What We Do

Early Learning

Race to the Top

Research shows that high-quality early learning programs improve school readiness and impact a child’s success in school and in life.  Despite this, the majority of early education programs in California are considered to be of low quality – with research indicating that only 13% of California’s low-income children are in high-quality early learning programs.

FIRST 5 Santa Clara County has a long-standing commitment to investing in initiatives aimed at improving the quality of early learning programs.

Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

In 2012, Santa Clara County was one of sixteen counties in California to receive a three year grant through the Federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) to develop a pilot Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS).

Early care and education providers and programs that participate in Santa Clara County’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) through Race-to-the-Top Early Learning Challenge (RTTELC) Pilot Program, demonstrate their quality on a five tier scale. The Tiers range from Tier 2 to 5, where Tier 5 (Excellence in Quality Standards) is the highest, based on seven quality elements in the following areas:

Child development and readiness for school:
1. Early educators assess children’s development and use the assessment results to individualize their teaching to each child.
2. Early care and education providers work with the families of children in their care to ensure developmental and health screenings.

Teachers and teaching:
3. Early educators interact with the children in their care in ways that are nurturing, support learning, and model children’s language development.
4. Early educators are well-educated in child development and early learning best practices. They participate in
workshops, courses, and trainings throughout the year to hone their skills.

Program and environment quality:
5. Small classes with low child to teacher ratios ensure each child receives his or her teacher’s full attention.
6. A child-focused environment allows children to learn and develop to their fullest potential.
7. Program directors are highly educated and participate in ongoing professional development.

What is a QRIS?

A QRIS helps improve early childhood programs by measuring their current level of quality against research-based standards.  Programs are assessed using a tiered rating system based on specific standards. These standards tie to programs’ environments, teacher-child ratios, teacher qualifications, and teacher-child interaction.

QRIS in Santa Clara County

In Santa Clara County, the QRIS is the next step in continuing to improve the quality of early care and education so that all children have access to the highest quality care possible. First 5 Santa Clara County is also part of the Bay Area QRIS Partnership that is focused on building a coordinated approach to QRIS in the region.  Click the tabs below for more information on RTT at the local, regional, and state level.

To learn more about Santa Clara’s QRIS and to find out how you can be involved email:

Santa Clara County

Over one-hundred sites will be participating in Santa Clara County’s local pilot of the QRIS through June 2016. Nearly one-hundred sites are currently participating and recruitment for more sites is underway.  The goal is to support the success of the participating sites and to determine how the QRIS can be expanded in the county.

Please note that as of July 2014 the Santa Clara RTT Consortium and the RTT Executive Cabinet have been combined. Materials will be posted under Santa Clara RTT Consortium.

The Bay Area Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) Partnership

Santa Clara County and neighboring Bay Area coutnies are collaborating to develop a regional QRIS to maximize the use of resources, provide consistent communication, establish a common framework, and put early education programs throughout the region on a path to quality improvement.

Since launching in 2012, the Bay Area QRIS Partnership has made significant progress towards improving quality, including:

  • Building a regional system for site assessment and coaching
  • Mapping professional development activities throughout the region
  • Launching the first regional QRIS data system in the state

The Bay Area coutnies are working closely with the early education community to determine what works best to support quality imporvemetn and to implement those findings to expand quality early care and education opportunities in the region.

Additional Resources:
Regional Standard for Coaching Qualifications
Preliminary Analysis of the Regional Evaluation Questions
Bay Area Regional RTT Policy Fact Sheet

California RTT

State Efforts
California is the recipient of a highly competitive Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge federal grant to improve the quality of early learning programs and close the achievement gap for young children with high needs. Led by 17 Regional Leadership Consortia in 16 counties, California is working to ensure positive outcomes for the state’s infants, toddlers and preschoolers. 

About California Early Learning Race to the Top 

Improving Young Children's Success:  California's Early Learning Challenge Race to the Top:

California's 2012 RTT-ELC Annual Performance Report
RTT-ELC Legislative Reports

California Department of Education
About California Early Learning Race to the Top
Improving Young Children's Success:  California's Early Learning Challenge Race to the Top
RTT-ELC Hybrid Matrix (last update:April 15, 2013)
RTT-ELC QRIS Professional Development Pathways
RTT-ELC Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (TQRIS) Consortia Implementation Guidelines (last update: April 15, 2013)

Race to the Top Meeting Packet 01.30.13
RTT-ELC General Meeting Agenda
RTT-ELC General Meeting Flyer