Quality Start is Louisiana’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system (QRIS). The Department of Children and Family Services contracts with the Louisiana Department of Education to implement the QRIS. In 2007, the Louisiana Legislature passed a package of tax credits, known as School Readiness Tax Credits, which support the Quality Start QRIS. The tax credits include benefits for families with children enrolled in rated centers, child care providers that serve children receiving child care subsidies, child care teachers and directors who work in rated centers, and businesses that support quality child care.
QRIS Name: Quality Start
Organization: Quality Improvement Unit, Early Childhood Division, LA Department of Education under contract with the Department of Children and Family Services
Web Site: http://www.qrslouisiana.org/
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
Standards and Criteria
Louisiana Includes Improvement Plans in Quality Start Standards
Louisiana’s standards for Quality Start include a requirement application for two to five star ratings that centers complete a self-assessment of their program and develop a Center Improvement Plan. The Center Self-Assessment includes a review of Administration Practices, Family & Community Involvement, Program, and Staff Qualifications for the director and Lead Teachers. After completion of the self-assessment, the Center Improvement Plan must be completed. Center Improvement Plans are completed before submitting an Application for Two–Five Star Rating. Centers develop a Quality Start Portfolio that includes not only the Center Self-Assessment but also the documentation for each requirement and the Center Improvement Plan. Additional information about the Improvement Plan is available at http://www.qrslouisiana.org/assets/files/Quality%20Improvement%20Plan.pdf.
Louisiana's Quality Start Is a Hybrid Model
Quality Start, the Louisiana QRIS, uses both a building block and point approach to assign quality ratings. All programs that participate in the QRIS must meet the basic requirements for a Star One and Star Two rating in four component areas of standards: administrative practices, family and community involvement, program, and staff qualifications. In addition to these basic requirements, programs applying for Star Three must have an additional 3 to 5 points; programs applying for Star Four must achieve 6 to 9 points; and programs applying for Star Five must achieve 10 or 11 points. Points are earned in two areas of standards: staff qualification and program (for reduction in staff-child ratios, introduction of group size, use of early learning guidelines, social-emotional screening of children, plan for continuity of care, and the ERS score). One additional quality point may be earned in administrative practices or family and community involvement. Additional information is available at http://www.qrslouisiana.org/qs_model.html.
In Quality Start, the Louisiana QRIS, child care centers can receive one to four points based on the social-emotional subscale score of the ERS. There are minimum scores for both individual classrooms and the average score for all classrooms. To receive the maximum five points, centers must receive an average score of 5.0 on the overall ERS, with no one classroom scoring lower than 4.0. Four or five points are earned if the program completes a screening with all children (0-5 yrs.) for social-emotional development within 45 calendar days of enrollment and annually thereafter. Programs must hold a conference with parents to review the results and provide a list of community resources. Louisiana also created a mental health consultation program that is linked to participation in Quality Start. Participating centers receive consultation (one full day every other week for a 6-month period) from licensed mental health providers with training in infant mental health. Evaluation data using the CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System) instrument indicates that the consultation is producing results. Additional information is available at http://www.qrslouisiana.com/.
Quality Assurance and Monitoring
Alternative Approaches to Meeting Requirements in Louisiana
In the Louisiana QRIS, Quality Start, there are four alternatives for Directors to meet the requirement for 3 semester hours in administration training at the 2 Star level: (1) Louisiana Administrator Certificate, (2) National Administrator Credential, (3) 3 years of experience in administration, or (4) combination of 1 year of experience in administration and 4 years of teaching young children in an early childhood program. Louisiana’s Quality Start standards are available at http://www.qrslouisiana.org/child-care-staff/pathways-child-care-career-development-system.
Provider Incentives and Support
Social Marketing Campaign for Parents and Providers in Louisiana
Louisiana launched a multifaceted social marketing campaign aimed at boosting child care center participation in Quality Start, the State's QRIS, as well as a package of School Readiness Tax Credits (SRTC) linked to Quality Start. Louisiana State University conducted a statewide survey of parents and child care providers to determine their familiarity with Quality Start and the SRTC. Researchers sent targeted information to providers that were unaware of the new supports. The State also partnered with Tulane University and Keating Magee, a marketing firm, to develop a detailed social marketing plan aimed at ensuring that parents and providers are not only familiar with Quality Start and the SRTC, but also understand what is required to participate and can take advantage of these benefits. Additional information is available at http://www.qrslouisiana.com/.
Louisiana Links Refundable Tax Credits to QRIS
In 2007, Louisiana passed legislation that created an innovative early care and education financing strategy, School Readiness Tax Credits (SRTC), designed to support the State's new QRIS, Quality Start. Enhanced tax credits are available to families that enroll children in Quality Start centers; proprietary and nonprofit child care providers that participate in Quality Start; child care teachers and directors that work in Quality Start centers; and businesses that support child care providers or CCR&R agencies. An important strength of the SRTC is that most of the tax credits, including those available to teachers and early care and education programs, are refundable. A refundable tax credit is available to taxpayers even if it is greater than their tax liability or if they owe no taxes at all. This means that eligible child care teachers who earn low wages (and therefore pay little or no tax) receive a wage subsidy each year in the form of a tax refund. In addition, nonprofit child care centers may receive what is essentially an annual grant, in the form of a tax refund, based on their star level and the number of eligible children they serve. Additional information is available at http://www.qrslouisiana.org/tax-credits.
Cost Projections and Financing
Tax Credit Encourages Business Contributions in Louisiana
In addition to giving tax credits to families, teachers, and directors, the Louisiana School Readiness Tax Credit provides an incentive for businesses to make contributions to child care. Businesses that construct, renovate, or expand a child care center, purchase equipment for a center, maintain or operate a center, or subsidize child care for their employees can receive a tax credit, the amount of which is based on the star rating of the center. Businesses may also receive a tax credit for donations made to CCR&R agencies that provide technical assistance for programs that improve their Quality Start QRIS star status. Additional information is available at http://www.qrslouisiana.org/businesses.
Louisiana Parent Brochure
Louisiana has a brochure geared toward parents that explains its Quality Start ratings program. It includes information on why programs participate, what the ratings mean, and why to choose a Quality Start center. A copy of the brochure can be found here: http://www.qrslouisiana.org/assets/files/Parents%20Brochure.pdf.