Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)

The QRIS Resource Guide defines quality rating and improvement systems as “a systematic approach to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early and school-age care and education programs.” [2]

QRISs are intended to improve the quality of early and school-age care and education programs through the alignment and coordination of system-wide initiatives. A QRIS may offer states several opportunities:

  • Increase quality of early care and education services
  • Increase parents’ understanding of and demand for higher quality early care and education
  • Increase professional development opportunities, benchmarks, and rewards for a range of early care and education practitioners and providers
  • Create a cross-sector framework that can link standards, technical assistance, monitoring, finance, and consumer engagement for programs in a range of settings, including FCC homes, child care centers, school-based programs, Head Start programs, early intervention, and others
  • Develop a roadmap for aligning many pieces of the early care and education system, such as child care licensing, Prekindergarten, and Head Start program oversight; national program accreditation; early learning guidelines; subsidy administration; technical assistance; training; quality initiatives; professional development systems; and others

Lead Agencies may want to consider including components in the QRIS that accomplish the following:

  1. Support and assess the quality of child care providers in the state
  2. Build on state licensing standards and other state regulatory standards for such providers
  3. Improve the quality of different types of child care providers and services
  4. Describe the safety of child care facilities
  5. Build the capacity of state early childhood programs and communities to promote parents’ and families’ understanding of the state’s early childhood system and the ratings of the programs in which the child is enrolled
  6. Provide, to the maximum extent practicable, financial incentives and other supports designed to expand the full diversity of child care options and help child care providers improve the quality of services
  7. Accommodate a variety of distinctive approaches to early childhood education and care, including but not limited to, those practiced in faith-based settings, community-based settings, child-centered settings, or other settings that offer a distinctive approach to early childhood development

QRISs are often inclusive of multiple settings and approaches to early care and education. Lead Agencies indicate the types of settings or distinctive approaches to early care and education that participate in the QRIS, including the following:

  • Licensed child care centers
  • Licensed family child care (FCC) homes
  • License-exempt providers
  • Early Head Start programs
  • Head Start programs
  • State Prekindergarten or preschool programs
  • Local district-supported Prekindergarten programs
  • Programs serving infants and toddlers
  • Programs serving school-age children
  • Faith-based settings
  • Tribally operated programs
  • Other

Resources: QRIS

Information about states’ QRIS efforts can be found in the Quality Compendium, a comprehensive resource for information about all of the QRISs operating in the United States. It was developed by a partnership of the BUILD Initiative, the Early Learning Challenge Collaborative, and Child Trends.

The following resources may also be useful:

  • QRIS Resource Guide, by the National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance (n.d.), provides guidance for states as they explore key issues and consider decision points during the planning and implementation of a QRIS.
  • Quality Rating and Improvement System Fact Sheets (2020), by the National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance, is a series of fact sheets about the state of quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) with data compiled from the Quality Compendium

[1] CCDBG Act of 2014 658G(b)(3); Child Care and Development Fund, 45 C.F.R. § 98.53(a)(3) (2016).

[2] National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance. (n.d.). QRIS resource guide. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. https://ecquality.acf.hhs.gov/