San Diego’s Quality Preschool Initiative is a systemic approach to assessing, improving, and communicating the level of quality in early care and education programs. All participating providers and educators are committed to quality and have an expressed stake in quality improvement. The Quality Preschool Initiative engages a variety of program types in its Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), including center-based preschools and infant/toddler programs as well as family child care homes.
Securing quality programs for young children has been a desire and a necessity for families for many decades. State licensing requirements were put in place for all service providers to ensure that minimum health and safety requirements are met for young children entrusted to their care. Since 1980, the Resource and Referral networks for child care in California have been partnering with parents and providers to communicate about elements of quality for the variety of program types.
In 2004, San Diego County stakeholders initiated a discussion about research-based quality practices with providers, policy-makers, and community members. Through a multi-year planning process, shared definitions of quality early education started to take shape, and were implemented across the county starting in 2006 through the Preschool for All program funded by First 5 San Diego. In 2012, lessons learned through implementation of Preschool for All were applied to the new Quality Preschool Initiative, designed to increase access to high-quality early learning for San Diego County children. At the same time, , the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant provided a forum for 16 California counties (including San Diego County) to gather and refine research-based quality indicators for early learning environments. Using local, state and national guidelines, the California counties participating in RTT-ELC developed a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) rating matrix template, which was adapted in each county. The Quality Preschool Initiative utilizes the San Diego QRIS Rating Matrix as a key tool for assessing and supporting quality in early care and education programs, and it is an important standard for rating the quality of early learning programs in San Diego.
Over 300 early learning sites have been rated using the San Diego QRIS Rating Matrix. Most of these sites are receiving quality improvement support and resources as the initial cohort of the Quality Preschool Initiative (QPI), which is primarily funded by First 5 San Diego and is focused largely on center-based preschools, although centers serving infants and toddlers and family child care homes have also participated. Additional funding from the California Department of Education, First 5 California, and the United Way of San Diego County has enabled recent expansion to include more infant/toddler centers and family child care homes.
Today, all early care and education providers are eligible to receive a rating and related technical assistance for quality improvement, and some participating programs may also be eligible to receive coaching, professional development, and/or quality incentives.
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