Changes in Preschool Classroom Quality

The Timing of Rating Matters


Many early care and education (ECE) entities—including Head Start, state quality rating and improvement systems, and school district pre-K programs—use classroom quality observations in their quality improvement or monitoring processes. Many states that are expanding their ECE programs are grappling with questions about how best to use data from quality observations, which are typically conducted once a year at most. This brief presents results from a study based on data from the Expanding Children’s Early Learning (ExCEL) Quality project, which assessed two different approaches to improving classroom quality―a whole-child, global approach and an integrated, domain-specific approach. It used biweekly ratings of classroom quality by teachers’ coaches to examine levels and patterns of change in classroom quality over a school year, and the way those changes varied over time, by three different dimensions of quality: structural, interactional, and instructional. The brief addresses two research questions:

  • How do the three dimensions of quality change over time?
  • How do changes in the three dimensions of quality differ based on the approach used to improve classroom quality?

The findings suggest that practitioners and policymakers should carefully consider the timing and number of quality ratings when making decisions about how to improve programs and monitor processes.