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2018 QRIS National Conference Summary

August 15, 2018


  • Susan Hibbard Executive Director, The BUILD Initiative

In this blog post, BUILD’s Executive Director provides a summary of the 2018 QRIS National Meeting. The conference saw BUILD’s highest participation rate ever: over 1,225 early childhood professionals from 47 states and 4 U.S. territories who came together to share strategies, learn from each other, and hear about the latest research.

BUILD’s annual conference on quality improvement in early learning and Quality Rating and Improvement Systems was held this year in July, in San Diego, California. The conference is part of BUILD’s 50-state Learning Community, which is dedicated to advancing high-quality, equitable, culturally competent, affordable, and accessible early learning opportunities for each and every young child. Our goal is to provide learning and peer exchange opportunities for the attending professionals that will support continuous improvement of their work back home.

This year’s convening saw the highest participation rate ever: over 1,225 early childhood professionals from 47 states and 4 U.S. territories came together to share strategies, learn from each other, and hear about the latest research. According to post-meeting surveys—completed by 43 percent of the meeting attendees— participants appreciated the wide range of topics covered in the nearly 150 sessions and found the meeting energizing, inspiring, and a unique professional development experience.

State and local leaders shared innovations and big ideas, discussed how new research might inform practice, delved into evaluation findings, and learned a great deal about other states’ early learning quality improvement efforts.

In response to the session, Supporting Family Child Care Providers in QRIS, one participant wrote, “Great to hear from an actual FCC provider. Nice mix of policy/research from Erikson and then the state and city perspective.” Meeting participants also gained awareness of the range of strategies utilized across the country and the variety of stakeholders engaged in these efforts. “Great session” is how another respondent described Business Leadership: The Missing Piece in QRIS. “Very informative. Texas is very interested in shared services and this had some great ideas!”

BUILD attempted to integrate systems and equity frameworks throughout the meeting to ensure that leaders new to this way of thinking gained insights into the how and why of
connecting across sectors and systems as well as understanding and acting to address the root causes of disparities. Reflecting on what aspect of the meeting had the greatest impact, one survey respondent wrote: “A working session with the panelists from the opening plenary on racial equity in the field’s leadership had the greatest impact for me. The discussion and sharing were authentic and heartfelt. I currently hold a mid-level management position, but I am a racial minority, and it’s really hard to find a safe space to share and have mentorship. I hope BUILD will provide such opportunities for us so that we can further grow as professionals and make more contributions with unique insights and experiences.”

Equity was also a strong theme running through the plenary presentation of Harvard Sociologist and Education Professor Sara Lawrence Lightfoot. Participants called her session “amazing,” “rich,” “inspiring,” and “relevant.” One participant’s reflection: “Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot made the biggest impact with her challenge for us to reframe our view, lift up our voices, make sure everyone is visible.”

Participants gained skills in areas such as data analysis and leadership. One wrote: “I’m inspired to further explore how we can better tell our story through data as a result of attending this session.” Another participant said the meeting offered “…great ideas for ongoing staff leadership training approaches.” In addition, participants gained valuable allies with whom to network and share information.

BUILD is encouraged by the participant feedback indicating that the QRIS National Convening remains an important part of the work we do on behalf of young children and their families. Enthusiasm during the conference was palpable and the evaluation feedback supports the positive feeling the BUILD team had during the meeting. In partnership with the many organizations and leaders in the field who contribute to each of the convenings, BUILD will strive to create equally useful and thought-provoking content for next year’s conference in New Orleans.


Survey Says: A significant majority of the survey respondents—94 percent— agreed or strongly agreed: “The meeting was helpful in advancing the knowledge and practice underway in [their] state/region…” and “there were opportunities to learn about cutting edge ideas for the next generation of quality improvement and early childhood” (88 percent).

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