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County Program Profile: San Mateo
Time Period: 2019–2020
QRIS :: Quality Counts San Mateo County
San Mateo County has a long history of investment in early learning quality improvement and its Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). The new Quality Counts name and logo reflects the value we place on early learning quality and the inspiration we gain from the many dedicated early educators in San Mateo County who are committed to giving children a bright future through early learning excellence.
The lead agencies are First 5 San Mateo County and the San Mateo County Office of Education. The Quality Counts Implementation Team includes the two lead agencies and the Child Care Coordinating Council (www.first5sanmateo.org, www.smcoe.org, www.sanmateo4cs.org). Since July 2014, more than 100 QRIS sites have been rated or received support to improve quality. The Quality Counts QRIS has five tier levels and measures seven elements of program quality, including (1) Child Development and School Readiness, (2) Teachers and Teaching, and (3) Program and Environment. When early learning sites agree to join Quality Counts, they begin a continuous quality improvement journey that includes objective ratings of their current levels of quality, plus access to high-quality training, teacher stipends, technical assistance, coaching, educational technology, and quality improvement grants.
By raising the quality of participating early learning programs in these areas, Quality Counts helps ensure that San Mateo County’s young children have access to high-quality programs that enable them to thrive and prepare them to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
County Contact Information
- First 5 San Mateo
- CSPP-QRIS Block Grant
- AB 212
- Infant Toddler QRIS Block Grant
- The Big Lift
- First 5 San Mateo
- San Mateo County Office of Education
- Child Care Coordinating Council of San Mateo County (4Cs)
- Child Care Partnership Council
- Representative organization under joint auspices of County Board of Supervisors and County Superintendent
- Institute for Human and Social Development (Head Start & Early Head Start Grantee)
- San Mateo Community College District
- Silicon Valley Community Foundation
- Members of the Quality Consortium of Publicly-Funded Child Development Programs
- San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and Human Services Agency
Process to Outreach/Onboard Programs and Providers
As we have written about more extensively in our QRIS Plan, Quality Counts San Mateo has prioritized (1) every publicly funded early learning site serving substantial numbers of low-income children, ages birth to 5, (2) family child care homes that accept subsidy vouchers, (3) private centers that accept subsidy vouchers, particularly those located in low-income neighborhoods and those that serve infants and toddlers, and (4) programs serving children with special needs.
In our community some of these sites are legally license exempt. If a private site voluntarily seeks to join, and does not easily fit into the four priorities, we accept them if current funding permits. The publicly funded sites are almost all participating and being regularly rated. The QRIS coordinator personally contacts the one resistant center and the new California State Preschool Program (CSPP)/CCTR sites to encourage and orient them to the process. All the new sites will be rated in 2019–2020.
The Child Care Coordinating Council (4Cs) takes the lead on outreach to family child care homes and centers receiving vouchers by first identifying sites that currently serve high numbers of children via subsidy vouchers. The 4Cs family child care coach or a QRIS center coach contact the site and, if possible, set up a visit to explain the benefits and details of Quality Counts. Family child care providers enter into the Quality Counts agreement with 4Cs, and centers engage in a three-year, renewable participation agreement with the San Mateo County Office of Education on behalf of Quality Counts, which outlines the responsibilities and benefits.
Each year several Quality Counts orientations are held for new and continuing sites. Some are in person and others are conducted via webinar, which is recorded. Sites are invited to join our database, Vertical Change, and complete a QRIS application and a self-rating their first year and at the start of each new rating cycle. Quality Counts requires sites to use the California Workforce Registry but assists them to organize their staff qualifications submission and mails it for them. Each new site is assigned a QRIS advisor, who helps them understand the professional development offerings available for the year (trainings, coursework, permits, coaching, professional learning communities, and the QRIS Teacher Stipend Program), and decide on how they want to prepare for rating.
Most centers are enrolled in July or August, engage in quality improvement for September or March, and then are rated in April or May. They have the option of remaining in quality improvement for the full year and not having a baseline rating until spring of the second year of participation. Family child care homes spend two years in quality improvement and are not rated until spring of the second year. If they wish to postpone rating for an additional year, they can do that.
Quality Improvement Program Support Strategies
As described in our consortium’s overall Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) Plan, we support improvement in participating sites using these strategies:
We assign a QRIS coach to assist sites to make an initial Quality Improvement Plan (QIP), choose the right quality improvement strategies for their goals, and prepare for rating.
We provide high-quality training focused on the QRIS Quality Elements, including promotion of the California Early Childhood Online (CECO) resources. Some of these trainings include connected on-site coaching or a professional learning community. In 2018–2019 and 2019–2020, we have prioritized CSEFEL training and coaching for teachers and leadership in programs serving preschoolers and infants and toddlers. We provide annual training in DRDP, ASQ, and Teacher-Child Interactions. We offer intensive multi-day training in best practices for dual language learners and authentic family engagement through the Early Childhood Language Development Institute (ECLDI). This year, we will offer a new course on dual language learners in conjunction with UC Channel Islands, training in Quality Inclusion Practices, and a P-3rd Grade Math series and coaching as a partner of Fresno County Office of Education.
We support site and agency leadership to create an effective, measurable QIP.
We provide coaching to selected sites to support specific QIP goals according to the funding available and perceived needs and readiness of the sites. This year, 2019–2020, we join a few other counties to pilot the University of Washington’s Coaching Companion, an online platform to link coaches with classroom teachers, leadership staff, and other coaches through video coaching. We hope that the platform will help us increase access, participation, and effectiveness of coaching and professional learning communities.
Local Approach to Offering Financial Incentives and Stipends
Quality Counts San Mateo County provides grants to participating programs and, under the auspices of the Local Planning Council, a QRIS Teacher Stipend Program for teachers, site supervisors, and family child care providers and their teachers/assistants.
California State Preschool Program (CSPP) QRIS Local Block Grants: Participating CSPP sites that achieve a Tier 4 or 5 rating receive an annual local block grant that is based upon the number of CSPP spaces, full- or part-time, that each agency provides at its eligible rated sites. Past grants have been based on approximately $100 per part-day space and $200 per full-day space.
Family Child Care Quality Improvement Grants: Family child care providers receive a quality improvement grant every year, the size of which depends upon the activities they choose to engage in that year. For example, a provider may receive $500 for completing certain essential trainings, an additional $1,000 for participating in the monthly Family Child Care Learning Circle (professional learning community), $1,000 for going through assessment and rating that year, $500 for completing their Quality Improvement Plan, and $500 for implementing a new practice such as DRDP, etc. The typical annual grant is about $4,000 per provider. Family child care providers and their assistants also may receive a stipend check from the QRIS Teacher/Provider Stipend Program for the coursework and approved trainings they complete. (See fuller description below).
Quality Improvement Grants: New center sites receive a quality improvement grant following their first rating and their first Quality Improvement Plan. The purpose of the grant is to help a site to implement aspects of their plan. The size of these grants vary as does the funding we receive. We strive to give each new small site at least $5,000. Larger sites may receive $8,000 to $9,000, depending on the annual funding and the number of new sites in the year. If a new site is a CSPP site that achieves Tier 4 on their first rating, they do not receive one of these quality improvement grants. Our goal has been to award a small quality improvement grant to continuing center sites in the year after each subsequent rating cycle. Grants are about $2,000 per site or $1,000 per classroom. Because the amount of funding overall has been uncertain and decreasing, we are not able to tell participating programs specifically what they will receive and we cannot guarantee that the amount will remain the same for the following rating cycle. CSPP sites that receive CSPP QRIS local block grants do not also receive a quality improvement grant.
QRIS Teacher/Provider Stipend Program: This program is funded by AB 212 and other local and QRIS sources so that all the teachers and family child care staff working in QRIS participating sites can join. The program uses one application for all. Individuals earn a stipend by completing (a) college coursework leading to permits or degrees, (b) completing approved training in QRIS early learning quality practices, or (c) regularly participating in an approved community of practice or intensive video coaching program. For all participating center and family child care sites, we strive for an equitable system, reserving some funds from each QRIS funding source to cover the cost of small grants and stipends to the type of sites that each funding source permits.
How Children Are Served by QCC
Children Served by Setting
Children’s Races and Ethnicities
QCC Tier Rating Distribution
Language Spoken with Children
My preschool family child care program has been participating in the QRIS since the time it was offered in the county. I am very grateful for the many positive outcomes of being an active participant. To name a few: it acts as a motivational force to attend workshops and training. The byproduct is twofold; we get to know the latest on new developments in the field of early childhood, and also get reimbursed in the form of a teacher stipend. The coaching and guidance that we get is very valuable, because that throws light on our strengths and weaknesses. Together with the coach, we work out a plan to help us in our quest to improve our program to serve the little children better. The icing on the cake is the quality improvement grant. This is like a reward for our dedication, resilience, and hard work, a token of appreciation. The last but not the least is the external assessment. This again is like an extra pair of eyes going over what we do and then giving us feedback for us to tweak and better our overall day-to-day interaction, environment, and smooth running of our beloved program for our future citizens. Thank you, QRIS. I appreciate all that it does for us.Family Child Care Provider
A Family Child Care Provider shared: Quality Counts introduced my district programs to the power of coaching when it paid for coaching hours for our sites. After the first year, QRIS could only provide a few hours of the coach’s time, but I decided to use our quality improvement grant to pay for more time with the coach because it was going so well. Now that we get a QRIS Block Grant, I plan to continue to use it primarily for coaching. The QRIS coach is extremely vital to helping move staff forward and improving our program. The QRIS coach, preschool teachers, and preschool principal work together to create the Quality Improvement Plan to support the work that we do. The preschool teachers also appreciate the QRIS teacher stipend program so they can attend professional development and get a little stipend as an extra bonus.
A Principal of a School District’s Multi-Site CSPP Programs shared: We are very happy to be a part of the Quality Counts San Mateo County Program! Because my center does not receive state funding, many aspects of Quality Counts were new for my staff, though not to me due to my past work experiences. Here are some of the most important parts of the QRIS experience for my center: Access to trainings which involve “teams” is very valuable and helps to get all of the teachers on the same page. Coaching that correlates to the training in-progress or just completed is very valuable, as opposed to just a workshop alone. It also helps me prioritize meeting time for the teams. The QRIS Teacher Stipend Program that gives stipends to teachers always helps, especially for that needed motivation to go to a weekend or late night training. As a low-paying field, any additional funds are always appreciated. The use of trained Assessors is very helpful because we gather useful, objective information regarding quality improvements.
A Center Director of a Private, Non-Profit Center That Accepts Subsidy Vouchers shared: Networking with others in the field is always refreshing and the sharing of ideas helps keep everyone on their toes.
An Executive Director of a Multi-Site Non-Profit State Contractor shared: Quality improvement grants have been particularly helpful to my agency, allowing us to improve our learning environments and help support our teachers with their professional development and classroom needs. The external assessments are useful in documenting our quality growth and identifying areas to strengthen.