A young girl plays with a kitchen set in preschool

Thrive in 5: Ready Educators Quality Improvement Pilot

Testing a new model for quality improvement in early education.

To help all children enter school ready and excited, Boston must explore multiple avenues for delivering high-quality early education. In the past decade, Boston Public Schools (BPS) made significant investments to improve the quality of its pre-K program—a 2013 Harvard study found the District’s program to be one of the most effective public models in the country. BPS and several community partners then extended the District’s model to community-based early education and care centers. Through Boston K1DS, BPS successfully expanded its evidence-based pre-K program to 14 private, community-based classrooms—targeting neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of low-income students and English language learners.

While Boston K1DS and the Preschool Expansion Grants that followed are important investments to elevate the quality of center-based programs, these initiatives did not include family child care or programs focused on the care and education of infants and toddlers. With Barr support, Thrive in 5 piloted a model to improve program quality and outcomes not only for preschoolers, but also for infants and toddlers. The Ready Educators Quality Improvement Pilot was launched in 2013 in partnership with the Wellesley Centers for Women. This multi-year initiative sought to advance early education programs in Boston centers and home-based care sites to the highest level of quality, ensuring that all programs: 1) identify the needs of children; 2) provide appropriate resources and supports to meet those needs; and 3) demonstrate measurable improvement in child outcomes. The goal was simple: programs would build their capacity to use data for continuous quality improvement.

Thrive in 5 piloted a model to improve program quality and outcomes for preschoolers, infants, and toddlers. The goal was simple: programs would build their capacity to use data for continuous quality improvement.

The Ready Educators Quality Improvement Pilot worked with ten center-based early education programs, one large family child care system, and four of its home-based providers. Each participating program was assessed to identify its strengths and areas for improvement. Based on these assessments, Wellesley Centers for Women helped the programs develop customized improvement plans, including targeted professional development, coaching, and consultation.

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Wellesley Centers for Women’s process evaluation of the programs’ progress within the first year found that six of eight participating centers with preschool classrooms showed significant improvements in classroom quality indicators. Additionally, all seven centers with an infant or toddler classroom showed significant improvements. The increases in the family child care programs were not as dramatic, but all four programs showed some improvement. Moving into the second year, Thrive in 5 and Wellesley Centers for Women helped the participating programs continue to revise and implement their improvement plans so that they could maintain high standards and support improved child outcomes after the project ended. Findings from the year two evaluation found that teachers that engaged over the two years showed improvements in practice, underscoring the importance of intentional and ongoing professional development and coaching. Children in the more advanced programs were more likely to show progress beyond that expected because of their own development, increasing their Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test age-equivalent scores by almost 12 months, over a 6.7-month time period.

The Ready Educators Quality Improvement Pilot’s focus on all programs in a center, including infants and toddlers, as well as its inclusion of family child care programs provided important information to the field about how to scale quality. Our hope is that all Boston families will have access to high-quality, effective early education in any setting they choose, so children arrive at their first day of school ready-and excited-to continue learning.

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Ensuring that children of all races, ethnicities, incomes, abilities and languages have the opportunities and support needed for success in school and beyond.

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The Wellesley Centers for Women is a premier women- and gender-focused, social-change oriented research-and-action institute at Wellesley College. Our mission is to advance gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing through high quality research, theory, and action programs.

Additional Information and Resources

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    The REQIP Toolkit

    The REQIP Toolkit was developed to describe key features of the Ready Educators Quality Improvement Pilot (REQIP), tools for working with programs and with Technical Assistance Providers, and the challenges and lessons learned during the pilot years. The Toolkit was developed with funding from the Barr Foundation and with support from Thrive in 5 and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.