Skip to main content

Top Ten

Top Ten Questions about QRIS

What is the pace of QRIS growth over the past 18 years?+ Show

1Some states, like California and Florida, have multiple QRIS operating on a county or local level.

As of fall 2017, there were 42 states and districts with at least one quality initiative, including QRIS. Note that some states, like Florida and California, operate quality initiatives on a local rather than state level, so they have multiple systems. This compendium includes three separate profiles for Florida and one for California.

The first quality initiative began operating in 1997. Relatively few became operational each year following that until a jump around the years of 2006 to 2008. The rise in the number of quality initiatives since can be attributed, in part, to the federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant program, which started in 2011 and includes participation rates as a performance metric. Over the past three years, the growth of quality initiatives has slowed, with one or two systems being added each year.

What are the features of curriculum and assessment indicators?+ Show

Fourty-one quality initiatives include indicators related to curriculum. The most common feature of curriculum indicators is alignment with early learning guidelines (71%) and child. Other common features include: assessment results used to guide individualization (42%) and required training on curriculum (31%).  Half of states (50%) include other features of curriculum, such as information on written curriculum plans' alignment with state standards.

The most common approved curricula for infants and toddlers were The High Scope Infant/Toddler Curriculum (20%) and the Creative Curriculum for Family Child Care (20%). The most common ones approved for preschoolers were Creative Curriculum for Preschool (24%) and The High Scope Preschool Curriculum (22%).

The most common feature of assessment indicators is use of child assessments to guide curriculum planning (59%). The most commonly used assessment is Teaching Strategies-Gold Assessment (TS-Gold) (32%), followed by High/Scope Infant-Toddler Child Observation Record (COR) (17%), High/Scope Preschool Child Observation Record (COR) (17%), and Work Sampling System (WSS) (17%). Assessment tools other than those listed previously were used by just under half of states (49%). These include assessments such as Early Learning Scale and HELP (Hawaii Early Learning Profile). 

What were the most commonly used tools to observe program quality?+ Show

In 2017, of the 44 quality initiatives with  center-based early care and education (ECE) programs participating, 41 use an observational tool. Of those 37, 58% (n = 24) use more than one tool. The Environment Rating Scales (ERS) are the most commonly used observational tools for center-based ECE.  Three quarters (75%) of states using the ERS for some purpose, whether for the rating itself or for quality improvement. The Classroom Assessment Scoring System is the second most commonly used tool.  Just over half (55%) of states use the CLASS tool.

Of the 43 states and localities with QRIS indicators for home-based ECE, 40 use an observational tool. Of those 34, 20% (n = 8) use more than one tool. As with Child Care Centers using the ERS, the most commonly used tool for home-based ECE is the FCCERS-R, used by 77% (n=33) of QRIS. After the ERS, the CLASS is second most often-used, by 14% (n=6) of QRIS.

What are the most common types of indicators included in QRIS?+ Show
QRIS Indicator Types for Center- and Home-Based ECE Programs
Indicators Center-Based ECE Home-Based ECE
N= 40 39
Staff qualifications and training 95% 95%
Environment 90% 95%
Program administration, management, and leadership 83% 83%
Curriculum 81% 78%
Family partnerships and engagement 79% 78%
Interactions 71% 73%
Health and Safety 69% 66%
Child assessment 67% 68%
Ratio and group size 57% 59%
Community involvement 52% 49%
Provisions for children with special needs 50% 59%
Other 40% 34%
Accreditation 38% 27%
Staff compensation and benefits 21% --

--Not asked of home-based programs

In 2017, the most common indicators for both center- and home-based programs were related to staff qualifications, which includes standards related to teachers' education, training, and years of experience. Almost all quality initiatives have some indicators related to teacher qualifications for both of these program types (95% for centers, 95% for homes). This was closely followed by indicators related to the quality of the environment (90% for centers, 85% for homes). Across indicators, there were few differences between centers and homes. The biggest difference is seen in the inclusion of indicators related to provisions for children with special needs, with 50% of quality initiatives having CQI standards for centers, but 58% having similar standards for homes.

Note that the teacher support question was not asked for home-based programs, because it refers to benefits that are particular to centers alone.

How does licensing differ by Centers and Homes?+ Show
Licensing data for Centers and Homes
Licensing indicators Centers Homes
Licensing required for enrollment 85% 88%
Process for license-exempt programs 41% 20%
Licensing equivalent to the first QRIS level 56% 44%


In 2017, 85% (n=35) of quality initiatives require licensing, in order to be enrolled into the initiative for center-based early care and education (ECE) programs. In 20 of these 41 quality initiatives, licensing is equivalent to the first level of the initiative. For an additional three , licensing is not required for enrollment but is equivalent to the first level. A total of 23 initiatives (56%) make licensing equivalent to the first level. For 17 (41%), a process is in place for license-exempt center-based ECE programs to participate.

More quality initiatives require licensing as a prerequisite for participation for home-based than center-based programs. Of the fourty-one quality initiatives that include home-based ECE programs, 36 (89%) require licensing for enrollment into their initiative. A total of 18 states (44%) consider licensing to be equivalent to the first level in the initiative for home-based ECE programs. For eight (20%), a process is in place for license-exempt home-based ECE programs to participate.

What is the density and amount of center-based ECE program participation by years of QRIS operation?+ Show

This figure depicts center-based ECE program quality initiative participation numbers by program density (i.e., the percent of eligible programs that are participating) and initiative years of operation. Each circle represents a different state, and a larger circle corresponds to higher program participation rates. Thirty-six quality initiatives reported numbers for both density and participation. Quality initiatives that have been in operation for between six and twelve years tend to have varying levels of density, but uniformly low participation rates. The initiatives are in small (e.g., Vermont, Delaware) to mid-sized states (e.g., Minnesota, South Carolina). States with the highest participation numbers tend to have a quality initiative that has been in operation less than six years or more than twelve years. A few states (i.e., Illinois, New Hampshire, Oklahoma) require initiative participation for center-based ECE programs, and therefore report densities of 100%.

What types of financial incentives do programs receive to participate in the QRIS?+ Show

Thirty-eight states include financial incentives in their quality initiatives. The most common financial incentive was quality awards/bonuses (52%). Less than a third of initiatives reported providing improvement grants (30%), and a few reported providing staff scholarships (11%), T.E.A.C.H scholarships (9%), staff bonuses (3%) and startup awards (3%). Just under half of quality initiatives (48%) reported that programs receive a type of financial incentive other than those listed. These may include assistance with accreditation fees or professional development, state specific bonuses, and educational scholarships.  

What are the mission and goals of QRIS?+ Show

Fourty-three quality initiatives include information on their goals and mission. A focus on improving the quality and recognition of early childhood education (ECE) programs was the most common theme across mission statements, with all (100%) initiatives including language on this theme. The second most common theme (60%) was facilitating parent and public awareness.  A little less than a third of initiatives included a statement about supporting children's healthy development and school readiness (30%) or about access to high quality care (28%). Under a quarter of quality initiatives included language in their goals and mission on improving the education and training of the ECE workforce (20%).

Of the fourty-three quality initiatives with mission and goal statements, thirty-seven of them touch on more than one of the above themes. For example, North Carolina's mission and goals include the themes: quality improvement, access, and awareness. "The system was created to improve the quality of all early learning settings in North Carolina. To improve the quality of care available to families. To help consumers make informed decisions about child care and to better understand the impact of quality care on child growth and development."

Additionally, Washington's mission and goals touch upon 4 of the 5 common themes among QRIS. "Early Achievers is Washington's quality framework designed to promote positive child outcomes for all early learning settings. The objective of Early Achievers is to improve short- and long-term outcomes for children via a common set of expectations and standards that define, measure, and improve the quality of early learning. Early Achievers will provide parents with clear and easily accessible information about the quality of child care and early education programs, and reduce the disparity in terms of access to high-quality early learning opportunities for all children." 

What are the features specific to infants and toddlers?+ Show

Twenty-eight quality initiatives include indicators related to infant and toddler curriculum, and twenty-two include developmental screening for infants and toddlers. The most common approved curricula for infants and toddlers were The High Scope Infant/Toddler Curriculum (20%) and the Creative Curriculum for Family Child Care (20%). The most commonly-approved infant and toddler developmental screenings in use were the Ages and Stages Questionnaires (27%) and the Brigance Screens (15%). Developmental screening tools other than what was listed were used by just over a third of states (39%). These include tools such as Annual developmental screening (ASQ) or the Developmental Assessment of Young Children. 

What are the features of professional development?+ Show

Fourty quality initiatives include indicators related to professional development (PD). These include features that licensed center-based programs are required to complete in order to achieve points or levels within their initiative. The most common features of professional development indicators are training (95%), closely followed by a professional development plan (68%). Content of professional development trainings varies greatly by initiative. A little over a  third of quality initiatives (39%) include an introduction the ERS tools in PD training. Just under a third of quality initiatives include a training on health and safety practices (34%) and an orientation to the initiative (32%). Some also incorporate business practices (29%), child development information (29%), and information on special needs into trainings (27%). Over half of quality initiatives (56%) used training content other than what was listed. This includes content such as: state-specific director courses, other professional growth and development activities, and training on state-specific Early Learning Guidelines.