Parent Aware Ratings and Standards and Indicators: A Multi-Cohort Analysis

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodJun 6 2024

Parent Aware, Minnesota’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), is designed to rate the quality of care provided in the state’s early care and education (ECE) programs, to help connect families with high-quality care that meets their needs, and to support programs’ ongoing quality improvement. Parent Aware assigns quality rating levels in ECE settings by awarding programs a One- to Four-Star Rating; Ratings are determined by programs’ ability to meet quality Indicators within five Categories of program Standards (see Textbox 1). Currently, all licensed ECE programs[1] in Minnesota can choose whether to participate in Parent Aware[2] and the Star Rating level to which they apply. As a “hybrid” QRIS, each Parent Aware Standard contains some Indicators that all programs must meet, as well as other Indicators that programs can choose to meet. In particular, programs seeking a One- or Two-Star Rating must meet all Indicators at their desired Rating level, whereas programs seeking a Three- or Four-Star must meet certain required Indicators and also earn a certain number of points.[3]


Quality Standards and Indicators are an integral part of Parent Aware. The Standards and Indicators not only provide a framework for defining quality in ECE settings, but also create a structure for helping families make informed decisions about child care[4] and for supporting programs in ongoing quality improvement. As such, it is important that Parent Aware regularly examines and updates the Standards and Indicators to ensure they are evidence-based, reflective of the diverse needs of children and families, and meaningful and attainable to the ECE programs and staff who work toward meeting them.

Since Parent Aware started as a pilot program in 2007, the Standards and Indicators have been revised twice. The Standards and Indicators were updated most recently in 2016, informed in part by findings from an evaluation conducted by researchers at Child Trends.[5] As part of the Parent Aware Redesign launched in 2023,[6] the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has been examining the Standards and Indicators to consider updates. This effort builds off work completed as part of the Parent Aware Racial Equity Action Plan, which aims to understand inequities or barriers within Parent Aware and develop plans for improvement.


[1] Parent Aware is available for family child care and center-based programs that are licensed through the Minnesota Department of Human Services, certified child care programs, Head Start programs, and public school-based pre-K programs.

[2] The Minnesota Legislature recently passed a bill that will automatically assign all licensed child care programs a One-Star Rating unless the program opts out of the system. The legislation requires additional research on the impacts and costs of this policy change to inform a final process for implementing the change by July 2026. See Child Care Aware of Minnesota’s 2023 Legislative update for more information:

[3] Minnesota Department of Human Services. (2016). Parent Aware Quality Rating and Improvement System: Standards and Indicators.

[4] The Standards and Indicators are used on to provide information about each Rating level:

[5] For more information about the Parent Aware Redesign and the Standards and Indicators Revision process, see the DHS website:

[6] Read more about the Parent Aware Redesign here:

Suggested Citation

Mukhopadhyay, S., Hilty, R., Cleveland, J., Tout, K. (2024). Parent Aware Ratings and Standards & Indicators: A Multi-Cohort Analysis: Findings from an Evaluation of Parent Aware, Minnesota’s QRIS. Child Trends. DOI: 10.56417/8041g2295t