Policy Resource

Quality First, Arizona's Quality Rating and Improvement System

Feb 9, 2016

In June 2011, Arizona rolled out its quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), Quality First, as part of its commitment to an interconnected early learning system.

Quality First is a voluntary rating system that assesses child care centers and home-based providers on safety, environment, curriculum, credentialing, and teaching style partnering with more than 1,000 licensed and regulated child care and preschool provides across the state. The program is carried out by First Things First, a state government initiative working at the state and local levels to give Arizona children the opportunity to arrive at kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed. First Things First invests in proven programs and innovative strategies through grants to community organizations that provide services to children and families while collaborating with other early childhood system partners to broaden their impact.

After an initial assessment, coaches work with providers on a plan to improve the quality of their services. Each program is rated on a one-to-five- star scale to help Arizona’s parents evaluate their early care and education options. In addition, parents may access an online system to review providers ratings, which they can use to make choices about their children’s care. By participating in Quality First, child care providers may access funds for equipment, environmental improvements, and teacher training. In addition, providers, based on their star rating, are assigned a certain number of student scholarships intended for low-income families with the goal of raising standards while closing the achievement gap. For fiscal year 2018, 8,700 children from low-income families received a high-quality early education with the help of a Quality First Preschool or child care scholarship.

In total, 60,632 young children received their early education from child care and preschool providers committed to continuous quality improvement of their programs through Quality First in FY2018. Within that, 42,655 infants, toddlers and preschoolers were in early learning programs that met or exceeded Quality First’s rigorous standards.

Arizona’s system demonstrates a dedication to quality by supporting providers in their efforts to improve child care and meet the statewide standards. The rating system is the third phase of the Quality First initiative, which first assessed child care providers and then began working with them to improve quality through technical assistance and coaching in 2009. The Quality First program sets forth a cohesive concept of quality for the care and education of children birth to five years in Arizona and allows for better alignment with the state’s K-12 schools.

Updated February 2019.

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