North Carolina

QRIS State Profile

This profile is from the Quality Compendium—a comprehensive resource for information about all of the QRIS operating in the U.S. and its Territories. It was developed by a partnership of the BUILD Initiative, the Early Learning Challenge Collaborative, and Child Trends.

QRIS Resource Guide Examples

Cost Projections and Financing

North Carolina Business Redesign and Funding Realignment

The absence of a designated allocation for a QRIS forced the North Carolina Division of Child Development to expand its existing licensing system to implement its QRIS as a star rated license. Existing systems and processes—licensing monitoring, staff qualification checks, automation, and the website—were reviewed to determine how to expand or revise them to include the onsite evaluation of child care programs. Automation helped licensing staff manage monitoring of the expanded regulations for ratings. Agency staff who managed the voluntary credentialing process and trainer approval were redirected to the new streamlined staff qualifications assessments. North Carolina found that it was more effective to integrate the QRIS into the existing licensing process than to create new positions or units that worked on the rating system only. Using redirected quality funds, the state contracted with a university to complete the Environment Rating Scales (ERS) assessments to ensure their objectivity. Cost savings were realized by performing complete rating assessments, including the ERS, once every 3 years unless a program failed its annual monitoring of rating maintenance. Additional cost savings were achieved by putting some limitations on the ERS assessments—only one-third of classrooms and programs that could meet the other three star standards were assessed.

Consumer Education

North Carolina's Marketing to Multiple Audiences

North Carolina felt that the success of its star rated license system would show through high participation rates resulting from consumer demand and the providers’ sense of ownership of the system. The state created a low-cost, high-impact marketing campaign with the following activities:

  • Used the website to keep providers and parents informed
  • Developed a web-based tool that allowed parents to search for child care by rating and provided them with detailed program information
  • Distributed thousands of posters, in English and Spanish, with attractive pictures and simple statements such as, “Is your child care as great as your child?—Demand the stars”
  • Distributed materials on the rated license, including business cards and postcards with the web address; distribution was through local partners such as Smart Start partnerships, child care resource and referral agencies, health departments, departments of social services, libraries, business human resources offices, and offices of obstetricians and pediatricians
  • Participated in partner-sponsored Star meetings for providers to give them an opportunity to learn about QRIS and begin the application process
  • Gave providers press release templates along with their Star license to make it easy for them to send information to their local newspapers; arranged for local partners, on an ongoing basis for the first year, to host local media events when a group of programs in their area received their star ratings
  • Arranged for the Governor to visit the first program to receive 15 out of 15 points and provided additional press coverage for this accomplishment
  • Distributed monthly letters to legislators that listed programs in their area that had earned the Star license and a template for sending a congratulatory letter to the program

Standards and Criteria

Goals for North Carolina's QRIS Standards

North Carolina reviewed the status of its existing early childhood system, including licensing standards, technical assistance, quality supports, subsidy policy and reimbursement, workforce status, and available databases. The state’s goal was to develop a QRIS that included research-based, state-specific requirements and standards that providers could understand, achieve, and monitor. The state accomplished this goal by setting the following goals for the Star Rated License standards:

  • They should be understandable to providers and the public: providers can explain how they document meeting each standard, and the public knows what the ratings mean and how they are achieved.
  • They should be achievable: programs can meet the standard at some level; for example, an analysis of the workforce indicated a significant number of providers had earned additional education in the form of an Early Childhood Credential, and there was a scholarship fund to meet the demand for additional education required by standards.
  • They should be research based: there is some research to show the connection of the standard with higher quality programs (for example, ratios and teacher education).

They should be feasible to monitor: standards can be assessed objectively, in a timely fashion, and with available resources.

Provider Incentives and Support

Professional Development in North Carolina: A Foundation of QRIS

For more than 15 years, the North Carolina Institute for Child Development Professionals (formerly the North Carolina Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development) worked to develop a statewide professional development system. The system was grounded in research that links child outcomes to the professional development of teachers and directors. North Carolina’s professional development system worked to ensure the accessibility, availability, and affordability of education offerings as well as their applicability to the work of early care and education programs. All 58 of the state’s community colleges offered programs for an associate’s degree in early childhood that included articulation agreements with many of its 4-year colleges and universities. Financial support for professional development was available through T.E.A.C.H. (Teacher Education and Compensation Helps) Early Childhood project scholarships, which were first developed in North Carolina. Salary supplements were available through a WAGE$ program based on level of education achieved. The Institute’s latest effort was the Early Childhood Certification, a professional certification system. The investments that North Carolina made in its professional development system became the foundation of its QRIS and helped support the higher staff-qualification requirements in the QRIS.

Data Collection and Evaluation

North Carolina QRIS Data Collection Guided Evidence-Based Adjustments

The North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education collected data for many years to monitor the Star Rated License system process and used this data to guide revisions in the system. Early on, results from Environment Rating Scales (ERS) assessments showed significantly lower scores on the infant/toddler ERS than on other classroom assessments. To address this concern, the state developed a short-term technical assistance project focused on providing child care health consultants to programs and a long-term technical assistance project that involved adding infant and toddler specialists to the child care resource and referral (CCR&R) agencies. School-age specialists and behavioral specialists were also added to the CCR&R agencies to help with program improvements. Orientation of providers to the ERS was added to the system as well. Similarly, when data indicated that the licensing compliance standard in the QRIS was not linked to statistically significant differences in quality, this rating standard was eliminated from the QRIS.