Features of Professional Development and On-site Assistance in Child Care Quality Rating Improvement Systems: A Survey of State-wide Systems

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This is an excerpt from the full report.

Quality Rating Improvement Systems (QRIS) are now operating state-wide in 18 states. An additional 13 states are implementing QRIS in selected regions or as pilot initiatives. While highly varied in their specific features, these systems all use a set of interrelated strategies that aim to raise the quality of early care and education programs. These strategies include quality standards that programs must meet to obtain ratings at different levels, financial incentives for programs to meet quality standards, and assistance to help center-based programs and homebased providers improve the quality of supports for children’s well-being and early learning. As these systems increase in number across the states, ongoing examination of their characteristics and impacts can inform efforts to strengthen them.

This report presents findings from an interview study that investigated features of the professional development and on-site assistance available to center-based staff and home-based providers who participate in states’ Quality Rating Improvement Systems. The report’s five sections address the following topics:

  • Rational for the study and research that helped frame the project;
  • Project overview and methods;
  • Key findings:
    • Supports used during the “entry phase;”
    • Availability and targeting of on-site assistance;
    • Features of on-site assistance;
    • Features of group training; and
    • Credentials and support of trainers and technical assistance providers;
  • Summary of findings; and
  • Recommendations.


We offer several recommendations based on results discussed in earlier sections. These include recommendations for strengthening features of on-site assistance and group training as well as suggestions for further investigation that will help inform ongoing improvements in Quality Rating and Improvement Systems.

  • States should assess the efficacy of the pre-entry supports they are using to encourage programs and providers in the low-range of quality to enter and gain access to these systems’ multiple supports for quality improvement.
  • States should increase the availability of on-site assistance that gives teachers and providers a chance to actively practice new strategies for promoting children’s early learning. States should test methods for increasing the use of this form of assistance by center-based programs and homebased providers that receive quality ratings in the low range. Possible strategies include special outreach to lower rated settings to encourage their interest in on-site assistance and incentives, such as “counting” staff participation in on-site assistance towards professional development hours needed at higher levels of the quality rating scale.
  • States should develop resources that will help ensure consistent use of practices that have been shown to be effective in coaching models. One such resource is a coaching guide that describes essential activities to include in coaching visits and establishes criteria that ensure an adequate frequency of visits. The use of standardized records to document the use of coaching activities found in effective models is another type of resource that could help states’ promote promising practices.
  • States should examine training and supports for coaches and technical assistance providers to determine the extent to which these quality assistance specialists are receiving the support and guidance they need to use practices that have proven effective in raising the quality of early childhood settings. Strategies for enhancing training and support for quality assistance specialists might include the development and use of train-the-trainer curricula and ongoing supervision focused on researched-based practices.
  • States’ training and support for quality assistance specialists should provide strong guidance about targeting professional development and on-site assistance on areas of practice that promote children’s school readiness. These areas include teacher practices that promote children’s oral language development, social-emotional competence, early literacy and math skills as well as practices that help teachers and providers monitor children’s growth in key areas and individualize learning supports. Another important area is teacher practices that help parents support their children’s learning and development.
  • States should increase their use of more in-depth, integrated group training. Such training covers a single topic or related topics over multiple sessions and encourages participants to apply newly learned strategies in their classrooms or home-based settings over the course of the training series. States should consider increasing models that link this more in-depth group training to on-site assistance that helps teachers and providers apply newly gained knowledge to practices they use in work with children.

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