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QRIS Resource Guide


Quality First, a program of First Things First, aims to improve the quality of early learning for children birth to 5 across Arizona. To measure progress, each program enrolled in the voluntary QRIS is assessed and given a Quality First Star Rating, ranging from 1 to 5 stars. The first two levels (Rising Star and Progressing Star) show that a program is approaching quality standards. The top three levels (Quality, Quality Plus, and Highest Quality) demonstrate that the programs meet or exceed the quality standards of the QRIS.

Arizona Contacts

QRIS Name: Quality First

Organization: First Things First

Web Site:

QRIS State Profile

This profile is from the QRIS Compendium—a comprehensive resource for information about all of the QRIS operating in the U.S. and its Territories. It was developed by a partnership of the BUILD Initiative, the Early Learning Challenge Collaborative, and Child Trends.

QRIS Resource Guide Examples

Initial Design Process

Arizona Governor Sets the Stage for a QRIS

In 2003, former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a supporter of early childhood education, completed appointments to a School Readiness Board and charged it with developing a framework to help young children be ready for kindergarten. Governor Napolitano insisted that increased public funds for early care and education would require increases in quality beyond basic regulation. With the Governor’s support, the School Readiness Board proposed a QRIS along with other early childhood strategies. In 2006, a tobacco tax to support an early childhood development and health initiative was passed by the Arizona voters. This initiative became known as First Things First. In January 2007, the responsibility for the development and implementation of Arizona’s QRIS, Quality First, transitioned from the School Readiness Board to the First Things First Board. Additional information is available at .  

Approaches to Implementation

Targeting Participation in the Rollout of a QRIS in Arizona

Six hundred programs throughout the State were selected to participate in the first phase of Arizona’s Quality First. Four hundred of these programs were center based and 200 were family child care homes. This represented roughly 10 percent of the State’s centers and 5 percent of its homes. The first step in the selection process was to use the percentage of regulated settings (licensed and certified centers and homes) by region to equitably divide the available slots among regions, thus reducing geographic and rural/urban competition. Then the following selection criteria were applied, each of which had different point values related to priorities of First Things First and State agencies:

  • Percentage of children enrolled in child care subsidy (in three tiers with the higher percentage earning higher priority points)
  • Percentage of children enrolled who qualify for free/reduced lunch
  • Whether the program was a full-year program
  • Whether the program was a full-day program
  • Whether the program served children on weekends or evenings
  • Whether the program had never (or in the last 3 years) been accredited
  • Whether the program had never (or in the last 3 years) participated in any of its State's quality improvement initiatives (such as a Self-Study program through Child Care and Development Fund monies or a United Way Hands on Quality initiative)
  • Whether the program served infants or toddlers

These criteria were used to rank applicants within a region from highest to lowest point value.

Additional information is available at

Quality Assurance and Monitoring

Arizona's Robust and User-Friendly QRIS Data System

Arizona opted to build its own data system, which includes comprehensive information on programs, classrooms, children, staff, registration and licensing status, and assessments. Coaches enter data and upload evidence into the system, and directors update data on their programs. Users of the system have the ability to analyze data and quickly pull reports. The system was developed using an agile methodology, which allows developers to make changes quickly in response to users’ needs.

Consumer Education

Arizona Parent Survey

The Arizona Child Care Demand Study (2012)is a large-scale, survey-based research project, designed to find out when and why Arizona parents use child care; how they make child care decisions; and what they think about the quality, cost and accessibility of early care and education programs in their communities.

First Things First commissioned a team of researchers from the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University to conduct detailed interviews of more than 1,300 parents from across the state, asking them about the early care and education arrangements they have made, or wish they could make, for their kids. The full study is available at Additional information is available at