Quality Ratings and System Characteristics: Patterns in the Round 1 Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge States

NCEE Evaluation Brief
Publisher: Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education
Apr 29, 2019
Mariesa Herrmann, Gretchen Kirby, Jonah Deutsch, Clare Wolfendale, Andrea Mraz Esposito, Pia Carmina Caronongan, and Lisa Dragoset

Key Findings:

  • State-funded pre-K and Head Start programs generally had high ratings at entry. These programs did not consistently enter at higher ratings in states that offered alternative pathways or automatic ratings than in states that did not.
  • Licensed centers that did and did not receive subsidies generally had low ratings at entry. Only licensed centers that did not receive subsidies were more likely to enter at the lowest rating level in states that required them to do so than in states that did not.
  • States that had implemented statewide TQRIS for 10 years or more by 2016 had higher percentages of programs at the top two rating levels than those with fewer years of implementation.
  • Substantially lower percentages of programs achieved the top two rating levels in states with building block rating structures than in states with hybrid or points rating structures.
  • Tiered reimbursement rates were associated with higher percentages of licensed centers that received subsidies achieving top rating levels by 2016, but states with tiered reimbursement rates had higher ratings for all types of programs, even those that did not receive this financial incentive.

This brief describes patterns in programs’ ratings in tiered quality rating and improvement systems (TQRIS) across the nine Round 1 RTT-ELC states, which had different TQRIS characteristics and policies in place during the grant period (2012 to 2016). These characteristics and policies could influence the level at which programs enter the TQRIS and whether they attain the highest rating levels. Therefore, it is useful to understand how states with different TQRIS characteristics and policies compare in their programs’ attainment of the top rating levels.


Evaluating Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants


U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences

Time Frame


Senior Staff

Mariesa Herrmann
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Jonah Deutsch
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Lisa Dragoset
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Gretchen Kirby
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Pia Caronongan
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