Partnering with providers to improve quality
Quality First – a signature program of First Things First – partners with child care and preschool providers to improve the quality of early learning for kids birth to 5. Quality First funds quality improvements that research proves help children thrive, such as training for teachers to expand their expertise in working with young children, and coaching to help providers create learning environments that nurture the emotional, social and academic development of every child.
Currently more than 900 child care centers, homes and preschool programs in communities across Arizona participate in Quality First. All of these programs are licensed and regulated, but participating in Quality First is voluntary. These programs are committed to quality improvement, going beyond regulatory requirements to help the infants, toddlers and preschoolers in their care be ready for success in school and beyond.
First Things First supports child care and preschool programs enrolled in Quality First with:
- Coaching to build on what’s great about a program and identify opportunities to improve
- Funding for the purchase of educational materials, equipment and other resources
- Financial support for teachers and caregivers to gain expertise in early childhood and how to nurture the development of young children
- Specialized assistance from a team of experts in child health, mental health and supporting children with special needs
Helping families make informed decisions
To measure progress, each program enrolled in Quality First is assessed and given a Quality First Star Rating, ranging from 1 to 5 stars. Star Ratings are based on what research shows are the key components of quality early care, including adult-child interactions, learning environments and staff qualifications. For parents and families, Star Ratings are easy-to-understand indicators 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.
Quality First is about continuous quality improvement. The standards are high, and reaching the quality levels is often a long-term process for child care and preschool programs. Those achieving Star Ratings in the quality levels (3 stars and above) have met these standards, and all programs enrolled in Quality First are committed to making improvements that help prepare kids for school and life. It’s also important to keep in mind that ratings are just one of several factors to consider in finding the right child care or preschool program for your family’s needs.