Step Up to Quality is Nebraska’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS).
The QRIS framework was developed in the 1990s as a way for states to reward accredited providers with higher subsidy reimbursement rates. Because of the large difference between state licensing and national accreditation standards, few providers chose to pursue accreditation. States saw the need for steps that lead to accreditation to help providers bridge the gap, so they developed the QRIS model.
All QRIS programs assess, improve and communicate the level of quality in early care and education settings. They offer a formalized way to:
Nebraska’s QRIS program is inclusive of child care centers, family child care homes, Head Start programs and school-based preschool programs. These providers are awarded quality ratings for meeting a defined set of program standards.
But there are some differences among the QRIS programs. Not every state’s program operates in the same way nor are they all organized through the state’s government, like Nebraska’s. Some larger states, like Florida, have regional systems.
Some QRIS programs are mandatory, some are voluntary, and some have requirements that programs accepting public funding are required to participate (this is true of Step Up to Quality).
QRIS programs are relatively new to early childhood education, but studies have been ongoing about their success in achieving outcomes. Research about North Carolina’s QRIS program, the second-oldest in the nation, was encouraging about the effectiveness of rating systems – the results offered evidence that they do spur improvements among programs and adequately educate parents about the importance of high-quality early childhood education.
While each QRIS program is unique to its state, all are united by the importance of high quality early childhood education. QRIS programs can be a critical component to continuous improvement for providers.
Step Up to Quality is proud to offer our state a strong support system to improve the care our youngest Nebraskans receive.