Since Georgia launched a new ratings system meant to help parents judge the quality of childcare and early education programs, 700 programs and providers across the state have signed on, state officials announced yesterday. That level of participation is what the state had hoped to reach by January 2013, according to the officials.
Georgia's system—called Quality Rated—works much like a restaurant or hotel guide. It clearly identifies child care and early education programs that meet a set of standards that go above and beyond the state's minimum requirements to obtain a license.
The state is offering enticements to participate in the Quality Rated programs. Providers can get support for free professional development and technical assistance, as well as modest financial incentives that are funded by a grant. Starting next summer, the state plans to start using a tiered reimbursement system for Quality Rated programs that serve low-income children who receive subsidized care. Programs with higher ratings will receive higher reimbursement rates.
Establishing or expanding easy-to-use guides that signal the quality of early childhood programs was one of the main requirements for states that competed to win a federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant earlier this year.
Georgia's Quality Rated system was at the heart of its application for a slice of the $500 million that the U.S. Department of Education awarded to nine states. The state missed out on winning a grant in the first round and did not make the cut to compete in a second round either, but Gov. Nathan Deal has pledged to keep forging ahead with many components of the Early Learning Challenge plan.