QRIS History

National QRIS History

New Mexico piloted the first QRIS in 1997. Oklahoma was the first state to implement a statewide QRIS in 1998. As of December of 2017, 41 states across the country have fully implemented QRIS. QRIS’s were developed as a response to the gap between licensing standards and accreditation standards. QRIS’s intention is to help childcare programs improve their quality in manageable steps, in part by offering professional development and financial incentives.

Quality Rating and Improvement Systems share common activities: setting standards and indicators, rating ECE programs, supporting quality improvement with technical assistance, distributing grants and awards, conducting outreach, and determining governance structures. Yet each QRIS was developed in a particular state or local context, and system details are unique to that context. The reach of the QRIS across programs and the families served, the parameters that define how quality is measured, and the scope and intensity of financial and technical assistance vary widely across QRIS.

The Build Initiative & Child Trends. (2016). A Catalog and Comparison of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) [Data System]. Retrieved from http://qriscompendium.org/

North Dakota QRIS History

In 2005, North Dakota’s early childhood community released the first draft of the Growing Futures Professional Development Plan. The goal of this plan was to support practitioners in the early childhood field to grow and advance their skills, knowledge, and job opportunities. The well-being of North Dakota’s children is at the heart of the plan.

In February 2007, under the direction of the North Dakota Department of Human Services (ND DHS) and with the support of the Healthy North Dakota Early Childhood Alliance (HENDECA), a 35-member committee was convened to develop a framework and standards for a Quality Rating and Improvement System in North Dakota. The committee’s work resulted in a comprehensive set of standards to define quality in early childhood programs. The founding committee established guiding principles to anchor QRIS work in North Dakota; which include:

  • All children deserve equal access to high quality early care and education.
  • QRIS will make it easier for families to choose the best early childhood setting for their child.
  • Sufficient financial support and resources are necessary to support an early care and education infrastructure.
  • QRIS strives to define common standards and reflect all early childhood settings including; family childcare homes, group childcare programs, center childcare programs, preschool educational facilities, Head Start, Early Head Start, and public-school prekindergarten programs.
  • Measurements and processes will be valid, reliable, realistic, and effective.
  • A continuum of quality early learning exists. Licensing sets the foundation on the continuum and quality increases from this foundation.
  • Quality matters – there is always room for improvement and growth along the continuum of quality, QRIS meets programs where they are and partners with them for continued improvement.
  • QRIS is a personal and rewarding journey – it is a voluntary decision to participate.

The vision of a QRIS in North Dakota is to use these principles to guarantee best beginnings for young children in early childhood settings by creating an early learning culture built upon consumer awareness, technical assistance, and financial support for early childhood professionals all based upon measurable standards.

From the original 35-member QRIS committee, 16 individuals served on a standards sub-committee from 2007-2009 and developed five categories of quality standards:

  • Health, Safety, & Nutrition: The program is clean and there are practices that help keep children safe and healthy.
  • Knowledgeable & Responsible Adult Caregivers: Early educators have the preparation and on-going training needed to best prepare children for school and life.
  • Relationships & Interactions: Children’s emotional needs are supported, and adults interact with children in a caring and nurturing way.
  • Learning Environment & Curriculum: The program uses learning materials and activities to prepare children for school and life.
  • Connections with Families & Communities: Early educators involve parents in their child’s learning.

In January 2010, Lakes & Prairies received grants from the United Way of Cass-Clay and the Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation to implement a local pilot to test the standards developed by the North Dakota QRIS committee in the “real world”. The goals of the field test were to:

  • Define benchmarks and data collection to measure the extent to which programs meet the quality standards.
  • Recruit a minimum of 20 programs to achieve a STAR rating by September 2011
  • Provide on-site assessment and coaching to a minimum of 20 programs working on achieving their STAR rating.
  • Hold, at minimum, 10 QRIS informational training sessions to recruit and support early childhood professionals in meeting STAR standards.
  • Award a minimum of 20 financial incentive stipends at STAR 3, 4, & 5 to rated programs.
  • Hold a minimum of two focus groups, conduct as least 30 personal interviews, convene a local advisory council and conduct a survey to inform future QRIS planning.

The ND QRIS Pilot was named the Early Childhood Quality Rating & Improvement Pilot. It went through 2 pilot revisions before moving to the current QRIS, Bright & Early ND.

In 2013 the ND QRIS Pilot, Early Childhood Quality Rating & Improvement System was renamed Bright & Early ND and entered a ‘getting started’ phase that prepared early childhood programs for Quality Rating.

In January of 2014 Bright & Early ND launched its first cohort for Steps 1 & 2. Four counties were chosen across the state for this cohort. Cass County, Stutsman County, Ward County and Williams County all participated. A total of 54 programs across these four counties participated in this first cohort.

In July of 2014 Bright & Early ND launched Step 1 and Step 2 in Grand Forks County, Ramsey County, Burleigh County, Stark County and Morton County. A total of 48 programs across these five counties participated in this launch.

In 2015 Step 1 and Step 2 were launched statewide. All Department of Human Services (DHS) licensed childcare programs were eligible to participate in Bright & Early ND.

In July of 2016, Bright & Early ND launched Step 3 and Step 4. So, all parts of the Bright & Early ND system were now available to all DHS licensed programs.