The Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)

At a Glance

The San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE), First 5 San Mateo County and the Child Care Coordinating Council are the implementing partners for San Mateo County's Quality Rating and Improvement System. Using local, state and federal funds, SMCOE has been steadily supporting the development of the QRIS to measure and guide quality improvement in early learning centers and family child care homes in San Mateo County.

What is a QRIS?

Nearly every state in the nation has either launched, or is developing, a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) to improve the quality of early care and education for children. A QRIS helps programs to improve by measuring current levels of quality against research-backed standards. In California, these standards tie to:

  • Child observation
  • Developmental and health screenings
  • Teacher and administrator qualifications
  • Teacher-child interactions
  • Teacher-child ratios and group size, and
  • Program environment.

The QRIS National Learning Network provides information on the use of QRIS throughout the country.

History and implementation in San Mateo County

SMCOE and its partners are committed to implementing a common Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for early learning centers and family child care homes throughout San Mateo County. This work began when California received a federal Race to the Top (RTT) Early Learning Challenge grant to pilot a California QRIS in 17 QRIS consortia. In 2014, First 5 San Mateo County (F5SMC) received a $500,000 state grant over two years to join in this work. F5SMC joined with SMCOE and the Child Care Coordinating Council to form the core implementing group for San Mateo County's QRIS. Additional partners are engaged through the San Mateo County QRIS Consortium. San Mateo County's Consortium is part of both the Bay Area Quality Early Learning Partnership and the California QRIS Consortia to learn from other counties, plan regional efficiencies and advocate for a strong effective statewide QRIS.

The San Mateo QRIS Consortium promised to rate 60 early learning sites using the California framework--on a five-tiered scale with five being the highest--by the conclusion of the RTT grant in 2016. We have already exceeded that target with 79 programs rated as of June 2016.

The San Mateo QRIS Consortium has prioritized sites that serve children from low-income families living in the eleven The Big Lift-eligible communities. New QRIS Block Grants from the California Department of Education and a five-year QRIS grant from First 5 California ensure that the Consortium can continue to systematically support improvement and assess the original sites, plus bring on new sites, over the next three to five years.

How a site is rated

The QRIS rates sites based on three core areas: child development and school readiness; teachers and teaching; and program and environment. To begin the process, each program conducts a self-study and submits documentation. Then at least one-third of each site's classrooms are assessed on the quality of teacher-child interactions and classroom environment using the nationally recognized Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) and the Environment Rating Scales (ERS) tools. Lastly, our staff conducts a rating validation visit.

Family child care providers who are interested in being rated should contact 4Cs' Quality Counts program to begin the process.

For center-based providers, our staff meets with the program director to give the final rating and provides a coach who helps the site's staff reflect on the findings, and develop broad goals and a one-year action plan for program improvement. Tailored to its plan, the site may receive an improvement grant, coaching services, or specific training. When action goals are achieved, programs develop new quality improvement plans. 

Participating sites will be re-rated every two years.

How are ratings being used

The focus is on continuous, ongoing quality improvement and support.  Locally, site ratings are being used to inform coaching and other quality improvement activities such as:

Next year, the Consortium plans to hold a community celebration to honor participating QRIS sites and to inform families and communities about why early learning quality matters.

WELS Provider Portal & Documents

This section is to be used by QRIS participating site(s) as a reference and document library for entering or updating your site(s) information in the WELS Provider Portal.

The WELS Provider Portal is an on-line process for collecting the basic, up-to-date information and Self-Rating information on your site(s).  It is to be used by both sites who will be rated for the first-time and for those sites that will be re-rated.

We held a training webinar and information session on October 18, 2016 that described the process of how to obtain a WELS log-in, how to enter your site(s) information in the Provider Portal and how to upload your completed Self-Rating document to the Portal.  The WELS Provider Portal Training Webinar document attached below is the companion document to this training.