Missouri: The Quality Rating System and Infant/Toddler Responsive Caregiving Checklist
Jan 22, 2010 | Child Care and Early Education
The Missouri Quality Rating System (MO QRS) is a voluntary system that seeks to address infants and toddlers both in terms of the design of the system and in the content on which child care quality is measured. The development of the MO QRS, which began in 2003, has been overseen by the Center for Family Policy & Research at the University of Missouri as a project of the center's Opportunities in a Professional Education Network (OPEN) Initiative. OPEN is the facilitator of the Missouri QRS State Committee, an advisory group charged with overseeing the creation and implementation of the MO QRS. The committee consists of representatives from state agencies and organizations across the early childhood and school-age fields, including individuals with expertise and experience in infant/toddler care. When forming the MO QRS, the committee sought to achieve four main goals:
- Improve the quality of child care programs serving young children and youth;
- Increase public knowledge about high-quality programs;
- Improve access to high-quality programs for children receiving child care assistance by connecting higher subsidy payment rates to higher-quality programs; and
- Ensure that limited resources are targeted and program outcomes are monitored.
Initial funding to develop MO QRS came from federal grants won by the Center for Family Policy & Research and the Metropolitan Council on Early Learning at the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City. Models were developed and piloted across the state to determine the most effective measures and appropriate thresholds for criteria. This process included collecting data on 144 programs (75 centers, 47 homes, and 22 school-age centers/group homes) from across the state of Missouri; conducting 16 focus groups with 57 directors, teachers, and parents; and surveying both center and home directors and staff. Throughout the process, developers tried to consider how best to design MO QRS so that all age groups of children experience improved early childhood/school-age programs. OPEN conducted evaluations of these test sites and found positive results. MO QRS has not been implemented state-wide yet as the state legislature or executive administration would need to take official action and provide funding to do so.
General MO QRS Design
The Missouri QRS is divided into three models: the Early Childhood Center and Group Home Model, the Home-Based Program Model, and the School-Age Center and Group Home Model. All three models are designed to evaluate eight indicators of quality within the following three program areas:
- Personnel indicators: Director education and training, staff education, education specialization, and annual training.
- Content indicators: Programs' learning environment and intentional teaching.
- Management indicators: Family involvement and business administrative practices.
The Missouri QRS rates the overall quality of an early childhood/school age program using a star system divided into five tiers; five stars represent the highest level of quality. Star ratings are determined by how many points a program earns based on the three areas of program quality and eight indicators. If a provider serves multiple age groups in separate classrooms, then at least 50% of classrooms from each age group must be observed for the indicators on learning environment and intentional teaching. Activities are generally expected to be appropriate to the ages of children in care. For instance, a provider cannot receive high ratings for family involvement activities if there are not activities appropriate for families of all age groups cared for by the provider.
Infant/Toddler Specific Provisions in the MO QRS
The MO QRS was developed in part to align with the state's early learning standards and core competencies for early childhood professionals. However, given that the early learning standards and core competencies are not specific to infants and toddlers, certain additional measures are included:
- Provisions to Promote Specialized Knowledge : Beginning at tier two of the MO QRS, program directors and staff are required to meet certain levels of training or education on Missouri's Education Matrix. The matrix provides formal recognition to early childhood and school-age professionals who earn college credits from an approved list of courses or attain a formal credential/degree. The courses align with the state's core competencies for professionals in the two fields and cover a wide range of topics, such as learning environment and curriculum; families and communities; and health, safety, and nutrition. Given the limited availability of infant/toddler courses in the state currently, the MO QRS does not require specific coursework for infant/toddler providers. However, the design of MO QRS encourages higher-level staff to attain specialized education. Participants in MO QRS may earn up to five points when the administrator or other lead staff complete additional college credit level education or, alternatively, if they complete 14 hours of approved training on a research based early childhood curriculum. The approved curriculum list includes infant/toddler training, such as the Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC).
- Assessment Tools for Infant/Toddler Programs: Among the three MO QRS models, both the Early Childhood Center and Group Home Model and the Home-Based Program Model may rate programs serving infants and toddlers. These models include two observational tools:
Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales -The Environment Rating Scales are observational measures for the quality of learning environments in child care settings serving young children. Depending on the setting, infant/toddler programs may be evaluated using the Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale (ITERS-R) or the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale (FCCERS-R). The score is worth ten out of 50 or 55 total points that a program can earn in the MO QRS. (Possible total points a program can earn depends on the staffing arrangements in the program.
Infant/Toddler Responsive Caregiving Checklist: As a companion tool to ITERS-R and the FCCERS-R, infant/toddler programs are further evaluated using an intentional teaching instrument called the Infant/Toddler Responsive Caregiving Checklist. The checklist assesses the degree to which a program's activities and instruction nurture the social/emotional, physical, and cognitive development of infants and toddlers; a specific curriculum is not assessed nor required to be used. Worth about 10 percent of a program's MO QRS rating, a program may earn up to five points from the intentional teaching instrument(s) out of a total of 50 or 55 points that can be earned in the MO QRS. The Infant/Toddler Responsive Caregiving Checklist consists of 20 indicators that test whether the three major domains of development (social/emotional, physical, cognitive) are supported in a program. An assessor checks off whether an indicator is displayed in a center or group home with a "yes," "no," or "N/A."
The checklist was initially developed to evaluate the intentional teaching of skills and activities that promote the healthy growth and development of infants and toddlers. Organizations that provided input into its development included the Missouri Head Start State Collaboration Office, ZERO TO THREE, Educare-Boone County, and infant/toddler professionals in the state's higher education system. Several key changes were made to the checklist based on later reviews of the tool's effectiveness. Among them, an emphasis was placed on responsive caregiving and less on curriculum-specific concepts tested by ITERS-R. The revised Missouri Infant/Toddler Responsive Caregiving Checklist also provides more detail on what assessors should be looking for and strengthens criteria for checking off an indicator. For instance, on the original checklist, evidence of one child meeting an item was sufficient for marking "yes" on the item. The revised checklist now requires that at least 75 percent of children be observed meeting an item in order for it to be marked off the checklist. In addition, the revised checklist focuses more on language development.
Current MO QRS Implementation: Local Funding Sources
Although the MO QRS is not implemented statewide, it is currently available to local communities that have funding to support the rating process. OPEN has a memorandum of understanding with state agencies to endorse the MO QRS. At present, communities may use local sources of funding, such as philanthropic foundations and private funding, to implement the MO QRS. For instance, in Boone County, the MO QRS was adopted with support from United Way and other foundations, and further support is being sought from local businesses through the Chamber of Commerce.
MO QRS Contact:
Director, OPEN Initiative
Center for Family Policy & Research
Phone: (573) 884-3373