Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children


A new report –“Quality for Whom?”– from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) points to two converging trends:

1) the number of immigrant children in the United States is growing in many states as is the number of children whose parents do not speak English, and

2) States have been working hard to increase the quality of early programs using Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS)

That’s why, the report notes, QRIS efforts should embrace the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse families (CLDs) and of diverse early childhood staff.

“It is critical for stakeholders to address equity issues in early childhood for several reasons,” one of the report’s authors, Julie Sugarman, told us. “First, because children from an immigrant background make up a quarter of all children ages 0 to 5 and immigrants make up 18 percent of the early childhood workforce — a significant share of the field. 

“Quality early childhood programs are also critical to helping Dual Language Learners (DLLs) develop language skills (whether in their native language or in English) that will prepare them for K-5 education.” Sugarman is a policy analyst at MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.

How should diversity and quality intersect?

The report makes a number of recommendations, including:

• Ensure that QRIS standards “explicitly support CLD families… and value the skills of CLD practitioners.”

For example, “States may consider creating a subscore for QRIS ratings based on select CLD-relevant indicators” to make it clearer to families which programs would best suit their needs.

• Check to see that QRIS ratings systems are fair and equitable.

QRIS administrators could work with community partners “to offer technical assistance and professional development opportunities that address the needs of CLD families.”

• Boost enrollment access for CLD children.

States could help early childhood programs pay to translate enrollment materials into multiple languages.

• Determine whether QRIS programs create burdens for CLD early childhood programs.

Policymakers should listen to program providers and determine whether onerous QRIS requirements are pushing providers “into the unregulated market.”

• Create professional development opportunities.

States should “create clear pathways” for early childhood workers who need to further their educations or improve their English skills. Programs for these workers should align with QRIS standards

Professional development and QRIS trainings can also be offered in educators’ native language.

Over the past five years, Oregon has refined its QRIS system. It now includes a clear commitment to cultural and linguistic diversity, and it’s informed by an Equity Lens developed by the Oregon Educational Investment Board. Oregon tracks the number of QRIS quality improvement specialists who provide trainings in Spanish. And the state also tracks the amount of quality-improvement funds that go to Spanish-speaking child care programs.

In addition, the Migration Policy Institute report recommends that states in the process of reviewing their QRIS standards “take a more deliberate approach toward serving diverse providers and families.”

As we blogged last week, Massachusetts is in the midst of QRIS revision public comment period. As the report notes, Massachusetts is one of the few states with a QRIS that awards points for having program staff who speak students’ home language. Points are also awarded to programs that provide linguistically appropriate communication to prospective families and staff.

Massachusetts policymakers can still learn from other states, including Oregon, Illinois, and New Mexico. These states have all grappled with crafting more equitable policies to better serve children, families, and educators.

The report concludes:

“Including indicators of quality that are appropriate for a diverse pool of providers and ensuring programs have the tools they need to improve are important steps toward integrating principles of equity and inclusion throughout all aspects” or early childhood education and care.