Arkansas’ Better Beginnings, a voluntary quality rating and improvement system, requires increasing progress by providers in several component areas—administration, administrator and staff qualifications, professional development, learning environment, facility assessment, and child health/development. Participating child care providers’ quality ratings will be posted on the Better Beginnings Web site. This resource will help to inform parents as they make decisions about care for their children.
QRIS Name: Better Beginnings
Organization: Arkansas Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education, Arkansas Department of Human Services
Web Site: http://www.arbetterbeginnings.com/
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
Arkansas Campaign Focuses on Why Quality Matters
Before Arkansas Better Beginnings was launched, ARRA funding was used to increase public awareness of the importance of quality child care to school readiness and to Arkansas’ economic development. Better Beginnings was launched in October 2010 with an engaging Web site that included clips from the celebration kickoff. This was followed by a large scale public awareness campaign to help parents, caregivers and communities know that children are born learning. Television commercials included the program’s focus on increasing the level of professionalism in the field. The website includes information for parents on choosing and paying for child care and a 12-minute video featuring national experts, business and political leaders speaking on “Why Early Childhood Matters.” The Web site is at http://www.ARBetterBeginnings.com.
Provider Incentives and Support
Arkansas Toolkit Supports Provider's Success
On the Arkansas Better Beginnings’ user-friendly Web site, providers can access four resources after choosing between Family Child Care Home, Center, and School-Age: Checklists, Application, Toolkit, Better Beginnings Guide, and Rule Book. The checklists serve as a self-assessment tool for a provider to determine if they can meet criteria at different levels. The toolkit helps providers gather and structure necessary information and document their program’s progress throughout the certification process and beyond. Included are:
- Administrative tools such as budgets, parent handbooks and agreements, parent surveys, professional development plans, performance appraisals, salary scales, and a strategic planning template;
- Arkansas’ professional development resources;
- Child health and development resources;
- ERS Subscale Self-Evaluation Form; and
- Learning environment resources such as children’s portfolio documentation, curriculum plans and daily schedules.
When Better Beginnings was first launched, a series of clinics were held throughout the state where providers could receive an orientation and have their questions answered. The Web site is at http://www.arbetterbeginnings.com/providers-teachers/providers.
Arkansas always had a rich offering of early childhood coursework for child care providers, but with the launch of Better Beginnings, training was aligned with the QRIS criteria to support providers in attaining higher star levels. Some of the more innovative training that is available includes:
- Orientation training for directors and family child care providers, and pre-employment training for people that are new to the field of child care.
- Certificate programs for administrators, caregivers, and child care specialists based on ages of children served.
- A 30 hour course providing an introduction to the AR Early Childhood Education Framework that includes curriculum development, planning activities, assessment and evaluation and portfolio development. There is also a 12 hour course on the Infant Toddler Framework.
- Two 30 hour courses that focus on language and literacy development and on math and science strategies in working with young children.
- A 45 hour course addressing strategies and activities to ensure healthy social emotional development in programs for children ages 3-5 years.
- Welcome the Children training and technical assistance to assist early childhood professionals to better understand diversity, appreciate cultural differences and similarities, learn strategies to support English Language Learners, and promote inclusion.
Data Collection and Evaluation
Arkansas Validates Standards
Arkansas developed their QRIS standards over several years affording them the opportunity to have a group of researchers compare the standards to what research says about these measures, i.e., validated their standards and offering the opportunity to make adjustments. Recommendations from the researchers were as follows.
- Reduce Redundancy—Exclude content areas in the Strengthening Families component that are already measured with the PAS and ERS assessments.
- Use Measures as Written and Tested—Do not exclude items from the PAS assessment since this reduces it validity and reliability.
- Designate teacher-child ratios above the minimum in licensing. This standard is present in other state rating systems and other systems such as accreditation and Head Start.
- Incorporate process measures because they are stronger predictors of child outcomes and collect evidence of them through independent observation.
- Address lower levels of quality in the QRIS—Level 1 should be designated “getting ready” and the minimum ERS score to designate quality should be revisited.
- Address higher levels of quality—Develop levels of quality beyond the current highest level to encourage programs to improve to level that promotes optimal child development.
- Include child screening as a measure—It will lead to better child outcomes and early intervention is more effective.
Additional information is available at http://www.arbetterbeginnings.com/downloads/FULL%20REPORT.pdf.