The Program Quality Assessment (PQA) is a rating instrument designed to evaluate the quality of early childhood programs and identify staff training needs.

The PQA is reliable and valid and is appropriate for use in all center-based early childhood settings, including but not limited to those using the HighScope educational approach.

The PQA is an all-in-one program evaluation system with the following features:

  • Assesses key aspects of program quality
  • Reflects research-based and field-tested best practices in early childhood education and care
  • Can be aligned with the Head Start Program Performance Standards
  • Provides reliable, scientifically validated assessment proven in a wide range of early childhood programs and settings
  • Can be used as a basis for program accreditation, reporting, monitoring, and training is a web-based tool for documenting, capturing evidence in the form of electronic images, and scoring the PQA for both classroom and school.  Online resources allow users to score and report on baseline results, set goals for improvement, and monitor progress overtime. is a subscription based program sold through HighScope.


The PQA measures key dimensions of program quality across multiple domains: examples include – learning environment, daily routine, adult-child interaction, curriculum planning and assessment, parent involvement and family services, staff qualifications and development, and program management.

Raters observe the program and interview the appropriate staff members. They record supporting evidence for each row (component) of every item. They read the indicators (definitions and examples) for that row and check the one box per row that best reflects the supporting evidence. Then, using the scoring rules they circle one item rating for the item as a whole.


The PQA can be completed as a self-assessment or completed by outside raters observing the daily activities within the classroom. PQA is deigned to be given at the beginning of the program year (baseline) with a follow-up at the end of the program year (end of year).

Administrators can use PQA to evaluate programs and classrooms, and teachers can use it to evaluate their own classrooms. Both can use it to identify professional development needs. In conjunction with, a web based application for collecting, scoring, and reporting on Program Quality, the PQA provides meaningful feedback to assist programs in program design, program monitoring, and planning.

Reliability and Validity

Studies shows the Preschool PQA to be a highly reliable and valid instrument for measuring program quality and determining its relationship to staff qualifications, staff development initiatives, and young children’s developmental outcomes. Overall, interrater agreement is significant and internal consistency is strong. Finally, there is substantial evidence for the validity of the quality constructs based on the confirmatory factor analysis and the relationship of the PQA to other quality measures.


Source – PQA Administrators Manual HighScope Copyright © 2003 High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 600 N. River St.,Ypsilanti, MI 48198.

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Preschool – Program Quality Assessment (PQA) Reports

HighScope’s Program Quality Assessment tool, PQA, is a rating instrument designed to evaluate the quality of early childhood programs and identify staff training needs. The program provides specific, easily understood quality indicators with objective 5-point rating scales that define quality along a continuum. PQA is a research-based, field tested tool that meets “best practices” in early childhood care and education.

The internet-based version of the tool, OnlinePQA, has offerings for three different program settings:

Infant-Toddler PQA    Preschool PQA    Family Child Care PQA

Based on scores and information entered into OnlinePQA, the program generates several reports: Classroom Reports, Planning Report, and Comparative Report.

Learn more about PQA reporting options and selected features. (PDF)

Research Documents:

Sample Alignment of Organizational and Professional Standards with the Program Quality Assessment

The Preschool PQA has been used extensively as a research tool by trained independent raters in over 800 preschool classrooms and child care centers. To read more… Click here

Click a question on the left to view the answer.