Teaching Research Institute

TRI staff to present unique approach to program rating at the QRIS national meeting

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From left to right: Robyn Lopez Melton, Pat Aldrich and Tom Udell

Robyn Lopez Melton, Pat Aldrich and Tom Udell, staff members at Western Oregon University’s Teaching Research Institute (TRI), were invited to present at the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) national meeting from July 23 to 25 in Denver, Colo. QRIS is a system designed to improve the quality of child care by providing technical assistance to programs and professional development to staff, and to create a rating system that gives families a tool when looking for a program in which to place their children.

This invitation came after a successful presentation on Oregon’s QRIS at the 2014 National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development in Minneapolis. Their presentation, titled The Portfolio Approach: A cost-effective measure for evaluating program standards, focuses on Oregon’s unique use of a portfolio system to document standards as an affordable approach.

“The use of portfolios to evaluate child care programs is unique to Oregon’s QRIS,” says TRI’s Center on Early Learning Director Tom Udell. “It shows promise of not just being cost effective, but creating high levels of participation and engagement with home and center based child care providers.”

The portfolio system, which grew out of a decision from what was then Oregon’s Child Care Division about eight years ago, supports the idea that Oregon would always spend more supporting programs than rating them. At that time, Oregon’s Programs of Quality (also coordinated by TRI) conducted a pilot test to discover if one could accurately measure the quality of a child care program by having each child care program director submit documentation in a portfolio. The pilot test showed the method had promise, not only for documenting quality but for being more cost effective than direct observation. Oregon’s QRIS portfolio system was born.

“In most states, the rating is based on outside observations using selected observation tools,” said Robyn Lopez Melton, QRIS program coordinator and TRI staff member. “The observation approach includes the expense of hiring, training and maintaining skilled observers, the purchase of the observation tools, and travel expenses.” Absent most of these expenses, Oregon’s costs-per-program using portfolios appears to be lower.

Ella Taylor, Ph.D., director of Teaching Research Institute said, “Early evidence indicates that the use of a portfolio system encourages greater buy-in from early learning providers since they directly interact with the standards – needing to review each standard and show evidence of how his or her program satisfies the criteria. Oregon’s portfolio system engages providers by encouraging them to assess and improve their programs based on the standards.”

The portfolios contain all of Oregon’s early child care standards and indicators, and require evidence to document how programs meet the standards. The child care program directors complete and submit their portfolio to TRI. A team of trained reviewers review and rate each program. According to Lopez Melton, “Many programs receive their rating in the first review, and others respond to requests for additional evidence and are rated in a simple re-submission process.”

After attending Oregon’s QRIS presentation at the National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development in Minneapolis, Debi Mathias, Director of the QRIS National Learning Network with the BUILD Initiative, invited the TRI team to repeat the presentation at the QRIS National Meeting in Denver later this summer. TRI staff are excited about this opportunity to share what has proven to be an effective, engaging and successful process that may benefit QRIS programs across the country.

For more information, please contact Tom Udell at udellt@wou.edu

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