First 5 LA Investments in Quality: Early Care & Education (ECE)
Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)
In order to ensure that every child in Los Angeles County receives a high-quality early education, First 5 LA funds multiple ongoing efforts. As a way to evaluate and improve the quality of early learning programs, states across the country have begun to implement the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). Essentially, QRIS is a systemic approach to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality of a given early learning program. QRIS awards quality ratings to early learning programs on a scale of 1 to 5, and develops its assessment using a defined matrix that measures and rates programs based on components such as adult-child interactions, physical environment, curriculum, and access to developmental and health screenings. After programs are assessed, they are connected with a support network of coaches that help them to improve quality of care for children by providing individualized resource and technical assistance. Therefore, not only does participation in QRIS help families to identify high-quality programs, but it also helps the programs to improve their quality of care for participants.
While California has begun to implement QRIS across the state and is making strides to define and promote quality across programs, standards and implementation are still localized and inconsistent. Additionally, participation in QRIS is voluntary, and each county determines which providers to include in its QRIS, what incentives it offers for participation, and the types of supports it offers to programs. Thus, given the lack of a formal incentive structure or requirements at the state level, only about 14 percent of licensed providers in the state participate in QRIS. Locally, the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) and First 5 LA are working closely with QRIS implementing agencies to align funding streams and to ensure that the system within the county is as streamlined and supportive as possible. First 5 LA specifically administers the funding allocated through First 5 CA’s Improve and Maximize Programs so All Children Thrive (IMPACT) framework, as well as its own local investments in LA County’s QRIS, Quality Start Los Angeles (QSLA). As of June 2018, 859 sites and homes across LA County are participating in QRIS, which accounts for over 43,000 infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. While QRIS is still severely underutilized across the county, First 5 LA and its partners are working together to ensure that not only all early learning programs are properly assessed, but that they receive the support necessary to provide every child, regardless of location, with a high-quality early education.
[v]First 5 LA. A Child Better Prepared for Kindergarten is a Child Better Prepared for Life(2018)