Increase in Percentage of Children Who Experience Interactions Where Teachers and Caregivers Respond to Children's Individual Needs


High-quality interactions are characterized by warmth, respect, and enjoyment in both verbal and nonverbal interactions between child and caregiver; the extent to which a caregiver can provide comfort, reassurance, and encouragement when necessary; caregiver interactions that emphasize children’s interests, motivations, points of view, and encourage independence; and caregivers’ proactive approaches to supporting positive behaviors and minimizing problem behavior.1

This indicator, measured at the child level, can be calculated as the number of infants and toddlers (ages zero to three) who are regularly cared for in settings with a high-quality rating, divided by the total number of infants and toddlers in the state/community. (See State-Level Estimates for detail about this indicator.)

  • 1. La Paro, K.M.; Hamre, B.K.; and Pianta, R.C. (2012). CLASS Toddler Manual. Teachstone Training, LLC.

The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) is an observation instrument used to assess the quality of teacher-child interactions in educational settings. There is an Infant-Toddler CLASS as well as a Pre-K CLASS. The CLASS is made up of three domains: Classroom Organization, Instructional Support, and Emotional Support. According to a study of Head Start programs between fiscal years 2012–2015, average scores on the CLASS Emotional Support domain (which assesses the degree to which a teacher establishes and promotes a positive classroom climate) were 6.0, the highest across all domains.1 The CLASS can be used in home-based settings, but it will be important for continued research to investigate the extent to which the CLASS or other observational tools are capturing dimensions of quality in home-based care.

To collect data for this indicator, it is important to assess the components of a state’s QRIS to ensure that it measures support for children’s social-emotional development using a tool such as the CLASS. If the QRIS covers this domain, then “high-quality” can be operationalized in a way that makes sense for the particular QRIS. This may be the top or the top two rating levels, depending on how support for social-emotional development is measured.

The QRIS Compendium has data on which states use the CLASS assessment to measure quality, as well as how many providers participate in the QRIS. Additionally, the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge annual progress reports include the number of children with high needs served in programs with high ratings for states awarded this grant.

  • 1. Report on Head Start CLASS Data Fiscal Years 2012-2015. (2016). Administration for Children and Families.

Population estimates are not available at the community level. However, data are available for sub-populations at the community level for those children in a QRIS-rated program. QRIS data can be used by ZIP code, city, or county to identify programs with high ratings in a local area. In voluntary QRIS, ratings are only available for participating programs. Contact the state agency or entity overseeing the QRIS to determine the availability of data.

Research Rationale

Children’s early development provides a foundation for school readiness. The period from birth to age eight is a span critical for a child’s physical well-being, motor development, language and literacy development, cognitive development (including early math and science skills), social-emotional development, and motivational and regulatory skills, which are associated with school readiness and later life success.1 “Interactions between young children and caregivers are the primary mechanism of child development and learning.”234567 Further, “children with secure attachments to a teacher tend to explore their environment more fully, try new things, exhibit higher levels of play, and develop a sense of independence or autonomy.8 Toddlers’ relationships with teachers and caregivers provide them with a secure base from which to explore all facets of their world, and these emotional bonds play a prominent role in toddlers’ language and cognitive development.”9

  • 1. Hernandez, D. J. (2011). Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation... P. 3. Annie E. Casey Foundation. April 2011. Kagan, S. L., Moore, E., & Bredekamp, S. (1995). Reconsidering children’s early development and learning: Toward common
  • 2. Hamre, B.K. and Pianta, R.C. (2007). Learning opportunities in preschool and early elementary classrooms. In R.C. Pianta, M.J. Cox, K.L. Snow (Eds.), School readiness and the transition to kindergarten in the ear or accountability (pp.49-83). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
  • 3. Morrison, F.J. and Connor, C.M. (2002). Understanding schooling effects on early literacy: A working research strategy. Journal of School Psychology, 40(6), 493-500.
  • 4. Rieber, R.W. (ed.). (1998). The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky: Vol. 5. Child psychology. New York, NY: Plenum.
  • 5. Rutter, M. and Maughan, B. (2002). School effectiveness findings 1979-2002. Journal of School Psychology, 40(6), 451-475.
  • 6. Sroufe, L.A. (1996). Emotional development: The organization of emotional life in the early years. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  • 7. Thompson, R.A. (2006). Nurturing developing brains, minds, and hearts. In R. Lally and P. Mangione (Eds.), Concepts of care: 20 essays on infant/toddler development and learning (pp. 47-52). Sausalito, CA: WestEd.
  • 8. Gonzalez-Mena, J. and Widmeyer Eyer, D. (2007). Infants, toddlers, and caregivers: A curriculum of respectful, responsive care and education (7th ed.)> Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.
  • 9. Hamre, B.K. and Pianta, R.C. (2007). Learning opportunities in preschool and early elementary classrooms. In R.C. Pianta, M.J. Cox, K.L. Snow (Eds.), School readiness and the transition to kindergarten in the ear or accountability (pp.49-83). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.