Costa Community Services Bureau, and the early childhood education departments at Contra Costa College, Diablo Valley College, and Los Medanos College.
Participating in the QRIS is a lot of work! A huge thanks to the 100 sites who have joined us on this exciting and challenging effort.