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South Dakota Quality Recognition and Information System Pilot

Introduction to the South Dakota QRIS Pilot Program

South Dakota State University (SDSU), in conjunction with the Child and Family Resource Network, competed for a Child Care Quality Improvement grant sponsored by the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS). The South Dakota State University Quality Collaborative (SDSUQC) was created to work with a Quality Recognition and Information System or QRIS.

The SDSUQC consists of Dr. Ann Michelle Daniels (associate professor at the School of Education, Counseling, and Human Development) Dr. Aileen Garcia (assistant professor at the Department of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Missouri), Rachel Busmann (Outreach Coordinator for the Child and Family Resource Network and Project Lead for the South Dakota QRIS Pilot), Debi Mathis (national consultant from the BUILD Initiative with expertise in quality improvement programs), Nichole Lanning (Early Childhood Quality Assistant), Amelia Banister (Early Childhood Quality Assistant), Hallie Snyder (graduate student), and Kerry Aberle (graduate student).

The SDSUQC works in collaboration with QRIS Coaches Maria Picek (Brookings) and Deb Owens (Mitchell) who are employed with the Child and Family Resource Network to support the QRIS Pilot.


The Collaborative’s main purpose is to design and implement an early childhood Quality Recognition and Information System (QRIS) pilot program in South Dakota. The goal is also to come up with common benchmarks of quality that will enable child care providers to identify their program’s strengths as well as areas for growth. The QRIS pilot, in conjunction with the state’s Early Childhood Enrichment System, will consist of creating a QRIS framework for each type of child care: family day-care, child-care centers, and school age programs.

The QRIS pilot will help with increasing the quality of care and parental understanding of quality. This is important because currently nationwide, over 50% of children under the age of five attend some type of outside-the-home-nonparental care or early childhood program. Yet, according to the National Institute for Health, only about 10% of America’s child care programs are deemed high quality, and it is even less for programs that are dedicated to serving low-income families or minorities. This is bothersome as research has shown that child care quality is associated with better developmental outcomes.

The pilot’s long-term objective is to enhance the quality of care given to children. Results will also inform the future statewide implementation of the QRIS program that will impact not only child care providers and the children under their charge, but also parents, caregivers, and the larger community.

Why is a Quality Framework Important?

Using a QRIS framework has been shown to improve parental understanding of the importance of high-quality care and how to assess it. Moreover, a QRIS framework can help increase the availability of high-quality programs within the state and provide a systematic way to provide professional development and specific quality improvement supports and strategies. Ultimately, a QRIS can help create a statewide strategy to align the individual organizations within child care (licensing, early learning guidelines, subsidy, financial administration, coaching accreditations, and resources and referrals) to create an effective way to support and maintain high-quality programs throughout the state.

Working Together

The QRIS Pilot will have a Quality Advisory Group (QAG). An important aspect of creating a statewide program such as QRIS is having input from a variety of stakeholders. The SDSU Collaborative recognizes that an advisory group is imperative when taking a complicated issue that addresses more than one type of quality (process vs. structural,) individual as well as group needs, and various policies (program, regional, state, and federal) within child care. The QAG will help create a collective voice that can provide feedback as the pilot works through these issues. Being inclusive from the start can increase support for QRIS and reduce the potential for misunderstanding and opposition.

Additionally, the SDSU Quality Collaborative understands that hearing the voices of as many providers, directors, and staff working in the program is essential beyond the role of the QAG. To encourage open communication and support updates, the Collaborative has set up an email address to support inquiries and encourage open communication with community partners. Please feel free to contact the Collaborative if you have any questions or concerns about the pilot.

Who Can Participate?

The QRIS pilot has recruited child care and school age programs to voluntarily participate in the almost year-long pilot. Participants will be asked to allow ECE Quality Coaches to observe and assess homes/classrooms utilizing Environmental Rating Scales. These scales are utilized nationwide to evaluate quality, as well as a learning tool on how to increase quality. Each assessment will be given at the start and the end of the pilot. Specific training and one-on-one coaching on individualized continuous quality improvement plans will be developed as well as monies to help create needed changes within the homes/classrooms. Finally, parents will be recruited to also complete some assessments with compensation to support the research for South Dakota.

Learn More

Want to learn more about the QRIS Pilot and receive our bimonthly QRIS newsletter, please contact the Collaborative or complete the information below.