First Things First launched Quality First to partner with child care and preschool programs around the state to improve the quality of early learning in Arizona. Quality First provides each enrolled program with coaching and funding, and the program’s leadership and staff provides the dedication and hard work.
The quality of each program is assessed using valid and reliable tools that focus on what research shows are the key components of quality early care, including adult-child interactions, learning environments and staff qualifications. Based on these assessments, each program is given a Quality First Star Rating, ranging from 1 to 5 stars.
Quality First is about continuous quality improvement. The standards are high, and reaching the quality levels is often a long-term process. Programs achieving Star Ratings in the quality levels (3 stars and above) have met these standards. And all participating programs are committed to quality and are making improvements that help prepare kids for school and life.
Programs are assessed every one or two years, depending on their previous rating, and receive a new Star Rating with each assessment. Star Ratings help guide the improvement process by providing both an objective measure of each program’s quality and a goal to achieve.
Quality First Star Ratings also help parents make more informed decisions when looking for a quality child care or preschool program. Parents report that quality is a very important factor in choosing a program for their infant, toddler or preschooler, and Star Ratings are reliable, easy-to-understand indictors of quality. The Star Rating of each program is made public after at least one year of participating in Quality First and is posted at the program’s location as well as this website. First Things First also stresses to parents that ratings are just one of several factors to consider in finding the right program for their family’s needs.
What Quality First Star Ratings Mean
Quality early learning settings build on basic health and safety to include teachers who know how to work with young children, learning environments that nurture the development of every child, and positive, consistent relationships and interactions that give children the individual attention they need.
Keep in mind that participation in Quality First is voluntary, and all programs enrolled in Quality First have made a commitment to improvements that research shows help young children thrive.
How Star Ratings are Calculated
Quality First Star Ratings are based on assessments of each early care and education program enrolled in Quality First. A highly-trained assessor visits each program to conduct classroom observations and teacher interviews and scores each program using valid and reliable assessment tools. Scores are combined to determine the program’s Quality First Star Rating. The standards and scales used are based on research and developed with input from educators and experts. The end result is a valid, objective measure of the quality of an early care and education program.