Quality for ME is a four-step quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) designed to increase awareness of the basic standards of early care and education, recognize and support providers that are providing care above and beyond those standards, and educate the community of the benefits of higher quality care. The QRIS was also created to identify those programs that may need additional resources or supports to increase their level of quality as it is measured by the Quality for ME system. All staff and providers working in facilities that participate in Quality for ME are required to register in the Maine Roads to Quality Registry.
QRIS Name: Quality for ME
Organization: Office of Child and Family Services, Maine Department of Health and Human Services
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
Head Start is a Strong Participant in Maine QRIS
Quality for ME, the QRIS in Maine, includes a separate track for Head Start programs. Meeting Head Start Performance Standards is a criterion for Level Four, the top QRIS rating in Maine, under the program evaluation standard. The Maine Roads to Quality provider registry also tracks data for Head Start programs. Because the QRIS is linked to this database, screens populate automatically when the unique license identification number is entered. All full-day and most part-day Head Start sites in the State currently participate in Quality for ME. Additional information is available at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/ec/occhs/qualityforme.htm.
Standards and Criteria
Maine Uses Reflective Practice for Quality Improvement
In Step 2 of Maine’s Quality for ME, the program provides an opportunity to identify strengths and weaknesses with input from staff, administrators and families. A written plan for improvement based on the reflective practice is kept in the portfolio and made available for onsite review. At Step 3, the program is evaluated yearly using a self-assessment tool (e.g., Accreditation Guidelines, Head Start Standards, age appropriate environment rating scale, High Scope) and has a written improvement plan based upon findings of a comprehensive self-assessment designed to analyze all aspects of the program. Additional information is available at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/ec/occhs/qualityforme.htm.
Quality Assurance and Monitoring
Online Application Simplifies Process in Maine
For its QRIS, Quality for ME, Maine created an online application process, which is linked to the State's automated professional development registry. Providers begin the application process by entering their six-digit, unique child care license number. This number enables access to the system and automatically triggers the Maine Roads to Quality (MRTQ) Professional Development Registry records for the site. Providers verify or update these records, and go on to respond to queries that request the additional information required to determine their quality level. The MRTQ Registry provides accreditation and Head Start data, which are also used to help determine a quality level. Upon completion of the application, the system triggers a report that includes a brief overview of what quality level the provider is likely to receive based on the information entered. It also tells the applicant what is missing as well as what it would need to do to move to the next step in the QRIS. This report is then sent to Department of Health and Human Services staff to verify licensing compliance data and provide any other necessary approvals. Filling out the application is meant to be an educational experience for providers. The online system allows the user to hold the cursor over words which bring up popup boxes with definitions and other helpful information, including examples of policies and practices that meet the QRIS standards (e.g., model parent handbook or classroom planning tool). Additional information is available at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/ec/occhs/qualityforme.htm.
Maine's Process for Handling Appeals
In Maine’s Quality for ME QRIS, programs that do not agree with the accuracy of the Department of Health and Human Services’ rating may appeal a decision by requesting an informal review by the Early Childhood Division. If a provider is not satisfied with the result of this informal review, it may request an administrative hearing. The following policy is in place for this purpose:
“A provider must request an informal review and obtain a decision before requesting an administrative hearing. If the provider is dissatisfied with the informal review decision, he or she may write the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services to request a hearing provided he/she does so within thirty (30) calendar days of the date of the Director’s report on the Department’s action. Subsequent appeal proceedings will be limited only to those issues raised during the informal review. The Office of Administrative Hearings shall notify the provider in writing of the date, time and place of the hearing, and shall designate a presiding officer. Providers will be given at least twenty (20) calendar days advance notice of the hearing date. The hearing shall be held in conformity with the Maine Administrative Procedures Act, 5 M.R.S.A. §8001 et seq. and the Administrative Hearings Regulations.”
Additional information is available at www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/ec/occhs/qualityforme.htm.
Provider Incentives and Support
Maine QRIS Includes Multiple Provider Incentives
Providers that participate in Maine’s Quality for ME QRIS have access to targeted technical assistance from a range of organizations, resource materials, and publicity. Additionally, they may receive the following financial incentives:
- Priority access to scholarships for income-eligible staff who wish to pursue early childhood education degrees
- A reimbursement differential for each child whose care is subsidized by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child and Family Services: ◦Ten percent quality differential for programs that have reached Step 4 in the QRIS
- Five percent progress differential for programs that have reached Step 3
- Two percent quality differential for programs that have reached Step 2
- Double child care State income tax credit for parents whose child is enrolled in a program at the Step 4 level
- A Child Care Investment Tax Credit for expenses made to improve quality for programs that pay State taxes and have a QIP
Additional information about Maine’s incentive program is available at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/ec/occhs/qrs_application_manual.pdf.
Data Collection and Evaluation
Maine QRIS System Links Professional Development and Technical Assistance
Quality for ME, the QRIS in Maine, is a partnership of the State's professional development project, called Maine Roads to Quality. The Quality for ME automated system includes shared data linkages that populate forms with data from the professional development registry, the State licensing database, and National Association of Child Care Resources & Referral Agencies software. These automated data links minimize the amount of data entry required of an applicant; because an applicant must confirm the information, the process results in more accurate data across these State systems. Maine is developing an automated technical assistance tracking system that will be linked to the professional development registry and will enable individual providers to note on their transcript that they are receiving technical assistance on particular topics. Additional information is available at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/ec/occhs/qualityforme.htm.
Maine Evaluation Looks at QRIS Standards and Supports
Quality for ME, the QRIS in Maine, is engaged in an evaluation effort built into the system and based on random site visits. The focus is on ensuring that the Quality for ME standards, levels, and implementation strategies accurately measure significant differences in quality. The study uses ERS (Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale, School-Age Environment Rating Scale, and Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale) to evaluate the quality of early learning in the classroom or home. Additional information is available at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/ec/occhs/qualityforme.htm.