The High Quality Early Learning Ecosystem

 by Demetria Martinez, Denver Preschool Program Coordinator 

Demetria Martinez

Reflections on the 2016 QRIS National Meeting

Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) are a relatively new early learning support strategy—one that is developing rapidly throughout the country. When QRIS were first developed, it was in the context of a prevailing concern about the quality and even safety of the formal settings for young children’s care. Then and now, the other overriding concern has been that disparities between opportunities and outcomes for young children by race, place and income are substantial and persistent.

There is always a renewed sense of why you do the work you do when attending a national conference and that was definitely the feeling I left with following the QRIS National Meeting in New Orleans back in July. I started the national meeting with a session entitled “Looking Back to Refocus” which through a series of facilitated discussions, participants reflected on the value of QRIS from multiple perspectives, research and wisdom supporting implementation practices as well as QRIS hot topics. It’s focus audience was for new professionals such as me.

There were sessions on every topic you could imagine pertaining to Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS). One of my favorite sessions was on cost modeling called “Cost Modeling and the Impact of Policy on the Early Care and Education Provider Bottom Line” which highlighted that it isn’t always in the best interest of providers financially to be a higher quality program and that states that use tiered reimbursement should utilize cost modeling to adjust rates to more closely align with market rates.

Quality Rating and Improvement Systems are evolving rapidly. QRIS leaders, including those in Colorado, are continually trying new strategies and creating new models. To contribute to the evolution of QRIS, the BUILD Initiative, an organization that helps state leaders develop programs, services and policies tailored to the needs of each state’s unique young child population, is creating resources to address the continuing challenges of financing, and the need to gain adequate public investment to support QRIS sufficiently to meet its full potential.

Outcome of the QRIS

Learn more about the QRIS National Meeting hosts: BUILD Initiative at and the QRIS National Learning Network at Learn more about Colorado’s QRIS, or Colorado Shines, at

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