Promoting High Quality Early Education and Care

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) works with child care and out-of-school time programs to support continuous quality improvement.

The Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) is currently paused while EEC works to develop a continuous quality improvement system and undergoes child care licensing revisions.

Also, as of July 1, 2023 (implemented February 1, 2024) quality funding has been incorporated into the base rates moving forward for Child Care Financial Assistance rates. This means the 8.5% quality add-on from fiscal year 2023 and the 3% QRIS add-on are no longer shown as separate rates. Programs no longer need a QRIS rating to receive these rates. Learn more.

EEC Program Quality Focus Areas

EEC encourages programs to focus on these six domains of program quality and work together in sync to support positive child outcomes driven by adult/child interactions. This includes establishing a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as implementing continuous quality improvement across all domains to ensure that programs are providing the best possible experiences for children.

Quality domains
  • Leadership and Professional Learning

Leadership and Professional Learning refer to establishing a program structure that provides ongoing supervision, opportunities for educators to access planning time, collaborate and reflect to deepen their knowledge and skills, and continuously improve teaching practices.

  • Physical Environment

The physical environment refers to the indoor and outdoor spaces, equipment, and materials that are intentionally designed and arranged to support children’s learning and development. A well-designed environment plays a critical in supporting children’s exploration, discovery, and active engagement in learning.

  • Curriculum and Assessment

Curriculum refers to the learning objectives, content, and teaching strategies that support the growth of young children. Assessment is the process of gathering information about child’s progress and development to provide appropriate support. They provide educators with a framework for planning and implementing teaching, as well as gauging the effectiveness of their teaching.

  • Adult/ Child Interactions

Positive relationships with adults are crucial for children’s learning and development. By providing support, simulation, and guidance, adults can help children grow academically, behaviorally, socially, and emotionally. Creating nurturing environment through positive and meaningful relationship can promote children’s overall well-being and enable them to reach their full potential.

  • Business Practices

Business Practices encompass program’s ability to effectively implement fiscal management, marketing and outreach, and compensation practices, which are essential for ensuring operational stability and sustainability.   

  • Family and Community Partnership

Family and Community Partnership is a collaborative and supportive relationship between families and communities with educational programs. The goal is to create an integrated system to support children’s learning and development through respect, empowerment, open communication, and active involvement.

High Quality Learning & Care Environments

Defining high quality learning and care environments:

  • Characterized by frequent warm, supportive and stimulating interactions
  • Children have opportunities to play and explore in a safe and engaging environment
  • Planful curriculum shapes opportunities to learn through active experiences in ways that are responsive to individual needs
  • Families are empowered to engage in collaborative partnerships and programs are inclusive and supportive to the diversity of families and children they serve

Program Quality Theory of Action

Ensuring that high-quality early education and care is available and accessible to all families and children in Massachusetts will enable:

  • Families to have the resources to thrive socially and economically
  • Children to be well prepared for school success and life-long learning
Domain of Quality Description Tips for Educators Tips for Program Leaders


Adult/Child Interactions
  • Adults and children engage in warm, supportive and cognitively engaging interactions with each other
  • Conversations are frequent and characterized by open ended questions and extended turn taking – adults listen with interest to children
  • Adults provide a safe base for younger children and support older children in learning new things
  • Adults create an environment of respect and value for linguistic and cultural differences
  • Ensure frequent opportunities for interactions with all children
  • Tailor interactions to needs and preferences of individual children
  • Recognize and respond to linguistic and cultural differences
  • Support educators deepening their skill in interactions
  • Provide observation and feedback
  • Ensure consistent staffing
  • Model positive interactions
Here is what this looks like: 
Curriculum & Assessment
  • Day is organized around planful, developmentally appropriate activities, grounded in play
  • Curriculum includes activities designed to support learning goals grounded in standards
  • Books, writing and other literacy activities are common
  • Educators attend to children’s learning, document growth and adapt activities to meet individual needs
  • Curriculum is reflective of children’s experiences, culture and language
  • Educators have regular opportunities to plan and reflect
  • Set goals for children
  • Plan activities adapted for children’s needs
  • Implement effectively and adjust as needed
  • Protect time for curriculum planning
  • Ensure books and materials are available
  • Select appropriate curricula and materials

Here is what this looks like (infants):

Here is what this looks like (older kids):

Physical Environment
  • The environment is safe for children to explore freely
  • Materials are thoughtfully selected, support curriculum and accessible to all children
  • Books and writing materials are readily available
  • Classroom arrangement supports a variety of interactions and different groupings
  • Materials reflect the diversity of children, culturally, linguistically, etc.
  • Organize classroom environment
  • Structure predictable routines
  • Select and arrange materials
  • Ensure purchase of high quality furniture and materials
  • Support educators in understanding and reflecting on environment
Here is what this looks like:
Family Engagement
  • Families and educators collaborate to create consistent and supportive contexts across home and school
  • Regular conversations
  • Soliciting feedback and information from families
  • Developmental screening is used to support communication with families and provide early identification of opportunities to improve support
  • Connections among families creates a sense of community that is supportive to a child’s well being
  • Educators respect and are responsive to families’ diverse needs and preferences
  • Talk regularly with families
  • Share practices and ask about home activities
  • Respect and respond to families’ individuality
  • Ask families for feedback
  • Build opportunities for families to connect
  • Support developmental screening and referrals, when appropriate
  • Support educators in understanding needs of families
Here is what this looks like:


Quality also includes:

  • Leadership and Professional Learning

Educational leader creates a sustained focus on effective educator practices supporting play and learning =

• Adult-child interactions

• Curriculum and assessment

• Physical environment

• Working with families as partners

  • Business Practices

Leadership supports strong program operations =

• Educational leadership to support continued professional growth of educators

• Effective business and administrative practices ensure programs stability and investment in quality, including educator compensation

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