What is Quality First?
Quality First partners with providers to help children thrive
Teachers, caregivers and directors in child care and preschool programs work hard every day to help children learn, grow and thrive. It’s critically important work: 90% of a child’s brain development happens by age 5, and the relationships young children have with their teachers and caregivers shape their learning now and throughout their lives.
Parents consistently say that quality is one of the most important factors they consider when looking for child care. But quality may not always be easy for families to spot or for providers to achieve. That’s where Quality First can help.
Quality First – a signature program of First Things First – partners with child care and preschool providers across Arizona to improve the quality of early learning for kids birth to 5. Quality First has established a statewide standard of quality for early care and education programs and funds quality improvements that research proves help children thrive. This includes training for teachers to expand their skills in working with young children and coaching to help programs provide learning environments that nurture the emotional, social, language and cognitive development of every child.
Benefits for Providers
Programs enrolled in Quality First work with a coach to understand their strengths and develop techniques to do even better for the children in their care. They are reimbursed for some of the cost of providing quality through scholarships reserved for children from low-income, working families. They receive funding to improve their physical environments and purchase learning materials. They have access to a team of experts in early childhood health, mental health and supporting children with special needs. Staff in child care and preschool programs enrolled in Quality First also have access to scholarships for college coursework in early childhood.
Quality First supports child care and preschool programs in what they do best – helping prepare children for success in kindergarten and beyond.
What does quality early care and education look like?
A high-quality child care or preschool setting has teachers and caregivers with expertise in working with kids 5 and younger, includes a learning environment that nurtures the emotional, social, and academic development of every child, and prepares children for kindergarten.
Quality child care and preschool settings build on basic health and safety to include:
- Teachers and caregivers who know how to work with infants, toddlers and preschoolers;
- Positive, nurturing relationships that give young kids the individual attention they need;
- Learning environments that encourage creativity and imaginative play;
- Hands-on activities that stimulate and encourage positive brain connections in children; and,
- Caregivers who provide regular feedback to parents on the development of their child.
All of these elements combined make a child care environment that prepares children for kindergarten.