Happy First Birthday, Nebraska Step Up to Quality!

Nebraska Step Up to Quality celebrated its first birthday July 1 and celebrated a year of working to improve early care and education quality, and increase positive outcomes for young children to close the achievement gap. Nebraska is the 41st state to implement a quality rating improvement system (QRIS). 

Great things occurred in our first year of implementation. Approximately 600 professionals attended numerous information and orientation training sessions, and many took the next step to complete an application in the Professional Record System (NECPRS) and obtain an official rating as a participating Step Up to Quality program or provider.

Nearly 175 licensed child care centers or family child care homes, public schools and Head Start programs began or completed the application process and many have already received an official rating from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. To date, more than 1,200 users are in NECPRS which tracks participation and progress in Step Up to Quality, and also houses a statewide training calendar with more development and opportunities to come.

One of our proudest moments was seeing the whole process of participation at work. Both a family child care home and a large child care center have completed a rating review. These programs were highly motivated, having completed all the necessary required licensing training (most of Step 2 requirements) and came out with very strong ratings. The family child care provider was the first reviewed and received a Step 5. The center received a Step 4.

While we’re thrilled with the results of our first Steps 3-5 rated programs, it’s important to emphasize that participation in Step Up to Quality is a quality improvement process, and not a single event. An important aspect in Step Up to Quality is to support early childhood professionals to continuously reflect on their strengths, address their challenges and improve practice. Why? Because it is about the best interests of children in Nebraska! Improving outcomes for young children at a young age can have far-reaching and long-lasting effects in learning, earning and living. 

Quality Improvement as a Pathway
To more accurately reflect this continuous quality improvement process, we rebranded ourselves with a new logo depicting quality improvement as a pathway where progress is not always unidirectional, and sometimes challenge and even backward movement can create opportunities to think more deeply about improvements in practice.

The future indeed looks bright. The Step Up staff are focused professionals and it is a privilege to facilitate the work of this team! We know we will continue to see growth in participation in QRIS, some of which is spurred on by recent legislation (i.e., LB547). We also know that word-of-mouth is powerful and that parents who want quality experiences for their children will be thrilled with the quality improvement of community programs and providers and will encourage others to get involved in Step Up to Quality.

We can only improve as a statewide effort with ongoing collaboration among state agencies and support from our partnering organizations, such as First Five Nebraska. Together we can demonstrate that Nebraska Nice really means strong programs, strong communities and strong families—all to improve the lives of young children. There can’t be a better vision for the future than that! 

Check our website for updated information.

Check us out on Facebook at Nebraska Step Up to Quality. Please ‘like’ and ‘share’ to help us get the word out!

Call or email with questions at 844-807-5712 or

Eleanor J. Shirley
Director, Nebraska Step Up to Quality

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