As more states and communities develop and adopt child care Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) as a mechanism to improve the quality of their early care and education programs, stakeholders are seeing opportunities for QRIS to also serve as a potential system-building agent within the fragmented early childhood care and education (ECE) system. At this time, little has been documented across states implementing QRIS about their interest and active involvement in integration of the early care and education (ECE) system or, importantly, about what such involvement actually entails and how it could be accomplished and measured. Recognizing this gap in information about QRISs, the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) supported this in-depth exploration of the QRIS and how it functions within the ECE system through the Child Care Quality Rating System Assessment (QRS Assessment) project.
In the early stages of system development, definitional work is necessary in order to identify quantifiable indicators of progress that can be tracked over time. This report focuses on approaches in use by QRIS in Indiana and Pennsylvania to connect with and build on the programs and resources that exist within the ECE system. Lessons from these states about how to define and measure system development and change can help other states and stakeholders as they plan for system integration and track progress toward system goals over time. Ultimately, the evaluation of a systems-building approach would examine the degree to which redundancies have been eliminated and efficiencies gained (such as in staff time, program requirements, and funding streams) and the overall effectiveness of the approach in achieving better outcomes for children and their families.