Colorado Overhauls Assessment of Early Childhood Education and Care

The state's Office of Early Childhood recently began the second phase of a software system for rating Colorado's early childhood education and care programs.

by / April 27, 2016

On the heels of securing a four-year, $44 million grant, the Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Early Childhood has overhauled how it assesses the quality of early childhood education and care programs throughout Colorado. In July 2014, the office launched phase one of a custom Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) which was built with the help of Salesforce consulting firm Vertiba and Scribe Software. 

“There are limited products out there for this business function,” said Colin Tackett, business analyst with the Office of Early Childhood, in reference to the software program. “There were limitations on how we could customize products to a Colorado business model and most of the products were designed only for rating. It wasn’t a solution for referrals or licensing. We realized we had to look at a platform that was flexible and agile.”

QRIS and the underlying software streamlines connections and syncs nightly to provide the most up-to-date information for all sources. The system serves as a hub where departments can develop more accurate ratings, investments and referrals for childhood education and care services. 

The QRIS has significantly increased the amount of participating programs, expanding the reach to more members of the Colorado community. “Historically we had about 10 percent of the programs in the state participating because it was costly and voluntary. In this one-year period since launching the QRIS, we have jumped to 28 percent,” said Tackett. “It’s been a huge part of our business process to encourage adoption. Seeing the benefits of quality ratings and advertisements to families — we really like that impact because that’s the user group we’re most focused on.”

Now that the office has established a solid system with alignments on a data level, they are currently working on “Phase Two” of the QRIS project to focus on improving data sharing capabilities. The goal is to better determine quality ratings for various programs and help local partners allocate funding to eligible facilities to enhance education and quality results. 

The office also hopes to make navigating education and care programs much easier for parents, families and educators throughout Colorado. “We are focused on our role in consumer education,” said Tackett. “We will be using shared data to populate information to continually improve the self-service functionality.” This will help parents and families quickly locate services that meet their needs. For example, they will be able to quickly designate programs that offer special needs services or are peanut or allergy free. 

While the QRIS offers a wide range of improvements for the Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Early Childhood, Tackett sees this as an important, logical next step to keep public programs and services relevant to users. 

“I think that increasingly our clients and stakeholders are looking for a specific kind of user experience,” he says. “The Internet is no longer about finding information—we make transactions and interact now. Prior to these enhancements, many of the things we did were analog and we weren’t in alignment with what our newest users were expecting. We’ve been able to take these products and leverage them to deliver what they’re used to (i.e., online shipping or banking). It’s an important principle in user experience and design.”

Julia McCandless Contributing Writer

Julia McCandless is a journalist passionate about finding the story and telling it well. She currently works as a freelance journalist and communications expert in Northern California, where she lives with her husband and son.

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