QRIS Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the QRIS system changing?

o The federal government requires that each state examine its Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) through a lens of continuous improvement. This means states are always challenging themselves to develop tools not only to improve quality but also to make lasting impacts.

o While the existing system did make quality impacts that were beneficial for participating programs, the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) saw an opportunity to create a system that would appeal to more programs, and thereby increase participation to expand quality care and early education for more children and families. The mandate for continuous improvement challenges states to step outside their comfort zone and examine current practices to determine where opportunities for growth can be found. We are looking closely at the existing QRIS system and gathering feedback from the field to raise quality, accessibility, and support for early childcare and education programs in the state of Alabama.

o All initially licensed providers in good standing will be offered an opportunity to enroll as a participant in the QRIS Program during this fiscal year.

Who is implementing the new QRIS system?

DHR receives federal funding to implement the QRIS system in Alabama. The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE) has been selected by DHR to administer the QRIS system in Alabama through an interagency agreement.

How was the new system being developed?

The new QRIS system was developed with consideration of public survey responses from STAR-rated and unrated programs. An advisory council has been created with prominent stakeholders in private childcare, family childcare, Head Start, higher education, advocacy groups, and community leaders. Input from other states regarding the progress of their own QRIS system, as well as ideas from state and national voices, also offer a broader perspective.

What if my STAR Rating is up for annual review or renewal?

All current STAR ratings will be recognized. When the new system rolls out, there will be extensive support to transition successfully to the new system.

Will our program keep our current STAR rating?

All current ratings will be recognized. DHR is examining different criteria for quality, and this may mean that your STAR rating will change depending on the new standards that are adopted. When the new system rolls out there will be extensive support available to early care and education programs so there will be no surprises for those currently enrolled.

Will our program keep our current STAR rating incentive amount from the old system?

If you were a STAR 2 or higher under the old system, you will not receive an incentive for that STAR rating for the 2022 fiscal year until you are assessed in the new system. Previously rated programs will have top priority when Assessments begin in 2022.

Will the new system still be a “STAR” rating?

Yes. QRIS determines a standard of quality and serves as a system of information for families who are selecting from childcare options. Many states use the ‘STAR’ as a recognizable marker of quality for their QRIS programs. A statewide education campaign will showcase the many benefits of continuing to use the ‘STAR’ in Alabama.

What if my program was in the process of preparing for a STAR rating according to the prior system?

If your program was in the process of gathering information for a STAR rating, please refer to the assessment page on this website to view the new criteria for assessment.

According to the new system, what are the criteria for a STAR 1 rating?

According to the recently revised Child Care Licensing and Performance Standards, licensed centers and homes meet the criteria for a one (1) star rating in Alabama Quality STARS. There are no additional requirements for a STAR 1 Rating. Programs that opted out of the STARs program will not receive the STAR 1 incentive.

Will I receive signage or certificates for a STAR 1 rating?

DHR is currently working on printing certificates to send to all programs that qualify and have opted in for the STAR 1 rating.

I received a letter stating that I am a STAR 1, and I will be paid according to the old incentive schedule. When will I receive my STAR 1 incentive from the new schedule?

When your annual license review or your licensing renewal occurs, if you successfully meet the Licensing Performance Standards, you will receive the new STAR 1 incentive rate. Therefore, facilities will receive payments according to the amounts on the new incentive schedule at their annual review and licensing renewal date if either falls after October 1, 2021.

Will our program keep our current STAR rating incentive amount from the old system?

If you were a STAR 2 or higher under the old system, you will not receive an incentive for that STAR rating for the 2022 fiscal year until you are assessed in the new system. Previously rated programs will have top priority when Assessments begin in 2022.

If I opted out of STAR 1, can I still apply for a STAR 2 and above when the new system is fully implemented?

Yes, programs that are interested in a higher STAR rating may apply, even if they opted out of STAR 1.

When can I apply for a STAR 2 rating or higher? Do I need to wait for my annual review or relicensing date?

You may apply for your STAR assessment at any time during the year and it does not need to be at the time of your annual review or relicensing date.

  • If your program is a STAR 1, and you choose to stay at a STAR 1, your incentives will be paid at your license annual review date.
    • Example: If your annual licensing date is October 2022, once your license is renewed in October, your incentive is paid at that time. In October of 2023, at your annual review, your incentive will be paid at that time, if you still meet the licensing standards.
  • If your program is a STAR 2 or higher, your incentive will be paid at your QRIS annual review date.
    • Example: You apply for STAR assessment in June 2022 and are awarded a STAR 3 in August of 2022, at that time you will receive your incentive for a STAR 3 rating. In August of 2023, your program will be up for your QRIS STAR rating annual review, and if you continue to meet the criteria for a STAR level 3, you will receive that incentive amount.

How many times may I request a STAR rating assessment in a year?

After July 1, 2022, any program that has already been assessed for a STAR 2 or higher in the newly revised system must wait 6 months from the completion date of their previous assessment before they can request another assessment. (Example: My first assessment was completed on July 5, 2022. I cannot request another STAR assessment for a higher STAR rating until January 5, 2023).  Details can be found in Section 11.00, page 14 of the updated Alabama Quality STARS Guidelines.

If I am not satisfied with the result of my STAR rating assessment, what are my options?

If a provider has a valid dispute with the Alabama Quality STARs Guidelines or the assessment procedure, he or she may appeal to have their STAR rating assessment reviewed following the protocol outlined in Section 13.00 on page 15 of the updated Alabama Quality STARs Guidelines. Otherwise, the provider may apply to participate in the Enhancement program to receive technical assistance and support in implementing quality practices to improve their rating, or they may apply for a new assessment in 6 months.

What if I am a STAR 2 and, at my annual QRIS review, I do not maintain the STAR 2 rating? Will I wait until my licensing annual review/renewal to earn my STAR 1 Rating incentive?

If a program is a STAR 2 at the time of its QRIS annual review but drops to a STAR 1 rating, the program will be paid at the time of the QRIS annual review because the annual licensing review/renewal date may be prior to the QRIS annual review. If the program is still at STAR 1 the following year, then the payment will be issued at the licensing annual review date. Example: You are STAR 2 rated in August of 2022. In August of 2023 at your QRIS Annual review, it is determined you no longer meet the criteria for STAR 2, so your rating is changed to STAR 1. You will receive the STAR 1 incentive in August of 2023. However, your annual licensing review was in March of 2023 before your STAR rating change, so in March of 2024 at your licensing renewal, you will receive your STAR 1 incentive if you meet the minimum licensing standards.

I still have many questions- will there be an orientation before we apply for a STAR 2 or higher?

There will be a required orientation. This orientation will be available on-demand virtually through the AlaCEED platform. Visit the Getting Started page on this website and complete Steps 1 and 2 to start the process to request to be connected to your site in AlaCEED and begin orientation.

The QRIS team will provide in-person orientation sessions based on the demand within the QEA areas. To request in-person orientation, please complete Steps 1-3 on the Getting Started Page on this website.

Note: The Q&A Sessions held in November and December of 2021 were only for those interested in asking their questions about the new program and getting those questions directly answered by the QRIS Specialists. These sessions did not count as part of the Orientation process.

How do we apply to the new system?

Please visit the Getting Started page to view the process map, step-by-step instructions, and tutorial videos on how to apply to the new system.

Who do I contact with questions?

For more information contact:

QRIS Administrator: Kellie Holcomb

Email: info@alabamaqualitystars.org

Phone: (334)604-6260

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 302755 Montgomery, AL 36130

Early Child Care