Moving On Up? Program Quality Ratings Under Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge

NCEE Evaluation Brief
Publisher: Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education
Apr 29, 2019
Gretchen Kirby, Mariesa Herrmann, Clare Wolfendale, and Andrea Mraz Esposito

Key Findings:

  • TQRIS participation in all states and among all types of programs increased from 2012 to2016. Programs that served low-income children—state-funded pre-K, Head Start, and licensed centers that received subsidies—participated at much higher levels than licensed centers that did not receive subsidies, which might not serve low-income children.
  • Patterns in the percentage of programs in the top two rating levels differed substantially by state from 2012 to 2016. This finding could be due, in part, to various differences across states, including differences in states’ TQRIS characteristics and policies and the composition of programs that participated in each state.
  • Most states increased the percentage of programs at the top rating levels. In particular, most states expanded TQRIS participation among two types of programs (state-funded pre-K and Head Start programs) that serve low-income children. These programs tended to enter TQRIS at high levels either by meeting TQRIS standards or through policies (alternative pathways and automatic ratings) that grant them credit for certain TQRIS standards because they meet them through external quality standards.
  • The availability of high-rated programs for low-income children increased over time in the nine RTT-ELC states. Notably, licensed centers that received subsidies moved from lower to higher rating levels over time. However, most children served by licensed centers that received subsidies were not enrolled in programs at the top levels by 2016.

This brief describes patterns of participation in tiered quality rating and improvement systems (TQRIS) and ratings for the nine Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Round 1 states during the grant period (2012 to 2016). The brief presents patterns by state and for four types of programs: (1) state-funded prekindergarten (pre-K) programs, (2) Head Start programs, (3) licensed centers that received child care subsidies, and (4) licensed centers that did not receive subsidies.