The Variations in Implementation of Quality Interventions (VIQI): Examining the Quality-Child Outcomes Relationship in Child Care and Early Education project is a large-scale, rigorous study with several important aims and implications for current child care and early education policy and practices, including:
- Determining the effectiveness of interventions for strengthening classroom quality and improving a range of children’s learning and developmental outcomes;
- Identifying dimensions of quality within child care and early education settings that are key levers for promoting children’s learning and development;
- Identifying levels in dimensions of quality that are necessary to support children’s developmental gains;
- Identifying drivers that facilitate or inhibit successful implementation of interventions aimed at strengthening quality; and,
- Understanding how these relations vary across different child care and early education settings, staff, and children.
Prompted by converging evidence about the importance of early childhood for creating a foundation for lifelong success and concern that children from low-income and racially and ethnically diverse families tend to face greater risk for poorer outcomes than their higher-income peers, public support and government investments in child care and early education are at an all-time high. The field agrees that classroom quality matters for promoting child outcomes. Yet, there is considerable variation in the overall quality of services, with instructional quality — a key driver of children’s gains — often being low across programs nationally despite a focus on quality improvement at national, state and local levels. Indeed, there are still many open questions about how best to design and target investments to ensure that children, particularly low-income children, receive and benefit from high-quality child care and early education programming on a large scale.
There is a growing, but imperfect, knowledge base about which dimensions of quality are most important to strengthen, and what levels of quality need to be achieved to consistently promote child outcomes across child care and early education settings. The literature has identified several basic dimensions of classroom quality — such as structural, process, and instructional quality — that are hypothesized to promote child outcomes. Nonexperimental evidence portrays an intriguing pattern of correlational findings suggesting that quality may need to reach certain levels before effects on child outcomes become evident and that different dimensions of quality may interact with each other in synergistic ways to affect child outcomes. But existing evidence has not pinpointed the exact levels that are consistently linked with child outcomes. Further, there is a relatively little causal evidence showing that efforts to strengthen program quality will yield improvements in child outcomes. Without such rigorous evidence, it is difficult to draw policy and practice implications. What the field needs is a stronger, causal evidence base that provides a better understanding of the relationship between quality and child outcomes, the dimensions of quality that are most related to child outcomes, and the program and classroom factors that aid delivery of quality teaching and caregiving in child care and early education settings.