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Washington State Offers Rating System for Child-Care Providers

A new state-run rating system is expected to help families in Washington state connect with child-care providers and early-learning programs that provide high-quality care.

The Washington Department of Early Learning this week announced the first phase of a statewide roll-out of Early Achievers, a quality rating and improvement system or QRIS, in 21 counties, which includes about 57 percent of the state's licensed and certified child-care programs, according to the department.

The second phase, covering about 1,200 programs, will launch in January and the third phase, covering another 1,000 programs, rolls out in July 2013. The department is partnering with Child Care Aware Washington and the University of Washington on the roll-out, which is an expansion of a pilot program. Early Achievers is funded by the state's 2011 Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge federal grant and the federal Child Care Development Fund.

Nearly half of states offer QRIS programs, which are designed to assess, improve and communicate the quality of early-education and child-care programs, according to the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance.

Washington state's voluntary program offers licensed and certified child-care providers and their employees access to free coaching, professional development opportunities and other resources.

It also will connect families and providers through the rating system, which will be available online starting this fall on the Department of Early Learning website.

But parents need not wait that long to find out if a provider is participating in Early Achievers; they can check out Child Care Check, the department's online service, to find out information such as how long a child-care provider has been licensed. The rating system, however, won't be available until fall.

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