Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS)

Quality Counts for Children is Manatee County’s voluntary quality rating system which uses licensing as a foundation and sets a continuum of clearly defined levels of increasing quality.  It is based on a point system in which a program receives points for every quality benchmark it achieves.

Quality Counts for Children awards star level designations based on the number of points a program receives for meeting specific quality standards.  These standards address:

  • Curriculum and Instructional Assessment
  • Family Engagement
  • Learning Environment
  • Program Administration
  • Ratio and Group Size
  • Screening and Identification of Special Needs
  • Staff Qualifications

These standards and indicators have been selected as a result of a thorough review of the research literature and promising practices in other communities.  Research confirms that early care and education programs that focus on improving these standards can enhance children’s positive outcomes.  The indicators for each standard do not represent all aspects of quality, but rather the essential elements that lead to higher levels of quality.


  • The program is open to all legally operating programs who have a School Readiness contract with the ELC
  • Received an average ERS score of 3.5 or above
  • Been in operation for at least one year prior to application;
  • Have not been referred to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for investigation for fraud connected with the School Readiness Program and/or the Voluntary Prekindergarten Program;
  • Been in good standing for 1 year and are currently in good standing with the DCF Child Care Licensing Program. Being in good standing with licensing means the program is not under any administrative improvement process.

Application Process:

  • All programs that want to participate in Quality Counts for Children must attend an orientation to receive an overview of goals, the improvement process and information on supports that are available;
  • Complete an application that will be reviewed by a committee that includes staff from the ELC.  Applications are accepted on a first come first serve basis and are contingent upon funding;
  • Once your program is accepted in the Quality Counts for Children program you will be asked to sign a Letter of Expectations, which explains the responsibilities of Quality Counts for Children and your program;
  • Self-Study Training – take part in a self-study training to learn how to complete the self-study process and the quality improvement process.  You also need to attend trainings (director and/or owner) about the Environment Rating Scales (ITERS-R, ECERS-R and/or SACERS) that will be used to review your program

The director will:

1.  Participate in sessions about program self-assessment

2.  Complete assignments as given

  • During the self-study training you will receive a packet that includes checklists and forms to record information about the 7 components.  You and your staff will complete the self-study and gather necessary documentation, placing the information in a binder.  This must be completed within 6 months of participating in the self-study training.
  • Formal Validation – After completing and submitting the self-study binder the program will receive a formal validation visit.  The validator will verify information provided in the self-study binder.
  • Star Level Designation – Once the formal validation visit has been completed, Quality Counts for Children personnel will total the points earned on all program standards.  Your program’s star level designation is valid for two years.
  • Continuous Quality – is an ongoing process that includes reviewing indicators of program quality, planning goals, and implementing strategies toward best practices.  To document your goals, you will develop a Quality Action Plan (QAP)
  • Developing a Quality Action Plan will guide how your program will spend funds, prioritize staff time, determined curriculum and instructional practices and choose staff development.  Your program must develop a QAP in order to access grants, scholarships and other supports.
  • Once the QAP has been approved you will be awarded the allocated funds.
  • It is your responsibility to maintain records and receipts documenting how you spent the funds


For more information on the QRIS program, please contact the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County's Quality Department at (941) 757-2900 ext. 260.

List of QRIS Participating Providers