For the Sake of the Children: Oregon's QRIS Field Test Launches Statewide
Posted on April 17, 20142 comments
On February 18 - 20, 2014, Oregon’s Quality Rating & Improvement System field test for early childcare programs prepared to launch statewide with a three-day training held at Western Oregon University. The following article reflects the excitement surrounding Oregon’s QRIS launch.
By Carol Dennis
It had been a very busy week at the Teaching Research Institute (TRI), Center on Early Learning. A dozen people working into the evening hours printing, collating, and making final decisions about the order of things. Banners and flyers had to be designed - centerpieces assembled. PowerPoint presentations copied into grand notebooks would serve as a great remembrance of what would be taught. The staff was exhausted and excited, and wondered where they would find the energy to sustain themselves for the three-day training that was now less than 12 hours away.
When the first day of the training finally arrived, the early morning began with transporting cases of carefully prepared supplies and equipment, covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from the Oregon rain. It took half a dozen people several damp trips to move the materials from the offices of TRI, housed in historic Todd Hall, to the modern Werner University Center, all on the campus of Western Oregon University.
Within a short time, the
empty meeting room began to take shape. The ten large round tables covered in
black tablecloths began to pop with color as the centerpieces, packs of sticky notes,
colorful index cards and a sampling of instructional toys had been distributed.
The posters and placards, rushed from the printer, added meaning to the gathering – expressions of why everyone would assemble. The sound of, “test, test, test,” meant the microphones were working, and miracle of all, the laptops containing the presentations were compatible with the projector. A collective sigh of relief was followed by the anticipation of the push that would be needed to keep going for the next three days. Everyone was exhausted.
How would they do it?
Soon, the registration table was crowded with attendees arriving from across the state, some having driven more than 300 miles along snow covered mountain roads.
The room filled with passionate educators from Child Care Resource and Referral agencies and Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) partners from across the state. It became clear where the TRI staff would find the energy to keep going. These attendees, committed to quality early childhood education, to giving every child his or her best beginning, would lift the TRI staff and carry them through the next three days with their eagerness to work together, their hunger for the newest information, and their dedication to children.
Eighty-eight caring professionals quickly filled the room with a heartfelt, deep desire to give every child a solid foundation -- a springboard to reach their highest dreams. The mantra seemed to be, “As ready as possible for life-long learning.”
This was the statewide launch of Oregon’s QRIS field test – and these 88 people were preparing to make it available to every child care and early childhood education site in the state.
Oregon’s QRIS is an innovative program seeking to raise the quality and consistency of child care and learning programs across Oregon. Oregon’s QRIS connects caregivers and educators with tools, financial incentives and professional advice to ensure the children in their program are prepared for school.
Dawn Woods, Quality Project Manager at the Early Learning Division of the Oregon Department of Education,
kicked off the three-day training with the State of the State – Early Learning in Oregon. As Dawn spoke about the benefits of quality early childhood education, the participants shared in her passion and commitment. She spoke of how early childhood education has traditionally been an island unto itself, separated from the mainland of K-12 education by what seemed an insurmountable divide. But with the commitment of Oregon’s governor, Oregon’s Department of Education, the federal Department of Education, and the dedicated educators filling this room, a bridge was being built, making early childhood education an integral part of every child’s journey along his or her educational path.
The commitment to that bridge can be seen literally in the Early Learning Division’s location -- for the first time, housed within the Oregon Department of Education. It can also be seen in its exploding number of staff -- from 2 to over 80, creating the capacity to meet the breadth and depth of the work ahead.
The education professionals who were in the room for three days are the boots on the ground, preparing to deliver the information and support from the Early Learning Division and Oregon’s QRIS to every corner of the state. They are also the early childhood professionals who are being asked to collect data and help shape the program as the field test expands from four regions to statewide. The 88 people in the room have the important task of fine-tuning the tools, forms and processes -- like the 88 keys on a piano, working together to create the perfect composition to support and inspire our children. They will help shape a process easy enough for overworked child care providers to use, and a program effective enough that every child care provider in the state sees the importance of participating.
As the rain beat against the windows of the Werner Center, a succession of presentations and activities combined and multiplied the knowledge and experience of everyone present -- Early Learning Division leaders, Child Care Resource and Referral staff, Quality and Improvement Specialists, and TRI staff. Putting their hearts and minds together in a common cause they are shaping the future by improving educational opportunities for all of Oregon’s youngest children.
Through the conduit of
Teaching Research Institute’s Center on Early Learning, Oregon’s QRIS will be
thoughtfully and effectively delivered, monitored and evaluated, ensuring the
integrity of the program and therefore the potential of every young child in
For more information and to see if your program qualifies to be part of Oregon’s QRIS field test, please go to http://www.wou.edu/tri/QRIS/provider.html
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