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Resource Details

Initiative Name: 

Quality First, Arizona’s Quality Rating and Improvement System




Child Care, Quality Improvement, Quality Rating Systems

Source Of Information: 

ZERO TO THREE Policy Center state updates



Year Started: 



In June 2011, Arizona rolled out its quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), Quality First, as part of its commitment to an interconnected early learning system. Quality First is a voluntary rating system that assesses child care centers and home-based providers on safety, environment, curriculum, credentialing, and teaching style. The program is carried out by First Things First, a state government initiative for early childhood development and services. After the initial evaluation, coaches work with providers on a plan to improve the quality of their services. By participating in Quality First, child care providers may access funds for equipment, environmental improvements, and teacher training. In addition, providers, based on their star rating, are assigned a certain number of student scholarships intended for low-income families with the goal of raising standards while closing the achievement gap. For fiscal year 2013, 14,121 infants, toddlers, and preschoolers have received scholarships to access early education. This is a substantial increase from fiscal year 2012, in which only 8,972 children received student scholarships.

About 900 regulated child care centers, homes and preschools are participating in Quality First state-wide. Each program is rated on a one-to-five star scale to help Arizona’s parents evaluate their early care and education options. In addition parents may access an online system to review providers’ ratings, which they can use to make choices about their children’s care.

Arizona’s system demonstrates a dedication to quality by supporting providers in their efforts to improve child care and meet the statewide standards. The rating system is the third phase of the Quality First initiative, which first assessed child care providers and then began working with them to improve quality through technical assistance and coaching in 2009. The Quality First program sets forth a cohesive concept of “quality” for the care and education of children birth to five years in Arizona and allows for better alignment with the state’s K-12 schools.

For more information about Quality First, visit the First Things First website at

Updated October 2013.


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