Continuous Quality Improvement In Early Childhood Education
Continuous quality improvement, or CQI, is a core principle in modern, early childhood education. This principle recognizes the capacity of young children to learn effectively. It also recognizes the extent to which young children can benefit from well-designed schools and programs. Most of all, CQI sets young learners up for a lifetime of educational progress and success.
All of this means that Head Start teachers and administrators have a pressing need to implement CQI in their programs. However, this implementation is not just a simple to-do item to be added to a checklist of tasks. Instead, it’s an organization-wide imperative that calls for the involvement of educators, staff, children and their families. If the values of CQI are to be successfully nurtured, a system must be in place to facilitate that involvement. And ideally, in addition to meeting real-world objectives, such a system will be efficient and easy to adopt.
At Learning Genie, we specialize in the development of effective, easy-to-manage tools for education professionals. That includes a full suite of services designed to allow educators of preschool-age children to streamline their most essential tasks and programs. We’re dedicated to helping Head Start programs meet their ongoing goals for continuous quality improvement in the early childhood setting.
Fundamentals of Continuous Quality Improvement
The concept of CQI was originally created to meet the organizational needs of health care providers and businesses. It has since been adapted to the needs of organizations in the education field. What is continuous quality improvement in early childhood education? It’s an ongoing commitment to doing two primary things:
1) Improving an organization’s ability to deliver effective, high-quality educational services
2) Using those services to maximize outcomes for all children enrolled in a program
To achieve its aims, this commitment must be institutional. Administrators must create an atmosphere in which it can flourish. And teachers must buy into the institutional commitment and find ways to bring it to life within programs and classrooms. In addition, children and families are enlisted as vital co-partners in the constant drive toward CQI.
Several qualities or traits are typically found in an organization fully engaged in continuous quality improvement. Examples of these key attributes include:
- Proactive use of CQI at all levels and in every aspect of a program
- The establishment of CQI as a prime force in the program’s decision-making and overall mission
- An institutional structure that gives everyone, including parents and families, an active role in deciding how the program operates
- Effective methods in place for examining both the short- and long-terms results of the program
- All results based firmly on accurate data and ongoing reportage
- Data-driven results forming the basis for continuous system improvement
- All data distributed widely enough with the program to meet the needs of both teachers and administrators
In addition to fostering a conducive environment, CQI-aware programs must meet other important goals. These goals include such things as:
- Making consistent use of the data gathered by administrators and teachers
- Creating an effective way of managing the flow of information so that it can be tracked and analyzed at all times
- Conducting frequent evaluations to help ensure that CQI values are being implemented throughout the program
Frameworks for Evaluating Continuous Quality Improvement
What does continuous quality improvement in an early childhood program look like? There is no single answer to this question. That’s true, in part, because organizations can use a number of different frameworks to evaluate their early childhood programs for continuous quality improvement. One such framework, outlined below, is roughly designed to resemble a structure or building:
Continuous Quality Improvement
Outcome-Focused | High Expectations | Involvement | Assessments and Feedback
Shared Values and Goals
The foundation of this building is comprised of the values and goals shared by the entire organization and its constituent children and families. This shared outlook becomes the basis for developing trust between everyone involved. In turn, this trust is the basis for effective decision-making powered by reportage and data-gathering.
Next come the four columns that hold up the roof of the structure:
1) An outcome-focused program ethic
2) High expectations for success at all levels of the program
3) Engaged involvement on the part of all stakeholders
4) An active, effective system for making assessments and generating timely feedback
On top of all of this rests the achievable goal of continuous quality improvement.
Another possible framework for early childhood education rooted in continuous quality improvement is known as the Plan-Do-Study-Act, or PDSA, cycle. The cycle, laid out as follows, progresses from the top left quadrant in a clockwise direction:
The inner workings of any given program may be similar or different from other programs in a number of ways. What matters is not the details or the specific framework currently in place. Instead, the relevant point of focus is the real-world outcome in terms of creating effective CQI. On the surface, the PDSA framework may seem simpler than the structure-based framework. However, both models are effective methods of relaying the depth of planning, effort and evaluation needed for successful continuous quality improvement.
Enlisting Parents and Families as CQI Co-Partners
Continuous quality improvement is difficult or impossible to achieve without the active participation of children’s parents or other family members. These CQI co-partners provide vital information that teachers and administrators use as a basis for much of their review, analysis and decision-making process. However, while this information is essential, it can also be time-consuming and cumbersome to gather and collate.
To foster parent participation in ongoing CQI efforts in a timely, efficient manner, education professionals must have tools that simplify achievement of this objective. These tools must be accessible to all stakeholders. They must also be adaptable to the needs of families from a diverse array of cultures and with a wide range of language preferences. If these conditions aren’t met, effective continuous quality improvement may remain out of reach.
Learning Genie has created a comprehensive suite of tools designed to facilitate family engagement in Head Start programs. This suite functions as a group of interlocking sub-applications or modules. The group of connected tools includes:
- A Family Engagement module
- An In-Kind module
- A Survey module
Each of these modules allows you to achieve key family-related CQI goals.
The Family Engagement Module
The Family Engagement module provides a convenient way to make regular contact with the families of children enrolled in your program. At its core is a two-way communications platform that families can access through the Learning Genie app or via email. This platform features a built-in auto-translate function capable of parsing more than 100 languages. An included text-to-speech option makes back-and-forth communication even easier.
You can use the module to carry out a range of tasks that support your CQI objectives. Examples of these tasks include:
- Providing parents with regular updates on the program’s daily activities
- Sending out notifications for upcoming events, whether in-person or virtual
- Sending system-wide push notifications
The In-Kind Module
One of the many ways that parents help Head Start programs meet their CQI goals is by donating their time and resources. These actions help programs fulfill the 20% in-kind funding requirement mandated under federal law. The Learning Genie In-Kind module helps teachers and administrators handle an often-complicated, two-part task:
1) Assigning donation activities to specific families
2) Tracking these activities and collating the results
When making assignments, teachers can choose from a ready library of common parental activities. Once an assignment is completed, all a parent has to do is log on and submit the completed activity. Teachers can then review this information.
All of this is accomplished in real time. This means that, anytime they want, teachers and administrators can check the current status of assignments and completed in-kind donations. They can also generate detailed breakdowns of these donations. And when the time comes, you can easily export data from the In-Kind module to the fiscal specialists within your organization.
The Survey Module
Surveys provide you with crucial feedback on the experiences of families in your Head Start program. Without this feedback, you lack any real way to assess program effectiveness and keep your CQI efforts moving in the right direction. On the other side of the equation, you must also have a convenient way of tracking and analyzing all survey information.
Learning Genie’s Survey module helps you simplify the process of sending out surveys as much as possible. You have two options for reaching out to parents and families:
- A short questionnaire that identifies the survey respondent
- An anonymous satisfaction survey that doesn’t identify the respondent
Both of these options can be accessed by responding families through the app itself or through our web portal. When needed, you can remind families that have yet to complete their surveys to do so and submit the results. And when the data comes in, you can use the Survey module to analyze it at several levels of detail. In turn, this analysis serves as a crucial tool for CQI assessment and planning.
Facilitating Blended Learning and Distance Learning
In today’s world, Head Start programs must do more than meet the needs of children who attend in person each week. They must also accommodate the needs of blended learners who attend in person some of the time and also learn at home. In addition, effective programs must accommodate those children who are full-time distance learners. Without success in each of these areas, CQI initiatives will inevitably fall short of their goals.
When you use Learning Genie, you enjoy access to multiple tools designed to support blended and distance learning. One such resource is the Digital Portfolio Tool. This tool allows parents and families to provide updates on the progress of their distance-learning children. It also gives teachers the ability to utilize these progress reports for assessment and future planning.
In addition, families have access to an extensive eBook and learning media library. The available learning media options cover a large range of relevant topics. And the eBook selection is based entirely on Head Start-approved reading materials.
The Learning Genie suite also includes a virtual event planning tool. You can use this tool to plan upcoming events, invite parents to attend, and send event reminders when appropriate. Families can use the app to attend virtual events from any location inside or outside their homes.
Effective Tracking and Management of CQI Data
While evaluating early childhood programs for continuous quality improvement, education professionals generate tremendous amounts of data. Teachers gather detailed information on each child, whether attendance is in-person, blended or distanced. And in turn, administrators gather detailed information on the efforts of each teacher, as well as the program as a whole.
The challenge of tracking and managing so much information can push program staff to their limits. That’s especially true if you don’t take advantage of technological tools that simplify the requirements for high-quality data tracking and management. On the other hand, the right tool can turn a once-insurmountable task into a smooth, efficient and results-oriented process.
The Learning Genie suite of tools provides you with a state-of-the-art technological solution for tracking and managing CQI data. This solution is known as the Family Engagement Dashboard. The dashboard is a real-time hub for your data-gathering activities. It allows you to track any of the other tools within the suite. It also gives detailed breakdowns of such things as:
- The current level of two-way communication between the program and its parent co-partners
- The number of parents who make use the app on any given day
- Current readouts on in-kind donations to the program
- The number of push notifications and the level of response to those notifications
- The results of family surveys and questionnaires
- The number of children making use of learning media and eBook resources
- The overall current level of successful family engagement within the program
Breakdowns of all data are available on a weekly or monthly basis. Teachers and administrators are free to drill down to the level of detail that best supports their role in promoting and maintaining CQI. The end result is a seamless, customizable resource adaptable to a wide range of Head Start programs and education professionals.
Learning Genie Helps You Get Started
When an institution adopts a new process or technology, the risks for significant disruption are considerable. Instead of following their accustomed routines, teachers and administrators must take the time to learn a new set of skills. As a rule, they must also develop new day-to-day work habits. Even when a change is ultimately positive, it can strain the coping capacity of dedicated educators who are already busy carrying out critical tasks.
With all of this in mind, the burden is on technology providers to make the switchover to a new way of doing things as simple and straightforward as possible. This is an essential goal if disruption is to be kept to a minimum. It’s also essential to fostering user buy-in. That’s true because new users who have an easy time adapting are more likely to view change in a positive light.
At Learning Genie, we understand the risks of poor buy-in and a steep learning curve. That’s why we design our CQI tools to be as fluid and intuitive as possible. It’s also why we provide extensive, role-specific training resources for both teachers and administrators.
Our teachers’ handbook provides ready guides on crucial topics such as:
- How to use the Learning Genie app and web portal
- The steps needed to invite families to begin using their child-specific versions of the app and web portal
- Methods of interacting smoothly with administrators and gaining needed guidance and permissions
Our administrators’ handbook also provides step-by-step training in how to use the web portal and app. However, since administrators have different day-to-day responsibilities than teachers, much of this training is focused on the organizational level, not the classroom level. Specific organizational tasks covered in the handbook include:
- Creating the program’s Learning Genie account
- Setting up a tiered system of access for all users
- Making sure that all teaching staff and attending children are added to the rosters stored within Learning Genie
The administrators’ handbook also includes tips for creating as much organizational buy-in as possible while the new system is being put into action.
Your Resource for Proactive, Organization-Wide CQI
Learning Genie is the educational technology provider for over 200 Head Start preschool programs throughout the U.S. Every day, tens of thousands of children thrive with help from our time-tested CQI tools and resources. And every day, we seek to help more and more programs make use of our experience and expertise.
Contact us today to learn more about how Learning Genie supports your ongoing dedication to continuous quality improvement. At your convenience, you can also schedule an online demonstration of the power of our innovative, responsive CQI solutions.