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To bring together early childhood stakeholders in the region to create a shared research agenda that will ultimately improve the lives of young children (birth through age 8).
Message From the Alliance LeadWelcome to Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest’s Early Childhood Education Research Alliance (ECERA) newsletter for 2015. I am pleased to share with you an update on the important work of ECERA on behalf of our members from the seven REL Midwest states.
Our work in the alliance brings together early childhood stakeholders in the region to create a shared research agenda that will ultimately improve the lives of young children (birth through age 8). With projects examining how to rate early childhood program quality and support improvement efforts via Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRISs), as well as projects focused on how to integrate early childhood education data systems, we support each state’s efforts to increase access to the highest quality early care and education.
As Plato said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work,” and ECERA is dedicated to supporting and informing educators, researchers, policymakers, families, and children to help every child have the best possible beginning. We invite you to take a peek at our work as we look forward to a busy year together! — Ann-Marie Faria, Ph.D.
REL Midwest Study Analyzes How Changes in One Quality Rating and Improvement System Resulted in New Ratings for Programs Statewide
A recent study released by REL Midwest, Examining Ratings and Dimensions of Quality in an Early Childhood Education Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), found that small changes in how Michigan calculates quality ratings under its QRIS, Great Start to Quality, altered ratings levels for early childhood education (ECE) programs across the state.
Using data on more than 2,300 early childhood education programs, this study documents the original and revised calculation approaches used in Michigan’s QRIS and compares quality ratings under the two approaches. It also explores ratings using a total score approach that calculates program ratings based on overall points, removing the requirement for programs to earn points in set domains.
Highlights from the study include:
- Almost 75 percent of participating ECE programs self-rated at either the lowest or highest quality level.
- Self-assessment ratings and independent observations of quality in Michigan’s QRIS were not significantly correlated, suggesting that they measure different aspects of quality (e.g., structural and process quality).
- As Michigan changed its QRIS calculation approach, programs in general rated higher under the revised calculation approach.
- If the state used a simple total-score calculation approach, ratings would be nearly identical to those under the revised calculation approach. This finding suggests a simpler approach may be appealing to Michigan and other states.
Michigan developed Great Start to Quality in the early 2000s and rolled out the system statewide in 2012. More than 2,000 programs participated in the QRIS by the end of that year. In 2013, Michigan revised its approach to calculating ratings as Great Start to Quality expanded.
This report is the culmination of a collaboration between the state of Michigan and REL Midwest that began in ECERA’s first year. Richard Lower and Lisa Brewer-Walraven from the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Early Learning, provided guidance on the project.
To read the full report, go to http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?projectID=355.
Video: Essential Elements of Successful Collaborative ResearchAnn-Marie Faria, ECERA’s alliance lead, is featured in REL Midwest’s new video about the essential elements of collaborative research. Please view the full video on the REL Midwest YouTube channel:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdVz4tpk5jM.
Meet the Researcher
Since 2012, Laura Hawkinson, Ph.D., has been working with ECERA to define, measure, implement, and evaluate elements of quality in the context of today’s early childhood education system. Hawkinson has particular expertise in QRIS and serves on the steering committee of INQUIRE, a national consortium of QRIS researchers.
Hawkinson has spent more than 10 years conducting policy-relevant early childhood education research, but her interest in early childhood started in the classroom. Right after she graduated from high school, Hawkinson was an assistant toddler teacher in the Salvation Army’s Our Place Child Care program for homeless families. This experience sparked her interest in early childhood education policy. Since then, Hawkinson’s education and career have remained focused on early childhood education research in diverse settings including Head Start, state prekindergarten, and child care programs.
As an ECERA researcher, Hawkinson served as Co-Principal Investigator on a project to develop a survey of quality improvement activities among programs participating in the Iowa Quality Rating System (QRS). REL Midwest partnered with the Iowa QRS Oversight Committee to develop the survey and helped prepare them to implement the survey by conducting a workshop on survey methods best practices and providing other technical assistance. Impressively, the survey response rate was 65 percent.
Hawkinson is now Principal Investigator on a research study, planned in close partnership with the Iowa QRS Oversight Committee, that will describe how programs in the Iowa QRS approach quality improvement. The study will also examine the relationship between quality improvement activities and changes in QRS ratings over time.
Hawkinson says the alliance structure helps researchers and practitioners navigate from “big picture” research questions to actionable projects. In addition, Hawkinson says her experience with ECERA has affected her work outside of the alliance.
“I try to involve stakeholders throughout the research process and make sure they understand the research findings,” she says. “This approach helps us translate complicated technical results into something that’s meaningful.”
Early Childhood Education Resources and Events
- For answers to common questions about QRISs and to learn more about the QRISs operating in the United States and its territories, consult the QRIS Compendium . The compendium exists “to promote thoughtful design, analysis and ongoing improvement in early care and education systems building.” The compendium presents QRIS profiles by state and enables users to compare QRIS data in different states by generating customized data reports.
- Information about how states are incorporating curriculum requirements into their QRISs is available in the response from REL Northeast & Islands to a reference desk requeston the topic.
- Coming soon is a response to a REL Midwest reference desk request regarding which aspects of QRIS are most aligned with improved student outcomes. Visit the REL Midwest website to see answers to past reference desk requests.
- REL Midwest presented a two-part web-based workshop, titled In Pursuit of Reliable Data: Using Surveys in Early Childhood Research, to help education professionals across the state of Iowa conduct applied, survey-based research in early childhood education.
- REL Midwest and REL Southwest teamed up to present Building Early Childhood Data Systems, a webinar to help participants better understand the current status of the development of early childhood data systems in states across the country.
- REL Mid-Atlantic presented Effective Teaching in Early Childhood Education, a webinar that focused on the importance of early childhood education and the critical role that early childhood teachers play in supporting student success.
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REL Midwest at American Institutes for Research
Early Childhood Education Research Alliance
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