Evaluation of Delaware Stars for Early Success: Year 1 report
As part of a federal Race to the Top--Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant, Delaware is seeking to improve early care and education (ECE) services and increase the number of infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children in high-quality programs. To continue to improve the quality of its ECE programs, Delaware has designed Delaware Stars for Early Success, the state's voluntary quality rating and improvement system (QRIS). The state is now validating Delaware Stars to ensure that the QRIS works as intended. As the selected contractor for the validation study, RAND is undertaking an evaluation to support the Delaware Office of Early Learning (OEL) and other stakeholders in the state in their efforts to design and implement an effective, robust system for measuring and reporting on the quality of ECE programs in home and center settings. The evaluation further aims to inform efforts to improve the quality of ECE programs in ways that are beneficial for participating children and their families. This report highlights the results of a series of startup activities in support of the validation study. In particular, this report addresses the following questions: What do we know from prior QRIS validation research? What lessons can inform the design of the Delaware Stars evaluation? What is the extent of participation in Delaware Stars on the part of home- and center-based providers, and what do the ratings reveal about dimensions of program quality? What are the experiences of system administrators, providers, and families with Delaware Stars? What aspects of the system are working well, and what challenges do stakeholders identify? What can we learn from existing national data about the relationship between the dimensions of quality in the Delaware Stars QRIS and child developmental outcomes? We addressed these questions in the following ways: a review of prior QRIS validation studies that examined questions similar to those posed; for Delaware Stars; an analysis of state administrative data to assess provider participation rates in Delaware Stars and quality rating outcomes for participating providers; a summary of qualitative findings from interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders that addressed various aspects of Delaware Stars; a "virtual pilot" of Delaware Stars using existing data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) to gain insights into the relationship between child developmental progress and the program quality elements used to determine Delaware Stars ratings. (author abstract)
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