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QRIS Proposed Recommendations of November 24, 2010

Proposed Recommendations
for the
Quality Rating and Improvement System:
The Next Generation
November 24, 2010


In February 2010, the Colorado Department of Human Services convened QRIS: The Next Generation: a team representing over 35 organizations to draft and review recommendations for Colorado’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS).  There were two primary catalysts for this work:

  1. Colorado’s ongoing commitment to improve the quality of early learning and school-age care; and,
  2. A growing national emphasis on the importance of using quality rating systems as a means of improving the overall quality of children’s early childhood experiences. 

QRIS in the Context of Colorado’s Quality Improvement Initiatives 

Colorado has a long history of implementing quality initiatives through partnerships and public and private funding.  Some examples include:

  • A voluntary Quality Rating and Improvement System has been operating in Colorado for over thirteen years.
  • The Early Childhood Councils evolved from pilots whose charge was to integrate quality services for children and families.
  • The Resource and Referral system. 
  • The Colorado Office of Professional Development.
  • The School Readiness Quality Improvement Program.
  • Social emotional development of children through the Pyramid Model approach.
  • The Early Childhood Colorado Framework was developed to guide comprehensive childhood services with measurable outcomes.
  • Several commissions and advisory teams over the years have studied and made recommendations on coordinating and improving quality in child care.  Most recently, the Early Childhood Leadership Commission was formed to make recommendations on improving outcomes for young children through alignment, coordination, and efficiencies by programs and services.    

Over the years, the focus has been shifting from individual quality initiatives developed for specific quality improvement projects, to working toward a system with a common framework and goals that supports measurable outcomes for children.  The planning work and resulting recommendations under QRIS: The Next Generation will be intentionally linked to all the existing quality efforts in Colorado – it is not stand-alone undertaking.   


Goals and Guiding Values  

The following goals and guiding values were integral in the development of the recommendations for Colorado’s QRIS:


The overarching goal for Colorado’s QRIS is:  To improve the quality of early learning and school-age programs.  Specific goals include:

  • Make QRIS available to all early learning and school-age programs;
  • Make QRIS affordable for all early learning and school-age programs;
  • Include centers, family child care homes, pre-schools, and school-age programs;
  • Change Child Care Licensing regulations to reflect higher quality standards; and,
  • Develop a rated license in Colorado.
Guiding Values
  •  Every child deserves quality;
  • Quality begins at Level 1;
  • Input from all interested stakeholders is valued;
  • An effective QRIS is multi-faceted; rating levels are only one aspect of an effective QRIS;
  • The quality components and standards in each rating level will be based on practices that support positive child outcomes; and,
  • This is a continuous improvement process; the status quo is not an option.



A framework was developed to guide the work of the QRIS team.  The team consists of a Governance Infrastructure Committee and four Work Groups. The entire team met on a monthly basis.  Work Groups met in the interim to develop recommendations.

Each Work Group was responsible for developing recommendations in one of the following four areas: 

  • Standards and Accountability;
  • Provider Supports and Incentives;
  • Financing and Sustainability; and,
  • Marketing and Outreach. 


The Work Groups were responsible for gathering, analyzing, and synthesizing data from a wide variety of sources to inform their recommendations; e.g., best and evidence-based practices, cost modeling tools, and standards connected to the current QRIS. 

Over the seven month planning process, a number of guiding principles emerged:

  1. QRIS must positively and demonstrably impact child outcomes;
  2. QRIS needs to be affordable and accessible to all licensed providers;
  3. Quality begins with licensing.  The foundation of any state-wide quality improvement system must be integrated with licensing.   
  4. Broad stakeholder input is critical to the development, acceptance, and ultimate success of a QRIS.
  5. At its core, the QRIS must value and embrace issues of race, culture, language so as to reflect the needs of all Colorado’s children, families, early learning and school-age programs.


Planning was further informed by experts from the National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center (NCCIC) who facilitated two of the monthly team meetings.  The NCCIC facilitators also presented QRIS information gleaned from both national research and other states’ best practices.  Finally, a communication plan was developed that sought input during the planning process from multiple stakeholders via multiple avenues; e.g., the Colorado QRIS: The Next Generation website http://www.cdhs.state.co.us/childcare/QRIS.htm, presentations at conferences and meetings, an electronic survey distributed to all licensed child care facilities, and notices in newsletters. 


Recommendations on QRIS Structure

The following recommendations are proposed as the framework for QRIS: The Next Generation.  Additional recommendations regarding implementation, strategic considerations, and a cost estimate follow. 

  • The authority for QRIS: The Next Generation will lie within the Colorado Department of Human Services.
  • Licensing, in the Division of Child Care, will be responsible for rating/assessing and providing technical assistance and support for Levels 1 and 2.
  • Licensing regulations will be modified to include higher quality standards.  Note: family child care home regulations have been changed already.
  • The modified licensing regulations will be defined as Level 1 for all licensed programs; i.e.,
    • early learning center programs;
    • pre-schools;
    • family child care homes; and,
    • school-age programs. 
  • Levels 1 and 2 are mandatory for all licensed facilities;
  • Levels 3 and 4 are voluntary; and,
  • The rating, technical assistance, and support activities associated with Levels 3 and 4 may be performed by one or more subcontractors.


Standards and Accountability Work Group: Recommendations


  • Level 1 and Level 2 standards apply to all licensed programs;
  • Each of the four Quality Levels has a set of five standards:
    • Curriculum and Learning
    • Workforce Qualifications and Professional Development
    • Environment
    • Leadership, Management, and Administration
    • Family Partnership
  • Additionally, criteria for the core elements of cultural responsiveness, health, social-emotional development, and inclusion for children with special needs will be included within each standard across all levels.  
  • The standards in each level include, and build upon, the standards contained in the previous level.


The following table illustrates the relationship between Quality Levels and the Standard Categories:


Standards Categories

(includes the components of cultural responsiveness, health, social emotional development, and inclusion for children with special nees for all the standards below)


Level 1

(all licensed programs)

Quality Level 2 Quality Level 3 Quality Level 4
Curriculum & Learning CL 1 Includes CL1 plus... Includes CL2 plus... Includes CL3 plus...
Workforce Qualifications and Professional Development WQPD 1 Includes WQPD 1 plus... Includes WQPD 2 plus... Includes WQPD 3 plus...
Environment E 1 Includes E1 plus... Includes E2 plus... Includes E3 plus...
Leadership, Management, & Administration LMA 1 Includes LMA 1 plus... Includes LMA 2 plus... Includes LMA 3 plus...
Family Partnership FP 1 Includes FP1 plus... Includes FP2 plus... Includes FP3 plus...


  • Programs must meet the requirements of each level before graduating to a higher level.  
  • Programs will be required to move from Level 1 to Level 2 within a set period of time.


Notes about a possible Level Five


  • A possible fifth level (Level 5) is recommended by the Work Group.  However, this recommendation has not been vetted to the degree the concept of a 4-level QRIS has been.  Two criteria have been discussed: 
    • Designation as a Level 5 program would be voluntary.
    • In order to qualify, Level 4 programs would agree to, at a minimum, act as resource sites for other programs (Levels 1-4). 


Provider Support and Financial Incentives Work Group: Recommendations


  • All licensed programs in QRIS will have access to provider supports and/or financial incentives.  Some examples of supports and/or incentives include the following:
    • coaching;
    • technical assistance;
    • stipends;
    • mentoring;
    • scholarships;
    • mini grants; and,
    • tiered incentives. 
  • The level of support and financial incentives provided must be sufficient to address the level of need in order to effect sustainable quality improvement for each program.   


Financing and Sustainability Work Group: Cost Estimate

A cost estimate will be developed on approximate costs for the first year of the new QRIS system for Level 1.  It will include: 

  • All licensed programs (approximately 6,900) would receive
    • A rating/assessment; and,
    • Technical assistance and support by the Division of Child Care Licensing staff.
  • The financial model will include projected costs connected to:
    • Quality Assessment, Monitoring, and Administration
    • Professional Development
    • Technical Assistance  
    • Financial Incentives
    • Communication for Public Awareness
    • Facility Improvements
    • System Evaluation
    • Data System
  • The QRIS proposed model significantly increases the number of Level One programs participating in QRIS (from approximately 28% to 100%) and integrates the functions and costs of conducting ratings, monitoring, technical assistance, support, and financial incentives across Licensing and quality initiatives.
  • The projected planning under Phase Two of QRIS: The Next Generation will focus on ways to coordinate and align the numerous quality improvement initiatives currently in place and determine what additional funding is needed. 
  • It is understood that implementation of the proposed QRIS model will have a substantial financial impact on the child care industry in our state.  Resources will have to be identified and developed to support the additional costs to establish financial support and incentives.  Additional funding will need to come from a variety of sources including government, providers, private foundations and donors, parents, businesses, etc.
  • Implementation of the new QRIS should include piloting the model on a smaller subset of facilities that are currently licensed.  This will allow testing of the proposed model in its entirety to determine both effectiveness and more accurate costs.


Marketing and Outreach Work Group: Recommendations

This Work Group to should continue to provide direction on:


  • Implementing a continuous feedback loop with a wide, culturally diverse audience that is inclusive of all programs and stakeholders.
  • Developing a marketing plan that supports the approved recommendations and facilitates the implementation of the new QRIS.
  • Developing a plan to engage the business community and national funders.      


Next Steps


The Proposed Recommendations provide a general framework as a starting point for the new QRIS model.  During the course of developing their recommendations, each Work Group identified a number of necessary next steps in order to complete their recommendations:


Standards and Accountability  

  • Finalize the standards with measurable indicators.
  • Align the Professional Development standards with the State Plan for Professional Development.
  • Make a decision on whether the QRIS will have a Level 5.
  • Make a decision on the requirements for movement from one level to the next.  The current recommendation requires programs to meet all standards in one level before moving to the next.  Other options may be discussed.
  • Develop standards for infant/toddler and school-age programs.


Provider Support and Financial Incentives

  • Finalize the recommendations with more detail within the newly combined Standards and Accountability and Provider Support and Financial Incentives chart.


Financing and Sustainability 

  • Begin recommendations on aligning current spending in quality initiatives with the new QRIS.
  • Begin exploring other public and private funding sources and developing a financing sustainability plan.


Marketing and Outreach 

  • The communication and outreach work will continue between the Phases.  It’s important to reach as many stakeholders as possible to build support for the new QRIS through in-person presentations, webinars, newsletters, keeping the web-site updated, and surveys.
  • Develop a marketing plan for Phase 2.  



Printer Friendly Version of the QRIS: The Next Generation Proposed Recommendations of November 24, 2010.