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How can a shared understanding of improvement science support early childcare and learning centers?

DECAL is responsible for meeting the childcare and early education needs of Georgia’s children and their families. It administers the nationally recognized Georgia’s Pre-K Program, licenses child care centers and home-based child care, administers Georgia's Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program, federal nutrition programs, and manages Quality Rated, Georgia’s child care rating system. Quality Rated is a systemic approach to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early and school‐age care and education programs. Similar to rating systems for other service-related industries, Quality Rated assigns a quality rating to early and school‐age care and education programs that meet a set of defined program standards.

Meeting these standards can be a challenge for centers who have inequitable access to resources and face high staff turnover. DECAL wants to ensure that all childcare centers and providers in Georgia receive the training and support needed to achieve these standards.

our approach

Shift partnered with GA DECAL to bring together six Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agencies and child care center staff to learn continuous improvement (CI) tools and methods through Improvement Methods For Equity (IM4E). Using a childcare specific case study supported by videos and workshops, participants learned improvement methods in community, working together across regional teams.

After IM4E, these regional teams transformed into improvement teams. With coaching from Shift, the teams are designing and running improvement projects and practicing the core set of improvement skills focused on topics that move them toward meeting CCR&R performance measures.  

Specific projects include:

  • Increasing the use of open-ended questions in the classroom (related to Environment Rating Scales® (ERS ®)
  • Increasing the Language/Books items scores by two points on the ERS® scale
  • Increasing the number of daily story reads for toddlers (related to ERS® scales)

early results

When introducing an improvement approach, the earliest results are related to participants’ knowledge and skills for improvement.  In addition to the teams’ improvement projects, Shift has documented the change in participants’ knowledge and beliefs about creating change in their system.

These early results are exciting examples of how quality improvement approaches empower people working in systems to transform them.

Below are two examples of "A-ha feedback" from I used to think...and now I think exercise:

I used to think that Improvement work was complicated and now I think: It’s a combination of very small steps that can be done incrementally.

I used to think that if an idea did not work it was not worth trying again. Now I think: Many ideas can be great when modifications are made. Don’t let something go just because it doesn’t work perfectly the first time.


Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning

CCR&R, North West Georgia – Quality Care for Children, Inc.

CCR&R, Central West Georgia – Quality Care for Children, Inc.

CCR&R, Central East Georgia – Augusta University/ Leap Early Learning Partners

CCR&R, South West Georgia – Albany State University

CCR&R, South East Georgia – Savannah Technical College

CCR&R, North East Georgia – Quality Care for Children, Inc.

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