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By Anne Mitchell

President of Early Childhood Research and Co-Founder of the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance

The BUILD Initiative paper, Quality Rating and Improvement Systems: Stakeholder Theories of Change and Models of Practice, by Diane Schilder and Iheoma Iruka with Harriet Dichter and Debi Mathias captures the changing context and the factors influencing QRIS. The recommendations it offers are beyond reproach, with each one providing a concept worthy of its own focus.

By Harriet Dichter
In this blog post, Dichter writes about the latest addition to BUILD’s e-book on the Early Learning Challenge, Rising to the Challenge: Building Effective Systems for Young Children and Families. The prologue, entitled Coming of Age: A Review of Federal Early Childhood Policy 2000-2015, is written by Joan Lombardi, an energizing and intrepid force in our country’s early childhood movement, with co-authors and newly-minted policy researchers Jessica F. Harding, Maia C. Connors and Allison H. Friedman-Krauss.

By Susan G. Hibbard
Executive Director, BUILD Initiative

BUILD turned to Dr. Linda Espinosa and Miriam Calderon to find out the extent to which states’ ELDS reflect the current research and address the learning needs of young dual language learners. They examined 23 states’ ELDS for pre-k-aged children to determine the most common approaches for representing dual language learners across a broad set of criteria. Their report, “State Early Learning and Development Standards/Guidelines, Policies & Related Practices: How responsive are they to the needs of young dual language learners?" includes an individual state profile that summarizes how each state is addressing the needs of young dual language leaners, and concludes with recommendations for how states can be more responsive to the needs of dual language learners in their ELDS and other components of their early childhood system.

By Dana Friedman
Implementing state pre-k policy is extremely challenging for several reasons.  In many communities where the demographics are changing, underlying racism and xenophobia can turn away non-native English speaking parents seeking to register their children for pre-k because they have not brought with them documentation proving residency. I witnessed this firsthand at a Long Island school in one of the eleven underserved districts where The Early Years Institute works to improve school readiness.  

Joan Lombardi
Director of Early Opportunities LLC

Lombardi explores chapter 8 of Rising to the Challenge. In this chapter, Debi Mathias chronicles the history, trends and innovations that have come to characterize this unique way of thinking about quality. In many ways, QRIS was the heart of the Early Learning Challenge as it was one way to assess a primary goal of a program: to increase the number and percentage of low-income and disadvantaged young children enrolled in high-quality early learning programs.  This made the validity of the standards particularly important.

Debi Mathias
Director, QRIS National Learning Network, BUILD Initiative

You probably have visited an early childhood classroom that has “it” – that energy you feel when you walk in the door, a tangible feeling of excitement. Children are playing, laughing, testing out new ideas, problem solving, all engrossed in an inquiry approach to learning.

Sherri Killins, Ed.D
Director of Systems Alignment and Integration, BUILD Initiative

Released this week, Catherine Scott-Little and Kelly Maxwell’s chapter, Improving Systems of Learning Through the Use of Child Standards and Assessments, focuses on the practices of eight Early Learning Challenge states as part of BUILD’s E-Book, Rising to the Challenge: Building Effective Systems for Young Children and Families.

Joan Lombardi, Ph.D.
Director, Early Opportunities LLC

The importance of assuring linkages between early childhood programs and the early grades of school is a concept that has grown over the years.

Joan Lombardi, Ph.D.
Director, Early Opportunities LLC

Science tells us that the adults in children lives, and the relationships the adults form with children, are the cornerstone of healthy and successful child development. While everyone talks about this science, reality does not fit the rhetoric: teachers are underpaid, parents can’t afford child care, and quality suffers.

Joan Lombardi, Ph.D.
Director, Early Opportunities LLC

Last week we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Head Start Program. Leading up to that launch in 1965, a panel of experts, chaired by Dr. Robert Cooke of Johns Hopkins University, set forth recommendations for the establishment of the program. Reading through those recommendations five decades later, the wisdom of those early pioneers continues to shine – the founders called for comprehensive services that address the health, education, and family support needs of young children in poverty. 

Joan Lombardi, Ph.D.
Director, Early Opportunities LLC

Heading into the 2008 election, I remember a small group meeting of advocates talking about what really needed to happen next in early childhood policy. While there were a lot of different strategies mentioned, one goal stood out and seemed to bring everyone together: 

To assure that more young children from low income families have access to higher quality services. 

Susan Hibbard
BUILD Deputy Director

Ruth Trombka
Program Manager

More than a handful of times in the last few weeks, BUILD has received emails or calls that begin with “Maybe I’m missing something, but why are you talking about state-level systems when the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships (EHS-CCP) initiative is a federal to local funding opportunity?” We have rarely had a response more readily available: Because states have an obligation to our youngest children.

Gerry Cobb
BUILD Initiative State Services Director

Through the Early Learning Challenge and subsequently through an Enhanced Assessment Grant (EAG) opportunity, federal leaders created incentives for states to develop and implement kindergarten entry assessments. The attractiveness of the EAG approach was that it encouraged states to band together and think collectively. In their Early Learning Challenge application, North Carolina leaders have taken a visionary approach to meeting the Kindergarten Entry Assessment component.

Marsha Basloe

Senior Advisor for Early Childhood, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development
ACF, HHS

Living in Massachusetts and New York, I am no stranger to cold weather in the winter. I fortunately ... did not weather the frigid cold unprepared! I wish that were true for everyone, especially families with young children. Recent temperatures in the Washington, D.C./Virginia area dipped to single digit numbers, and shelters were full to capacity.

BUILD Initiative

The latest edition of Early Learning Left Out (ELLO), produced by the BUILD Initiative, analyzes the most recent available federal, state, and school district budget information to determine how much is invested today in young children and whether that is sufficient to meet the 1989 First National Education Goal that “all children start school ready to learn.” The data make abundantly clear that America is falling short.

Miriam Calderon
BUILD Initiative Special Projects Consultant

As advocates for young children, we must view immigration reform for what it is – an enormous opportunity to pass social policy that’s good for kids. Fully one-quarter of all young children in the United States have an immigrant parent. Many have at least one parent that is unauthorized. These children will become America’s future leaders in a world economy that demands that they fully develop their skills and talents.

Linda K. Smith
Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development
ACF, HHS

Continuous quality improvement is about creating an environment in which management and workers strive to create constantly improving quality. It’s a process to ensure that programs are systematically and intentionally improving services and increasing positive outcomes for the children/families they serve. It’s a cyclical, data-driven process. It is with a continuous quality improvement lens that quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) began just over a decade ago. But QRIS is not a specific intervention – like a specific curriculum or program model. Instead, ... the QRIS is a framework or umbrella for multiple efforts to support quality in a systemic way. And it is going to need to be refined as we learn more – the goal of a continuous quality improvement process.

Gerrit Westervelt
BUILD Initiative Executive Director

As system builders, we have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to examine the role that structural and historical racial, cultural and linguistic bias plays in differential outcomes for young children. We have to take a hard look at the systems we are busy building and ask ourselves how well each step we’re taking serves all children or each and every child, not just those fortunate enough to have easy access to high quality services.

Theresa Hawley
Executive Director
Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development

Ever wonder what it takes to move a program from good to great? I wonder about this all the time, as do my colleagues in Illinois. We are convinced that the reason we are not seeing larger, more sustained benefits from the majority of early learning programs for at-risk children is that programs are not implementing the level of instructional excellence that a great program provides.

Sherri Killins, Ed.D.
BUILD Initiative Consultant

To what extent should program standards, known as QRIS, seek to define program quality by including health, safety and business practices of early childhood programs? Should program standards include hand-washing, CPR, first aide, safe sleeping and medication administration etc.? Should program standards include business practices like annual audits, calculation of depreciation, business plans, record keeping, budgeting etc.?