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QRIS Is No Crystal Ball

16 Sep 2013 by Ginny Vitiello

A new study, "Can Rating Pre-K Programs Predict Children's Learning?" published in the journal Science concludes that QRISs may not be looking at the criteria that are most meaningfully related to child outcomes.

A Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) is a market-based approach that states have been taking to improve early childhood education. Through a QRIS, early care and education providers are assigned a rating—usually on a 1–5 or 1–4 star system—based on where they fall on a variety of indicators thought to define quality, such as class size and ratios, teacher training, management quality, and so on. In many states, funding for these programs is based on star ratings, and they help families make informed choices about child care. With President Obama’s investment in QRISs through the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, more than forty states have (or are planning to) implement QRISs. Despite the wide expansion, however, little research has been done on them, and no prior study had connected QRIS ratings to child outcomes.

The Science article addresses this gap using data from two large-scale studies of public preschool programs conducted in the early 2000s. Researchers used multiple state QRIS criteria to rate each of the 673 centers. In addition, they included the CLASS observation tool as an additional measure of quality, capturing teacher-child interactions. Results showed that very few of the state rating systems showed any links to child outcomes, but the CLASS observation tool consistently predicted children's math, pre-reading, language, and social skills. The Early Childhood Rating Scale-Revised (ECERS-R) was related to children's math skills; none of the other criteria showed any relations to child outcomes.

These findings throw into question the ways that states define early child care quality and highlight the key role that teacher-child interactions play in providing a warm, nurturing, and stimulating environment for children. What will this mean for your state?

Read more about this study:

Study: States' Methods for Rating Preschool Quality Fail to Predict Children's Readiness for Kindergarten

Study: In Pre-K, Teacher-Student Interaction is Key

QRIS: How the CLASS Measure Fits In

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