Frequently Asked Questions

What is Bright & Early ND?

Bright & Early ND is North Dakota’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). The Bright & Early ND 4-Star Rating System helps parents and providers assess how a child care program supports a child’s early learning and development. Bright & Early ND is an initiative led by the ND Department of Human Services (DHS) to ensure that North Dakota’s children receive the quality child care and preschool they need for success in school and life. We recognize talented child care and preschool providers for going above and beyond, and we deliver professional rewards for a job well done.

Why is quality important in child care and early education programs?

In the first five years of life, a child's brain develops faster than any other time in their life. In fact, more than one million new neural connections are formed every second. By age five, 90% of their brain has developed. The experiences children have during this period will have a lasting impact. That's what makes high-quality early care and education is so important.

Research shows that children who have access to high-quality early care do better in school, make healthier choices, and are more likely to graduate and find employment.

What does a quality child care or early education program look like?

Quality child care and early education programs start with North Dakota licensing and builds upon those rules and regulations. Quality programs have directors, teachers, and/or caregivers that are knowledgeable in child development and recognize the importance of creating a developmentally appropriate environment that is safe and nurtures a child’s interests. They understand how important their feedback and interactions are to a child’s development, and they can appropriately assess a child’s developmental needs and create opportunities for each child to build upon what they already know in anticipation of their next developmental milestone.

What are the Bright & Early ND Quality Ratings and what do they mean?

North Dakota’s Quality Ratings are reliable and easy to understand. Bright & Early ND developed different levels (steps) of quality indicators that allow programs to showcase their knowledge level of child development with each child’s interests in mind. Bright & Early ND has highly trained assessors trained for reliability on internationally known tools of the trade. Each Step within Bright & Early ND focuses on an indicator of Quality. Step 1 focuses on Health and Safety of the program; Step 2 focuses on Space and Materials along with serving nutritious food; Step 3 focuses on Activities and Experiences for the children; and Step 4 focuses on the rich Relationships and Interactions of the children and teachers/caregivers. All four Steps to Quality have specific professional development requirements to assure families that their child’s teacher/caregiver is prepared to appropriately guide their child.

Are there any costs to participate in Bright & Early ND?

Bright & Early ND is a voluntary Quality Rating & Improvement System (QRIS) that is fully funded through the North Dakota Department of Human Services. There is no cost to participate.

How do I apply for Bright & Early ND?

Bright & Early ND strives to be a paperless Quality Rating & Improvement System. Therefore, we have partnered with ND Growing Futures to bring you an easy-to-use online application. To access the application, log in to your ND Growing Futures organization profile. Under the “Quality” section, you will see an “Apply” link. Follow the directions, and within minutes your application will be submitted. If you have any questions or need assistance along the way, we recommend taking a peek at our resources page for step-by-step tutorials.

Why should I look for a child care program with the Bright & Early ND Quality Rating symbol?

Since Bright & Early ND is currently a voluntary system, not all child care and early education programs participate. The Bright & Early ND Quality Rating symbols make it easy to spot programs that are going above and beyond for the children in their care. It is somewhat difficult to determine if a child care program is providing quality opportunities for children. That’s why Bright & Early ND developed the Steps to Quality to assist families and help communities easily identify programs that are doing great things for children. Look for the Bright & Early ND Quality Rated symbols when you are searching for a child care or early education program for your child. Finding a Quality Rated program assures you that program goes above basic licensing standards. Bright & Early ND Quality Rated programs are never satisfied with where they are at—they are on a continuous quality improvement mission!

What types of child care and early education programs can participate in Bright & Early ND?

Currently, any child care program that serves children between the ages of birth to five years old and has been licensed for a minimum of 6 months can participate in Bright & Early ND. This includes family child care programs, group child care programs, child care centers, and preschools.

Are child care and early education programs required to participate in Bright & Early ND?

No, Bright & Early ND is currently a voluntary system.

Are there incentives for participating in Bright & Early ND?

Yes! Since day one, Bright & Early ND has made it a priority to recognize and reward programs for going above and beyond. Programs that participate in Bright & Early ND receive exclusive benefits that support and sustain their continued quality improvement journey. Some of the benefits include free or low-cost training opportunities, access to grants used to purchase new materials and equipment, Quality Rating award dollars for a job well done, and marketing materials to showcase their program as Bright & Early ND Quality Rated.