Investing in our Children / Invirtiendo en Nuestros Niños

Quality Early Learning Initiative

Quality Early Learning Initiative

First 5 Santa Cruz County launched the Quality Early Learning Initiative (QELI), partnering with family child care and preschool providers, to improve the quality of early learning for children birth through 5 in Santa Cruz County.    First 5 established this initiative in 2012 as a result of receiving funding through California’s Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge federal grant, and First 5 California’s Child Signature Program.
 

Drawing on resources from both grants, the Quality Early Learning Initiative (QELI) Consortium was created, bringing together public and private center-based program leaders, family child care providers, higher education faculty, parents and other early learning stakeholders.  Together, members of the QELI Consortium have been working to develop and pilot a local Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), aligning with the California Quality Continuum Framework, as a way to foster ongoing quality improvement that that is proven to help children thrive.
 

A QRIS helps to improve early care and education programs by measuring current quality levels against research-based standards.  In California, these standards focus on what research shows are the key components of quality early care and education, including learning environments, teacher-child ratios, adult-child interactions, staff qualifications, as well as other related criteria.  QRIS can assist early learning educators with increased training to expand their skills in working with young children; provide coaching to help programs create learning environments that nurture the emotional, social, language and cognitive development of every child; and provide families information to help them understand and choose quality programs.
 

In Santa Cruz County, over 65 early care and education sites have participated in the QRIS pilot to date.  Those sites range from small family child care homes to large California State Preschool and Head Start centers.  For each, voluntary participation in the initiative is a mark of distinction and quality, as they have committed themselves to an intentional, rigorous and on-going process of self-reflection and improvement, in the interests of the children they serve. Going beyond licensing requirements, each program participating in QRIS is assessed using valid and reliable tools to measure progress and given a tier rating, ranging from 1 to 5.
 

The quality of each site is characterized in one of three ways:

  • Participating in Quality Improvement Efforts: Tiers 1 and 2 – Sites are licensed, in good standing, meet child health and safety standards and are actively focusing on quality and quality improvement.
     
  • Achieving Quality Standards: Tiers 3 and 4 – Sites are licensed, in good standing, meet child health and safety standards, are actively focusing on quality and quality improvement, and have achieved common quality standards defined by the QRIS.
     
  • Exceeding Quality Standards: Tier 5 – Sites are licensed, in good standing, meet child health and safety standards, are actively focusing on quality and quality improvement, and have exceeded the common quality standards as defined by the QRIS.
     

Click here for a list of the participating sites and their quality ratings as measured between December 2013 and December 2015. 
 

If you have any questions about QRIS in Santa Cruz County, or sites participating in the QRIS pilot, please contact Vicki Boriack via email at: vboriack@first5scc.org.