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Research Questions

  1. Are more programs and children participating in Delaware Stars in October 2014 than in January 2014? Is the distribution of providers across counties and star levels similar at both times? Are programs advancing at similar rates in the rating system?
  2. Are providers using the available financial incentives? What financial incentives do providers participate in, and what is the value of the incentives? How does participation in financial incentives and their value vary with Delaware Stars ratings and other provider characteristics?
  3. How many visits from a technical assistance provider are programs receiving? What is the typical duration of a visit? Does the length and number of visits differ by provider characteristics?

Delaware was awarded a Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge grant in December 2011, which provided funding to the state to increase access to and improve the quality of early learning programs for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. As part of the grant, Delaware is required to evaluate its quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) — Delaware Stars for Early Success — and the RAND Corporation was selected as the evaluator to validate the Delaware Stars QRIS. This report, from the second year of the evaluation, addresses program participation and quality ratings, financial incentives, and technical assistance.

Evaluation of Delaware Stars for Early Success: Year 2 Report aims to determine whether Delaware Stars providers are advancing in the rating system and whether additional providers serving infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children are joining the QRIS. The authors updated the analyses of Delaware Stars participation based on administrative data as of October 2014, which is nine months after the snapshot presented in the Year 1 report. There is a slight gain in the overall provider participation rate (from 36 to 39 percent), but no change in the share of children in Delaware Stars programs. The administrative data demonstrate that Delaware Stars programs were advancing through the rating system as intended. The authors also include new analyses of Delaware Stars programs' use of financial incentives and the amount of in-person technical assistance delivered to participating providers. Overall, the report points to the need for, and potential gain from, improving the Delaware Stars administrative data system.

Key Findings

From January to October 2014, There Was a Net Gain of 23 Providers in Delaware Stars

  • The overall participation rate among licensed family child care (FCC) providers and centers increased from 36 to 39 percent, with centers reaching a 73-percent participation rate.
  • More providers moved to higher rating tiers, with 45 percent of providers at the top two tiers (Star 4 or Star 5). Among children enrolled in Delaware Stars providers, 62 percent were in Star 4 or Star 5 programs.
  • About one in three Delaware Stars providers were participating in Stars Plus, which provides more-intensive supports for quality improvement.
  • Programs transition most rapidly out of Starting with Stars to Star 2 and from Star 3 to Star 4.

Delaware Stars Programs Received an Average of $27,000 per Program in Combined Incentives

  • Financial incentives totaling $15.3 million were paid to providers or staff between October 2013 and September 2014, with the largest component for tiered reimbursement to providers serving children with Purchase of Care child care subsidies.
  • The highest share of providers participating in a financial incentive during the year was for Quality Improvement Grants (55 percent of programs).
  • Centers received, on average, about $45,000 in financial incentives, compared with approximately $3,000 for small FCCs and $8,000 for large FCCs.
  • Participation in financial incentives and the amount received did vary significantly by provider type, but these figures not vary significantly by county of location.

Delaware Stars Providers Received the Expected Amount of Technical Assistance

  • On average, during the 2013–2014, year Delaware Stars providers received 27 onsite visits, averaging 103 minutes in duration and totaling 41 annual hours.
  • Visits and annual hours were lower for Starting with Stars programs, as expected. The number of visits and annual hours peaked at the Star 3 level.
  • Technical assistance was slightly higher for centers than FCCs. As intended, visits and annual hours were considerably higher for Stars Plus programs.


The research activities documented in this second year report were not designed to produce definitive recommendations, but they do point to the importance of administrative data in understanding the functioning of a QRIS. Specific recommendations for the Delaware Stars data system include:

  • Integrate all information in the Delaware Stars database, where possible.
  • If separate data systems are maintained by different entities, always use the Office of Child Care Licensing license number to identify providers and facilitate matching across databases.
  • Record the date of all actions in a consistent way, such as changes in Delaware Stars ratings, the payment of financial incentives, and delivery of technical assistance.
  • Clearly define the type of technical assistance provided (e.g., coaching, professional development, consultation).
  • Define enrollment and capacity and refresh enrollment figures for all licensed programs on a periodic basis.
  • Identify key status variables (e.g., Head Start status, accreditation, school-age-only providers), and ensure that those indicators are routinely updated in the central Delaware Stars database and are as accurate as possible.
  • Establish clearer lines of authority for refreshing and reviewing data in the Delaware Stars database.

This research was conducted jointly in RAND Education and RAND Labor and Population.

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