What We Do

Comprehensive Early Learning System Overview

FIRST 5’s Early Learning System Initiative is a comprehensive, integrated, systematic approach ensuring
Santa Clara County’s young children have access to high-quality early learning opportunities and enter school fully prepared to succeed cognitively, socially, developmentally, and physically.

Research confirms the importance of high quality early learning experiences to effectively prepare young children for school and life. Studies show that high-quality early learning programs improve children’s school readiness and lead to better long-term academic achievement and adult health outcomes (Campbell et al., 2014)Research confirms the importance of high quality early learning experiences to effectively prepare young children for school and life. Studies show that high-quality early learning programs improve children’s school readiness and lead to better long-term academic achievement and adult health outcomes (Campbell et al., 2014).

Early Learning Systems Framework

Early education programs operate within social systems that are interconnected and collectively impact families, educators, administrators and ultimately the healthy development of children. When supporting early
education programs to effectively prepare young children for school and life, a comprehensive ecological systems approach is used to measure and rate the quality of the integrated systems approach based on a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) framework.

The QRIS framework is foundational to a comprehensive and integrated early learning system in Santa Clara County. FIRST 5’s Early Learning Initiative integrates the QRIS Framework to SUPPORT programs on pathways to continuous quality improvement creating positive outcomes for children and support for their families.

The QRIS Framework:

  • School Readiness: All children receive individualized instruction and support for optimal learning and development informed by child observation and assessment data.
  • Social-Emotional Development: Children receive support to develop healthy social and emotional concepts, skills, and strategies 
  • Health, Nutrition, and Physical Activity: Children receive support for optimal physical development, including health, nutrition, and physical activity.
  • Effective Teacher-Child Interactions:  Teachers are prepared to implement effective interactions in the classroom.
  • Professional Development: Teachers are lifelong learners.
  • Environment: The program indoor and outdoor environments support children’s learning and development.
  • Program Administration: The program effectively supports children, teachers, and families. 
  • Family Engagement: Families receive family-centered, intentional supports framed by the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors to promote family resilience and optimal development of their children.
  • Measures programs based on standards and gives programs a quality rating
  • Provides educators with professional development and support to achieve higher levels of quality
  • Informs the community about the importance of high quality care and education

The QRIS Framework provides an early learning systems approach that identifies strengths and opportunities for improvement based on a common understanding of quality. Utilizing a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP), programs
are able to set goals, identify resources, and create a plan for quality that ultimately will provide young children access to high-quality early learning opportunities and enter school fully prepared to succeed cognitively, socially,
developmentally, and physically.