Quality Counts California
Quality Counts California, or QCC, is a statewide initiative established with the goal of providing all of California’s youngest learners with access to top-quality educational resources. To achieve this goal, the initiative focuses on continuous improvement in key areas shared by all programs. When these areas are addressed in an ongoing manner, the chances of creating successful programs rise dramatically.
To meet its goals, QCC requires member schools to follow a detailed process of review, planning and action. Each aspect of this process is essential. However, for California’s teachers and program administrators, implementation of QCC poses some major challenges. That’s true because education professionals must find effective ways of handling the significant workload that inevitably comes with pursuing the initiative. Without the right tools and technology, this is no easy task.
The education support specialists at Learning Genie understand the need for technological assistance in gathering and managing QCC-related data. That’s why we’ve created a robust set of software tools designed to lighten the load for teachers and administrators. These tools allow you to streamline every aspect of your program’s activities. The result is a smoother process that integrates into your workday and makes it much easier for you to meet your QCC objectives.
Basics of Quality Counts California
Quality Counts California operates under the auspices of the QCC Consortium. In turn, the QCC Consortium operates with support from two state agencies:
- The Early Learning and Care Division of the California Department of Education
- First 5 California
The functioning heart of the Consortium is a system of regional and countywide Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, or QRISs. The goal of each QRIS is helping programs in its area of reach to improve continuously and provide better educational outcomes for children and their families. The following graphic outlines the structure of Quality Counts California in relation to its goal of improving the quality of available services:
Participation in Quality Counts California is not mandatory for early learning programs based within the state. However, programs throughout California are encouraged to participate. To help make joining as easy as possible, county and regional QRISs provide both resources and institutional support.
The QCC Rating System
Before a program can officially join QCC, it must receive a rating from its local Quality Rating and Improvement System. When giving a rating, QRISs focus on three primary areas:
1) Child development and school readiness
2) Teachers and teaching
3) Program and environment
A total of seven evidence-based criteria are used to rate these three areas. The criteria are as follows:
1) Child observation
2) Developmental and health screenings
3) Lead teacher professional qualifications
4) Effective teacher–child interactions
5) Teacher–class ratios and group size
6) The program’s position on an environment rating scale
7) Administrator/program director professional qualifications
County and regional QRISs use the first two criteria to evaluate child development and school readiness. They use the next two criteria to evaluate teachers and training. The final three criteria are used to evaluate program and environment.
The following example illustrates the way in which Quality Rating and Improvement Systems rate each program on the criterion of child observation:
(*DRDP is the acronym for the Desired Results Developmental Profile, the mandatory early education assessment tool used throughout California.)
Point ratings indicate the current level of program quality. Quality improves from right to left as scores for the criterion increase.
Steps in Acquiring a Rating
The rating process takes place in multiple steps or stages. In the first step, the program’s educational staff conducts a self-review of the current state of program quality in each of the three core areas. The results of this review are then submitted to the local Quality Rating and Improvement System.
In the next part of the process, the QRIS evaluates a certain percentage of the program’s classrooms. Evaluations are carried out with two tools designed for this purpose:
1) The Classroom Assessment Scoring System, or CLASS
2) The Environment Rating Scales, or ERS
In the final step of the rating process, the QRIS makes an on-site visit to validate the findings of the evaluation tools. The final rating is rendered on a scale of one to five stars. Participating programs go through a new rating process every two years.
Rationale Behind the Rating System
Quality Control California uses a rating system for several reasons. One important objective is giving programs a baseline tool for measuring current and future educational outcomes. The rating system also incentivizes improvement by elevating the reputations of programs with high marks. In addition, the QCC rating gives families a way of comparing programs and determining the best options available for their children.
Improving the QCC Rating
To fulfill their goal of helping programs improve, Quality Rating and Improvement Systems take a variety of actions. After the initial rating is given, the local QRIS provides a coach who will:
- Clarify and explain the current rating according to QCC criteria
- Help the program develop general goals for future improvement
- Assist the program in establishing an effective action plan for the next 12 months
In some cases, additional supportive actions may also be taken by a Quality Rating and Improvement System. Potential actions include:
- Providing longer-term services from experienced QCC coaches
- Issuing a grant to fund program improvement
- Providing targeted training designed to address areas of deficiency
Gathering Data for the Program Self-Review
As noted, programs hoping to join Quality Counts California must conduct a self-review of their current state of health. To carry out such a review, administrators and teachers need to have a multi-level perspective on what happens within their programs from week to week and from month to month. This perspective includes a classroom-level assessment of such things as:
- The developmental progress made by each enrolled student
- The level of parental involvement
- Parental contributions to the program’s in-kind funding efforts
At the administrative level, it includes:
- The tracking of activity in all student classrooms
- Effective communication with teachers and other staff members
- Program-wide monitoring of in-kind funding
All told, this is a huge amount of information to track, collate and analyze. To bring it all together in a timely manner, programs must have tools that help them simplify the task as much as possible.
At Learning Genie, we’re dedicated to providing these tools. A key feature of our all-in-one software suite is our data-driven dashboard. This dashboard gives you a single location in which to examine every aspect of your program. The views you choose are customizable. Administrators can get an agency-wide perspective or focus in on a single program facility. And teachers enjoy a ready means to access all classroom-level data.
The timeframe for your data analysis is also customizable. If you like, you can take a look at what’s happened during a single week. You can also access a monthly view that makes it easier to spot longer-term trends and changes. Every area of your program is covered, from classroom activities and child development status to administrative matters and in-kind contributions. With our help, the process of gathering data for a QCC program self-review becomes much easier. It also results in the generation of more accurate and detailed information.
Reporting the Results of Your Review to Your Local QRIS
Once you’ve gathered all relevant data for your QCC program self-review, you must report your findings. In an ideal scenario, your reporting will convey the breadth and depth of your data in a clear, concise format. Such formatting helps your program put its best organizational foot forward when submitting your findings to your local Quality Rating and Improvement System. It also simplifies the QRIS’s task of reviewing those findings.
Learning Genie’s data-gathering and analysis capabilities are paired with a highly refined reporting system. This system has been designed from the ground up to meet the standards established under federal Head Start guidelines. In this way, we help ensure that your QRIS reporting reflects the true state of your program as accurately as possible.
Taking Steps to Improve Your Rating
In a sense, the work really begins when you receive your initial Quality Counts California rating from your local QRIS. That’s true whether your program receives a high rating or a low rating. In both sets of circumstances, you will still have the same ongoing task: continually improving your program so you can provide better services for children and their families.
One of the great advantages of the rating system is the level of detail it provides. Let’s return to our earlier example of the possible ratings for the QCC criterion of child observation.
Your rating not only reveals your current standing for this criterion; it also provides you with a roadmap for taking next steps toward improvement. If you scored two points in child observation, you can improve your future results by committing your program to conducting two evidence-based assessments a year instead of just one. The same basic approach holds true if you scored one, three or four points. And if you received a score of five points in child observation, you can focus your attention on other areas of your program where you didn’t fare as well.
In light of the details of your QRIS rating, you may need to adopt various strategies for improvement. For example, your rating may be a wake-up call that points to specific, serious weaknesses in the state of your program. It may also indicate more subtle differences between your program’s current status and the best possible outcomes. Whatever strategy is required, you need a convenient method of planning future changes. You must also find ways to effectively implement those changes before your next rating cycle begins.
Learning Genie’s integrated package of software tools helps you implement any strategy for QCC improvement. We make it easy to set up a complete cycle of actions that includes:
- Data generation and analysis
- Planning for future changes
- Putting specific changes into effect
- Evaluating the results of a given program change
- Refining the agreed-upon plan as needed
- Enacting those refinements
- Analyzing, collating and reporting the results of your program efforts
This complete approach turns the process of quality improvement into a series of defined, attainable goals. Each step of the way, you’ll know where you stand and what actions you need to take next.
The Importance of Family Engagement to Quality Counts California
Quality Counts California emphasizes the importance of family engagement to the success of early learning programs. This term describes a set of 10 interconnected principles designed to ensure that the families of participating children become active partners in the educational process. The 10 principles, known formally as relationship-based competencies, are as follows:
1) Creation of affirming, goal-oriented relationships with all families
2) Respect for each family’s culture and values
3) The need to help families advocate on behalf of themselves and their children
4) Support for the parent-child relationship and parent’s ongoing responsibility as role models
5) The need to help families strengthen their community ties
6) Support for families’ effective use of the community resources available to them
7) Support for the improvement of parental advocacy and leadership skills
8) Collaboration with professionals in related fields to promote the goal of delivering needed services
9) Reliance on past data when deciding how to foster continuous program improvement
10) A commitment to strengthening education professionals’ skills in the area of family engagement
Adoption of these principles produces benefits at all levels. For children, the outcomes include improved health and educational development. Benefits to parents include a greater level of confidence in matters concerning their children’s education. For education professionals, the list of benefits includes a greater ability to make use of parental feedback in the ongoing effort to improve their programs.
Furthering Family Engagement
In today’s world, family engagement goals must include more than just those children who attend your program in person throughout the year. To be effective, they must also include children who learn remotely from home either at all times or during just part of the typical week. In addition, there is a pressing need for facilitating engagement with families who may:
- Come from a range of cultural backgrounds
- Be native speakers of any of a vast variety of languages
To maximize the results of your family engagement efforts, you must have software solutions that combine a core of vital services with the flexibility needed to accommodate the families of distance learners and blended learners. Those solutions must also help you accommodate all language preferences with dignity and respect.
Learning Genie is committed to helping you achieve these crucial goals. Our software suite supports family engagement in multiple ways. Need to reach out to families? Our dedicated Family Engagement module facilitates automated, two-way communication in more than 100 languages. It also gives you an easy way to perform a range of other tasks, including:
- Posting activities
- Sending out invitations for upcoming events
- Providing families and children with access to online reading resources
We also support other key aspects of family engagement. For example, our In-Kind module helps teachers track donations made by the families of children in their classroom. Teachers can also take advantage of our Distance Learning Webinar Series. This series instructs you in multiple methods of meeting the needs of distance learners enrolled in your program.
Get the Most From Your Participation in Quality Counts California
Like teachers and administrators everywhere, Quality Counts California is driven by a desire for never-ending improvement in early learning programs. Participation in QCC can enhance the standing of your program. But far more importantly, it can help turn your plans for continual improvement into a reality. To get the most out of QCC, you must find a way to fully integrate its processes into your daily professional routine. When this happens, your program is in the best possible position to move forward.
Learning Genie is an established provider of educational software to early programs throughout California. Every day, these programs count on our suite of tools to meet a range of important objectives. In many cases, that includes effective participation in Quality Counts California.
To find out how Learning Genie can help you meet your QCC-related needs, just contact us to schedule an online demonstration of our software tools. We also offer role-specific family engagement training handbooks for both teachers and administrators. Let us show you exactly why so many early education programs trust Learning Genie to provide the best in support technology.