Early Childhood Systems Building Resource Guide

States have recently begun to embed elements of PDCA into their QRIS policies and practices. According to Mathias, “States are envisioning the ‘I’ in QRIS”[1] and building continuous quality improvement processes into their systems. Some states have specifically included the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle as part of their QRISs. Below are examples of ways that states, intermediaries, and direct-service providers make Plan-Do-Check-Act come to life in a QRIS.[2]

State Level

  • Created a state-level position that focused solely on strengthening PDCA at the state, intermediary, and provider levels.
  • Included standards requiring providers to have policies and procedures (such as Plan-Do-Check-Act) for making ongoing improvements.
  • Established a policy requiring that QRIS standards have multiple sources of evidence.
  • Ensured that the intermediary organization that operates the QRIS has two-way feedback loops that connect direct-service providers to the QRIS administrator.
  • Brought multiple stakeholders to the QRIS planning and implementation process through service on committees. Examples of stakeholders include public agencies (child and family, education, and health and human services), child care resource and referral agencies, higher education, the professional development system, foundations, advocates, local schools, Head Start, and child care providers who represent the state’s diverse demographics and geography.
  • Acted on feedback from direct-service providers and changed policy. For example, providers were concerned about new requirements for staff credentials. The state office overseeing implementation investigated. The new requirement had caused a dramatic increase in the number of credential applications, which resulted in an increase in the time it took to get the credential. (The credential program was run by an intermediary.) Thus, direct-service providers would fail to meet the requirements. In response, the state changed the policy and allowed application rather than receipt of the credential, along with a one-year grace period, for the requirement. By having feedback loops and being flexible, the state modeled continuous quality improvement.
  • Planned for the governor’s transition and for significant staff turnover. Briefed incoming leadership about the goals of the state’s early childhood system so there would be continued progress toward achievement of the state’s goals.

Intermediary Level

  • Identified what data were needed to ensure that the communication loop between the QRIS administrator and direct-service programs was working; established procedures for the communication loop.
  • Restructured access to trainings and trainers after reviewing data that revealed challenges in hiring highly qualified trainer candidates.
  • Used research to identify what goods and services best support direct-service providers and then made those goods and services available to providers.
  • Gathered data from coaches regarding the challenges and barriers that providers experience. Results showed that there was inconsistency between licensing requirements and QRIS standards for handwashing and diapering procedures. Providers were confused and frustrated. They become discouraged and disengaged from the QRIS and shared their experiences with other providers. These data were shared with the state. The decision was made to use licensing as the standard for handwashing and diapering.
  • Provided the state with quantitative and qualitative data about the significant increase in the number of programs requesting assessment. (This resulted in the state expanding the intermediary’s scope of work to accommodate the increased volume.)
  • Solicited information from direct-service providers about the quality of support services.

Direct-Service Level

  • Used data from tools—such as self-assessments, valid and reliable observation instruments, and parent and staff satisfaction surveys—to create a plan for improvement and monitored changes.
  • Accessed resources such as coaches, mentors, and consultants to support teachers.
  • Secured financial resources—such as grants—needed to make improvements.
  • Completed an annual survey to provide feedback to the training organization (intermediary).
 

[1] Mathias, D. (2015). Impact of the Early Learning Challenge on State Quality Rating and Improvement Systems. In Dichter, H. (Ed.), Rising to the Challenge: Building Effective Systems for Young Children and Families. Washington, DC: The BUILD Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.buildinitiative.org/OurWork/StateandLocal/EarlyLearningChallenge.aspx.

[2] Wiggins, K., & Mathias, D. (2013). Continuous quality improvement: An overview report for state QRIS leaders. Washington, DC: The BUILD Initiative.