Merced County Office of Education

Quality Counts! Merced

Quality Counts! Merced is a partner in [Quality Counts California] raising the quality of early learning and care. Quality Counts California is a statewide system of locally implemented quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) which helps to connect parents and families to high quality early learning and care programs, and ensures that infants, toddlers, and preschool age children have access to quality early learning experiences in their local communities.

Early Education Program Manager

Early Education Advisor

Early Learning Systems Specialists

Phone: (209) 381-6719
Address: 1850 Wardrobe Avenue, Merced, CA 95341
Fax: (209) 381-6745


In December 2011, Merced County was selected as one (1) of sixteen (16) counties in California to participate in the Federal Race to the Top‐Early Learning Challenge Grant (RTT‐ELC.) This is a BIG honor and fabulous opportunity for Merced County. The grantee of the RTT grant for Merced County is the Merced County Office of Education, in partnership with First 5 Merced County.

The purpose of RTT was, "Ensure that children in California have access to high quality programs so that they thrive in their early learning settings and succeed in kindergarten and beyond."

During the grant period (2012-2015) RTT grantees were to develop, field test and revise a Tiered Quality Rating Improvement System (TQRIS) for programs serving children 0‐5 in licensed environments. The system has common elements across the sixteen counties participating in the grant focusing on child development and school readiness, teachers and teaching, and program/environment.

What is a Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS)?

A Quality Rating Improvement System is used to assess, improve and communicate the levels of quality in an early learning programs based upon tiers that establish continuous levels of growth according to standards of quality.  Quality standards include:

  • Licensed and regulated by the State
  • Staff who have specialized early education degrees and participate in ongoing professional development
  • Low adult to child ratios (appropriate group sizes)
  • Developmentally appropriate curriculum, informed by valid and reliable screening and observation tools

The higher the quality standards, the higher the rating for the program! Quality Counts! Merced will use a five-tier system to communicate levels of quality to the community.  Each tier is labeled with a quality descriptor (Emerging Quality, Quality, High Quality, and High Quality Plus) and an associated color code:   Bronze, Silver, and Gold. 

 Why is a QRIS important ?

A high quality early learning experience profoundly shapes a child's ability to succeed in school and in life. Merced County is committed to ensuring our county's children have access to high quality early learning education.

Equally important, quality ratings can inform policymakers and the general public about the effectiveness of early education.   Nearly every state in the United States is engaged in some form of a quality rating and improvement system for early education programs.

Who participates?

Participation in RTT was voluntary by programs.
Programs currently participating are:

(Merced County) Atwater Elementary School District, Delhi Unified School District, Dos Palos Oro Loma Joint Unified School District, Livingston Union School District, Los Banos Unified School District, Merced City School District, Merced College Child Development Center, Merced County Community Action Agency, Merced County Office of Education Early Head Start/Head Start, Stanislaus County Office of Education/Central California Child Development Services, Inc., Winton School District, and  Family Child Care Providers


Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) Block Grants (California State Preschool Program, Migrant, Infant/Toddler)


California is committed to expanding access to high quality subsidized preschool through support for counties' and regions' quality improvement systems (QIS) and QRIS initiatives like RTT (see above.) Beginning in 2014, California Department of Education (CDE), Early Education and Support Division (EESD) via Propostion 98 funds in the amount of a $50 million as appropriated annually as part of Senate Bill 858, California Eduation Code section 8203.1 "for the support of local early learning quality rating and improvement systems that increase that number low income children in high quality preschool programs that prepare those children for success in school and in life. 


The authorizing Education Code recognizes that some counties and regions may have already "adopted a quality continuum framework" and it's lead administering agency(ies) is "provided the first opportunity to eligible for a QRIS block grant." The CDE-EESD request for application (RFA), these agencies are identified as Priority 1. Quality Counts! is deemed Priority 1 because of the existing QRIS Action Plan on file with CDE-EESD as a result of our RTT participation.


The grantee of the  QRIS block grant for Merced County is the Merced County Office of Education. Each years grant award depends on the availablity of QRIS block grant Prop 98 funds allocated in the state budget. Funds are ongoing, but in order to be considerd for the grant applications must be submitted and reapproved each year by the grantee.  




Local consortia will provide for local QRIS block grants to California State Preschool Programs (CSPP) sites that have been rated at a quality level of tier 4 or higher (equivalent to Quality Counts! quality indicators, "High Quality" or "High Quality Plus") and to raise the quality of CSPPs not yet at tier 4.   


The block grants awarded are intended to maintain high QRIS rating, e.g., keeping ratios low, paying for qualified staff, supporting strong teacher child interactions and maintaining a quality program.