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As a result of the generally low quality of child care in the United States and the increased emphasis on accountability in education policy, quality rating systems (QRSs) are proliferating in the child-care arena. QRSs assess child-care providers on multiple dimensions of quality and integrate these assessments into an easily understood summary rating (such as from 0 to 4 stars). These ratings are intended to help parents, funders, and other stakeholders make more informed choices about child care and to encourage providers to improve. Most QRSs are actually QRISs — quality rating and improvement systems — since they include feedback and technical assistance to help providers improve the quality of their care. However, there has been very little empirical examination of the validity of these systems — how reliable their multiple components are, how effective they are in helping providers to improve the quality of care they provide, and how much children benefit from such improvement. This study assesses the QRIS developed by Qualistar Early Learning, a nonprofit organization based in Colorado that was one of the first organizations to create a QRIS. Zellman et al. set out to validate the Qualistar QRIS by assessing approximately 100 child-care providers and, at the outset, over 1,300 children over three waves of data collection. The study relied on two other, established measures of child-care quality on which to rate providers, as well as a number of direct child assessments. The design allowed for both cross-sectional and time-lagged analyses. The authors analyzed the five components of the Qualistar system separately, then examined how they related to each other; compared the Qualistar measures to the other measures of quality; assessed change in provider quality over time; and examined whether quality improvements as measured by the Qualistar QRIS were associated with better child outcomes.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two


  • Chapter Three

    Analyses of Q-QRIS Components

  • Chapter Four

    Relationships Among Components and Component Changes over Time for Center Providers

  • Chapter Five

    Relationships of Q-QRIS Components and Star Ratings to Process-Quality and Child Outcome Measures for Center Providers

  • Chapter Six

    Family Child-Care Providers

  • Chapter Seven


The research described in this report was prepared for Qualistar Early Learning and was conducted by RAND Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation.

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