Partnering Licensing and QRIS to Improve Access to Quality

Mar 12, 2012

By Christine Johnson-Staub

Many states are exploring ways to broaden the reach of their Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) and  ensure that children who most need access to high quality child care and early education receive it.

To strengthen QRIS at the state level, it's key to consider how the QRIS relates to state licensing requirements, procedures, and policies. Ideally, the levels of a QRIS build from a strong licensing foundation and are aligned with the licensing system. States can support the continuum from a strong licensing system to a strong QRIS and ensure vulnerable children are able to access high quality programs by making specific policy choices.

Specifically, CLASP recommends that states evaluate:

  • Whether QRIS participation is tied to licensing status, and if so whether that approach is effectively reaching the most vulnerable children. To reach the majority of settings serving disadvantaged children, states should use data to understand where those children are participating in child care and early education, and ensure those settings are incorporated into their QRIS eligibility. This may mean broadening licensing requirements, establishing links between the QRIS system and public school programs if they are license exempt, or establishing standards based on training and professional development participation for license exempt family, friend and neighbor child care providers.
  • Whether the QRIS builds on licensing standards, and whether there are areas of licensing that need to be strengthened to better align with and support progress toward QRIS requirements. States should ensure that QRIS requirements do not conflict with or undermine licensing standards or they may need to strengthen specific areas of their licensing requirements to better align the two systems.
  • Whether licensing standards represent an appropriate first level of the state QRIS, or whether there should be additional requirements for programs to enter the QRIS tiers. States may choose to establish intermediary steps or supports, such as defined professional development requirements or technical assistance that prepare licensed programs to enter the QRIS.
  • Whether and how licensing staff will be involved in providing program support and technical assistance related to the QRIS, and if so, what additional training and support staff will need to carry out this role effectively. States may need to align licensing tools with program evaluation tools used under the QRIS requirements, and states may need to provide professional development to licensing staff on those tools, as well as in specific areas of the QRIS standards such as infant and toddler care or cultural competency.

Each of these questions is explored more deeply in CLASP's Checklist, and in The Relationship Between Licensing and QRIS: Challenges and Opportunities. As states design and expand QRIS, thinking about alignment and linkages with other early care and education and systems will help create a more seamless early childhood system.

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