PROJECTDC Child Care Policy Research Partnership

Childcare worker uses a feather duster to tickle baby

Child care quality matters, both for children’s growth and development and for families’ economic success. Across the United States, states have recognized this and are engaging in ongoing efforts to improve the quality of their child care and early education systems through Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS). A QRIS is a system of assessing quality and offering improvements with the aim of expanding the supply of quality care. In 2019, 41 states and the District of Columbia (DC) had at least one well-developed quality initiative, with pilot initiatives in the field in several additional states and territories.

The District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) recently launched Capital Quality, an enhanced QRIS that replaced its old QRIS. Capital Quality measures the quality of early care and education programs and offers supports to improve quality over time.

The Urban Institute is partnering with OSSE to study the supply of quality child care and investments in quality improvement initiatives. Urban researchers are analyzing the supply of quality child care in DC after the implementation of Capital Quality and capturing perspectives of providers, teaching staff, and families about the new QRIS. This study builds on the momentum of the Urban Institute’s recent and ongoing child care and early education research in the District. It is the first federally funded partnership of its kind in the District of Columbia.

This project consists of two phases:

  1. A study of changes in the supply and distribution of quality child care after the implementation of Capital Quality based on analysis of existing datasets. This phase will explore the following:
    1. Changes in supply and quality based on analysis of linked child care licensing data, subsidy payment records, and QRIS and related quality data from Capital Quality and the old QRIS
    2. Changes in families’ child care options and how Capital Quality has influenced those options, with particular focuses on families with low incomes, those seeking care during nontraditional working hours, and those living in geographic locations with a high concentration of people living in poverty
  1. A study of provider, educator, and family perspectives and child outcomes based on newly collected data. This phase includes four different sub-studies:
    1. Provider perceptions of Capital Quality: a study of child care center directors’ and family child care providers’ perspectives on Capital Quality
    2. Study of child care teaching staff: an examination of quality designations and employment patterns of teaching staff, as well as their perspectives regarding job satisfaction, career pathways, and quality improvement
    3. Analysis of consumer education and how families use QRIS data: a study of families’ experiences in finding quality child care for their children and how Capital Quality informs their child care decisions
    4. Child outcomes study: an investigation of quality improvement efforts and their link to child outcomes across developmental domains

The DC Child Care Policy Research Partnership study began in October 2019 and is ongoing. The partnership will generate several research products to inform policy and programmatic efforts in the District of Columbia and advance the field nationwide. Publications will be shared on this page as they become available.


Project leadership

Heather Sandstrom, Principal Investigator

Erica Greenberg, Co-Principal Investigator

Diane Schilder, Senior Advisor


Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Research Areas Children and youth Workforce Education
Tags Job training Child care and early childhood education Child care and workers COVID-19 Early childhood education
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population Center on Education Data and Policy
Research Methods Quantitative data analysis Qualitative data analysis
States District of Columbia
Cities Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV