Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Quality Matters

Quality Matters -
But the Tiered Quailty Rating and Improvement System in Michigan
Almost four months ago, I published a post declaring my concerns in regard to the system here in Michigan and asking you all to join me in advocacy.  It has been awhile since I took the time to share updates and to reiterate my concerns with the current program.
(If you missed my first post, you can read it here: Hypocrisy)
 It appears that the decision makers in our state are starting to hear some of our voices. I say starting, because although they have made some changes to the self assessment survey,

I think they missed the point.
Now, using the self assessment survey- I AM A 5!
 Imagine my surprise! My program self assesses at the highest rating.
(Note, to actually be rated at this level, I would have to agree to undergo a validation of my information and another assessment- the PQA before I would actually be awarded this level)
 How can this be? A couple of months ago, my program rated at a 1. I have not made any major changes. We continue to learn and grow as we always have, but NO MAJOR CHANGES have been made.  So, how then does ones rating jump from the lowest to the highest?
Well, you see, they changed the assessment. Specifically, they opted to look at the areas of professional development. They are now looking at giving credit for additional degrees and training. Areas that six months ago didn't meet the standards. (When they continually reiterated that the  assessment was based upon research and standards.)
Now, I am really confused. 
Six months ago the assessment was research based, on standards. Many programs went through the process, and thousands upon thousands of dollars were spent on staff and the process and procedure of assessing and validating programs ratings. (I don't know exactly how much of our tax money was spent on this, but I know it was A LOT!)
Now, because they have changed some of the standards. Those programs who jumped through all of those hoops have to do it again- and guess what???? That is going to cost more $$$- lots more man hours of time and resources to redo everything for those providers.
AND guess what else? All of the changes that they are FINALLY considering- every last one of them, was being voiced as a concern by folks who work for this organization long before I even took a position with them. (Months prior to validating so many programs and wasting so much $$$) They could have avoided all of this waste of funding had they just listened to those concerns from the get go, had they included all of the stakeholders.
There are a lot of other areas where concerns have yet to be addressed. So, I'm sure this is not the last change that will be implemented in the system.
BUT- Ratings are going live. They are redoing the system, re-validating and assessing programs. In a few months, parents will be able to see the ratings. Right now, if you log in, you can see the validated 4 and 5 star programs.  Soon, you will be able to see all of the star ratings. (BUT, you won't see ours - I have opted our program out by indicating NO REFERALS).  Even though this program now rates us at the top of the heap, you won't find our rating listed.
Why? What do I mean? (Oh, I'm so glad you asked!). You see, the quality improvement program encourages continuous improvement. The goal is to increase quality in early childhood settings.
Some of the standards include using a research based- tested and validated curriculum and assessment. Did you catch that, only those assessments that have been proven to be VALID and RELIABLE are considered quality assessments in this program YET, the program itself has not undergone any psychometric tests (the tests they use to make sure that a test measures what it says it measures and does so consistently).  This folks, is a double standard and hypocrisy.
The self assessment being used has not been tested.  How do we know that the original assessment was not the better one? Yes, more people are now gaining higher scores... BUT if the original questionnaire was really valid and reliable- are we now getting inflated scores?  Maybe the changes with the assessment are the best options..... and now we are getting an accurate assessment of quality... right now, without the validation of the tool- we don't know.
When they made the changes, it appears that the assessment has more face value validity. More programs that were previously assumed to be quality programs are now rating higher, but right now... it is still a best guess, a hypothesis. Until it is tested, the results are just assumed to be true.  Until the research is done, the ratings are just a best guess.
This whole process continues to cost money.  So, right now they plan to go live with all of the scores. What happens if they go live, spend all of this money re-validating, re-assessing programs and then they find out that the assessment does not really measure what it says it measures and that additional changes need to be made? Then we start all over again, and we waste more and more money.
I mean, what is the big rush? This program has been in the works for over seven years. Yes, you saw that correctly, seven years. I just don't understand how a program can be in development for so long and have so many lingering flaws.
You see, I'm not against the mission. I think we need to focus more on creating quality environments for young children. I've been out there, I've seen the spectrum that exists. We really do need support for young children and families in early learning settings. We really do need to support caregivers and early childhood educators in becoming life long learners, giving them access to resources and removing barriers to continual growth and elevated quality.
I don't know for sure, because I don't work for Great Start anymore, and I never had all of the information, but I have a really hard time understanding and believing that the true goal is really improving real quality. So many decisions seem to be based upon keeping up appearances, keeping a pay check coming, and making sure that the money keeps flowing.  Yes, I do understand that it is a balancing act when there are regulations and timelines put into place, but seriously....
 I have a hard time following the rationale.
Why not just get it right the first time? I mean, would it be so bad to delay the public posting until a validation study was complete with a smaller group of providers to insure that further waste does not continue to happen?
Doesn't that seem like the right thing to do?
The responsible and ethical thing to do?
And... If improving quality is really the goal- then why are the resources and attention being allocated primarily to those places scoring at a 3, 4, or 5? Wouldn't you think that the strongest impact would be working with those programs needing the most improvement? When I first worked for the organization- I was only allowed to assist those programs at the higher levels and now additional resources are being allocated at these levels. I just don't get it. It doesn't make sense.
Now, I am a 5. (self assessed)
I continue to remain off of the referral list.
I worry about the true meaning of the rating scale, and I have serious concerns for parents who are going to rely upon this scale for information as they search for a quality program for their children. I have serious doubts in regard to the usefulness it poses at this time.
If you have not yet taken the time to sign the petition- I encourage you to do so.
They have meet some of the suggestions, but still have many areas to address.
You can find the petition here.
If you are a child care provider in the state of Michigan- Join our Facebook Group here.
(Providers- you do know that right now this program has NOTHING to do with your license. This is supposedly a "voluntary" program.  You can remove yourself from the rating list by not accepting referrals from your Great Start Regional Resource Center.  When you log in to update your profile, just click the box that says Update Data, then under the referral status click "no referrals". Your name will still show up on the list of providers that is generated by licensing, but will not show up when parents log into Great Start Connect).

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