A quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) is an organized method to assess, improve, and communicate the quality of early childhood programs in centers, schools, and home-based settings. QRISs are a relatively recent state policy innovation, beginning in the late 1990s. States have been regulating programs for children for more than a hundred years and have been expanding public investment in preschool programs for many decades.

The basic concept is to create standards that define several “steps to quality” from the baseline in each state (regulations) up to high quality (as determined by each state), deliver supports and incentives to providers to improve their quality, and widely publicize the ratings so consumers can make more informed choices. This concept is somewhat similar to ratings of products ...

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