Assessing the Validity of the Qualistar Early Learning Quality Rating and Improvement System as a Tool for Improving Child-Care Quality

Assessing the Validity of the Qualistar Early Learning Quality Rating and Improvement System as a Tool for Improving Child-Care Quality

Assessing the Validity of the Qualistar Early Learning Quality Rating and Improvement System as a Tool for Improving Child-Care Quality

Assessing the Validity of the Qualistar Early Learning Quality Rating and Improvement System as a Tool for Improving Child-Care Quality

Synopsis

As a result of the generally low quality of child care in the United States, quality rating and improvement systems (QRISs) are proliferating in the child-care arena. This study examines the QRIS developed by Qualistar Early Learning, a nonprofit organization based in Colorado, evaluating how reliable the system1s components are, whether the QRIS process helped providers to improve, and whether and how much children benefit from such improvement.

Excerpt

The generally low quality of child care in the United States has led to calls to improve quality. One approach to quality improvement that has been embraced widely of late involves the development and implementation of quality rating systems (QRSs), multicomponent assessments designed to make child-care quality transparent and easily understood. Participating providers are assessed on each of the system components and receive a summary rating that they are encouraged to display. In theory, these simple, readily understood ratings (often 0–5 stars, or a rating of 1–4) will enable parents, funders, and other stakeholders to make more informed choices about which providers to use and support, and will encourage providers to improve. Quality rating and improvement systems (QRISs) also include feedback, technical assistance, and incentives to both motivate and support quality improvement.

A key limitation on QRSs and QRISs is the lack of data about these systems—how well they measure what they purport to measure, whether providers that participate in QRISs actually improve the quality of the care they provide, and whether children benefit from the improved care they are receiving.

Qualistar Early Learning, a Colorado-based nonprofit organization, was one of the first to create a QRIS. Qualistar approached RAND in 2000, asking for help in evaluating the validity of the Qualistar QRIS. RAND assessed the five Qualistar QRIS components separately, then examined how they related to each other; compared Qualistar QRIS measures to other, established measures of quality; and examined whether quality improvements as measured by the Qualistar QRIS components were associated with better child outcomes.

This report describes the results of our work, conducted from 2000 to 2007. It should be of interest to early childhood educators and policymakers concerned with improving childcare quality and to researchers working to develop better measures of care quality. Elements of this work may be found in Perlman, Zellman, and Le (2004), Le et al. (2006), and Zellman and Perlman (2006).

This study was carried out by RAND Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation, and was funded by Qualistar Early Learning. The study reflects RAND Education’s mission to bring accurate data and careful, objective analysis to the national discussion on early care and education. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Qualistar Early Learning.

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