If you have not heard of the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), you soon will. QRIS is a method to assess, improve and communicate the level of quality in early care and education settings that families consider for their children. This is from Virgina, it was the best explanation that I found.
Many States have started to carry out this process. I have been introduced to the KQRIS which is the system through which Kansas is starting this process. I have already participated in several quality improvement programs and have been extremely happy with the process. I did not understand the debate that has come from this initiative until I listened to Early Childhood New Radio, Ratings for Child Care Programs Draws Fire.
Here are the arguments for QRIS. First, and foremost, QRIS is used as a tool to raise the quality of childcare in this country. Also, be used as a way for parents to choose quality care, whether it be in a care center, preschool, Head Start, faith-based preschool programs or family childcare homes. The 1 -5 stars are used as a guide on this quality. The one star being just licensed to a five-star being out of sight quality. The main push is quality child care.
The arguments against this is that it will eventually put family childcare homes out of business. It is another program of over educated, experts, that have know idea about family childcare, coming into the homes and telling them how to run their home and business. That the rating scale itself, is flawed and cannot take into account the many and varied teaching philosophies and theories that are used in early childhood education.
Here are my thoughts. Yes, it is going to improve the quality of child care in this country. It is also going to put lesser quality programs out of business. The programs are not going to be just family childcare homes. I have worked in several child care centers, many of these are not going to make the grade. Money is a big issue here, now many of the states are passing the QRIS on as a grant program. This makes the process easier to swallow, when it comes with money. I can see a problem in the future, like when the stimulus money runs out. If you don’t jump on the band wagon early you might be putting out a lot of money, to make the improvements you need to stay in business and compete. Let’s face it, most of early childhood education are private businesses, you run a business.
Over the next few years it will be interesting to watch as this debate grows, now it is still in very early stages, and has not effected the majority of people running the childcare centers, preschools, Head Starts, faith-based preschool programs or family childcare homes.
If you want more information The QRIS National Learning Network is a good place to start. It has the contact information for the states that are working on QRIS. Here is also a great video from Parent Aware, an interview wtih two providers and their feelings about their participation in a rating scale.