Cultivate Learning : Center for research and professional developement

Washington State’s Quality Rating and Improvement System

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States across the nation are adopting Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, or QRIS, in an attempt to improve the quality of Early Childhood Education across the country. Washington State’s QRIS system, Early Achievers, is a unique program that utilizes classroom assessment and a review of the individual supports that providers have implemented in their work with young children and families. Through this five-level program, providers can earn points toward quality improvement awards by showing evidence of practices that meet the requirements of Washington State’s Early Learning Standards.

History and Development

CQEL worked to develop the Early Achievers Standards in collaboration with the Department of Early Learning and Thrive Washington (formerly Thrive by Five Washington) over the course of 2010-2011. Building on a first-year pilot conducted by Mathematica Policy Research in 2009-2010, CQEL conducted the second-year pilot of Seeds to Success Quality Standards Rating in five regions across Washington State with the voluntary participation of 90 child care facilities and family child care homes. The goals of the second-year pilot were to:

  • determine Fall childcare quality across the five returning communities
  • examine the feasibility of implementing a full Seeds to Success Quality Standards Rating across all four quality standard areas
  • inform whether coaching and professional development efforts increased Seeds to Success Ratings in participating programs
  • make recommendations for implementing the Seeds to Success model on a larger scale
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Four types of measures informed the Seeds to Success Quality Standards Rating. The first two were established quantitative measures of classroom quality: the Environment Rating Scales (ERS) and the Classroom Assessment Scoring Scale (CLASS™). The second two measures, developed by the Department of Early Learning and Thrive Washington, were self-report surveys that providers filled out with coach assistance. These measures were the Self-Assessment Questionnaire Documentation Guide (SAQDG) and the Professional Development and Training Survey (PDTS). Participants in the Seeds to Success pilot were evaluated using all four measures once in the fall of 2010, and again in the spring of 2011.

CQEL used ERS and CLASS™ scores, the PDTS, and the SAQDG to complete a rating for each indicator of the Seeds to Success Quality Standards:

  • The Curriculum and Learning Environment standard area was informed by ERS and CLASS™ scores
  • The Professional Development and Training standard area was informed by PDTS data
  • The Curriculum and Learning Environment, Professional Development and Training, Family and Community Partnerships, and Leadership and Management Practices standard areas were informed by information from the SAQDG


The Seeds to Success model utilized a building blocks approach to ratings, where all of the standards in each level must be met for programs to move to the next level. For example, in order for an indicator to be scored a Four, all the items under levels One, Two, Three and Four needed to be fulfilled. A score for each standard area was given based on the lowest score for each indicator within that area. The underlying rationale for this hierarchically tiered structure was that the items comprising each indicator represent increasingly sophisticated aspects of quality care and learning environments.

Seeds to Success incorporated an approach called Consultative Coaching for Early Learning. The foundation of this approach was the relationship between the coach and provider, and was based on the assumption that the provider is naturally creative, resourceful and whole. This approach required the coach to use active inquiry and listening skills to understand the situation as the provider saw it. The coach used observation skills to gather additional data and share those observations to help the provider develop new interpretations and possibilities about the situation. Coaches worked with each provider to develop a vision of quality for their programs, and from that common point of understanding, the coach and provider worked collaboratively to develop a Quality Improvement Plan for change based on their Seeds to Success Quality Standards Rating and specific assessment scores.

The recommendations from reports generated by CQEL during the 2010-2011 Seeds to Success pilot were used by the Department of Early Learning in conjunction with CQEL to develop what is now the Early Achievers Quality Standards. These reports can be found in the CQEL Technical Reports Archive.