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QRIS Resource Guide


Parent Aware’s Star Ratings help parents find programs that prepare children for school and life. The voluntary one- to four-star ratings system measures best practices identified by research that help children succeed. Participating programs have: volunteered for extra, in-depth training; devoted themselves to strong, caring relationships with each child; adopted the latest approaches to keeping children’s learning on track; committed to daily activities and routines that help children learn; and placed a focus on children’s health and safety. Parent Aware Star Ratings are available to accredited child care, Head Start, and school-based pre-kindergarten programs. For non-accredited child care programs, Parent Aware is currently operating in some areas of the State; however, Parent Aware will be available statewide to these programs January 1, 2015.

Minnesota Contacts

QRIS Name: Parent Aware

Organization: Led by the Minnesota Department of Human Services in coordination with the Minnesota Office of Early Learning

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

Standards and Criteria

Minnesota QRIS Includes Child Assessment

Parent Aware, the Minnesota QRIS, requires participating centers and family child care providers to conduct regular child assessments. To earn 1 Star, all center lead teachers or lead family child care providers complete at least 2 hours of training on authentic observation practices and observe children regularly and record information at least monthly. For 2 Stars, observation summaries are shared with families. The higher QRIS levels (3 and 4 Stars) are achieved by earning points. A total of 4 points can be earned in child assessment by meeting these standards:

  • Conduct assessment using an approved tool with all children at least twice per year in at least the following domains: social-emotional, language and literacy, mathematical thinking and physical development; and all lead teachers/providers complete 8 hours of training on authentic child assessment (2 points); OR,
  • Conduct assessment using an approved tool with all children at least once per year in two or more domains, and all lead teachers/providers complete at least 8 hours of training on authentic child assessment (1 point).
  • Provide families with child assessment results, and if a child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individual Family Services Plan (IFSP), share assessment results with team with family’s permission. For a child with a special need who is receiving specialty services (for example, physical or occupational therapy), share assessment results with service providers with family’s permission (1 point).
  • Use child assessment information to develop lesson plans and individual goals for all children in the program (1 point).


Additional information is available at

Data Collection and Evaluation

Minnesota Parent Aware Validation and Evaluation Strategies

Child Trends, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization is conducting the Parent Aware Evaluation from 2012-2016 with funding from Parent Aware for School Readiness (PASR) and Greater Twin Cities United Way.

To address the research question about effectiveness of the quality indicators and structure of the Parent Aware Rating Tool in differentiating quality, a validation study is being conducted. The study will:

  • Collect data from participating early care and education programs to test whether the interactions between children and their teachers/caregivers and the learning environments of programs are distinct at the four quality levels in Parent Aware.

To address the research question about linkages between children’s development and the Parent Aware quality levels, the validation study will:

  • Collect and analyze data from children and families in rated programs. Programs will be selected to participate that represent the range of center-based and family child care settings rated in both the Parent Aware full rating process and the Accelerated Pathways to Rating (APR). Children will complete direct assessments of their school readiness skills in the fall and spring in the year before Kindergarten. Teachers and parents will also complete assessments of children’s skills and provide information about their background and family characteristics. Rigorous analytic models will be conducted to identify whether and how the rating levels, process (the full rating compared to the APR process) and select quality indicators relate to children’s gains.

Results from both components of the Parent Aware validation study will be available in 2015-2016 after a sufficient number of programs have enrolled in Parent Aware and implementation of Parent Aware has stabilized statewide. Additional evaluation questions focus on understanding how implementation of Parent Aware is proceeding, how quality is improving over time, and how Parent Aware is contributing to Minnesota’s early care and education.

Cost Projections and Financing

Minnesota Leverages Public and Private Funding

In addition to public funding from Minnesota’s Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge Grant and federal Child Care Development Funds, the evaluation for Parent Aware, Minnesota’s QRIS, is funded by Parent Aware for School Readiness, a business-leader-led private nonprofit and the Greater Twin Cities United Way. In addition to funding the evaluation, both entities fund other significant Parent Aware efforts. Parent Aware for School Readiness markets ratings to parents and providers statewide. Greater Twin Cities United Way also supports the Accreditation Facilitation Project which is supporting 350 child care centers in the nine-county metro area in becoming both accredited and Parent Aware rated.

Consumer Education

Minnesota Studies Parent Choices

Parent Aware for School Readiness (PASR) sponsors a Parent Aware Ratings campaign including radio, online, TV and neighborhood ads that drive consumers to A 2013 random sample survey of Minnesota parents of 0-5 year olds found that:

  • 61 percent of parents who recall the ads say the ads “made them stop and think about the need to have pre-kindergarten children in stimulating learning environments”
  • 72 percent of parents who can recall the ads agreed that “all parents should be asking questions about a child care provider’s Parent Aware Rating”
  • 78 percent of Minnesota parents of young children who recall the ads say that if all other things are equal, they would choose a rated provider over an unrated one, while only 4 percent would choose an unrated provider.

More information is available at