HARTFORD—With the goal of preparing youngsters better for kindergarten, Connecticut education officials are creating a system that will help parents assess the quality of the day care and early childhood centers where they send their children.
The public education overhaul bill recently signed into law by Gov.Dannel P. Malloyincludes a provision that sets up a new Tiered Quality Rating System, or T-QRIS, that will ultimately grade an array of providers on the quality of education they offer.
"The goal is to rate the quality of care, whatever the early childhood setting, and to invest in improvements that enable these providers to ratchet up their level of quality," state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Pryor said the state plans to begin rolling out the new program during the upcoming academic year, which begins in the fall. He said it will be ramped up over the next several years.
Currently, parents can face a difficult time gauging the quality an early childhood program, which can include everything from a group of children being cared for by family and friends to a licensed facility, he said, adding that there are thousands across the state.
"At present, the system is nearly impenetrable for many parents," Pryor said. "There is no single source regarding information about the quality of settings."
Malloy, who included the rating system in his original education overhaul bill, has pushed to improve existing early childhood education offerings and to expand enrollment opportunities for needy children. The new law includes $3 million to provide professional development opportunities to early childhood educators and to develop the new rating system. Pryor said there is another $6 million in the law to cover the costs of computer hardware and software.
The bill also includes funding for 1,000 new early childhood education slots, but those are being granted to programs run by School Readiness Councils across the state. The state is surveying those councils to determine which providers are ready to open up the slots. Many are expected to become available during the course of the new academic year.
Federal education officials have encouraged states to develop early childhood education rating systems. According to Malloy's office, the state's lack of a rating system was cited as weakness in Connecticut's failed "Race to the Top" application for special federal funding.