A Colorado Shines Success Story

Jennifer Luke, Executive Director, Early Excellence, as interviewed by Denver’s Early Childhood CouncilEarly Excellence

One year after the launch of Colorado Shines, hear from the first program in Denver to rate at Level 5!

    How long did it take to prepare for your rating? It took us 3-4 months to prepare for our rating, given the newness of the whole idea and concept. The Evidence Guide took us the longest – to understand exactly what was needed, gather our information, separate our files into categories, scan documents and upload everything into the system – and then re-check everything!
    Did you feel you were given adequate lead time? Yes, we were given adequate time to prepare. I’m glad we began the process well before our scheduled ratings. There is definitely a lot of work involved. Just getting familiar with the QRIS Colorado Shines database, the PDIS database, and understanding how it all operates together was a huge first step and accomplishment. There are two main components to Colorado Shines that everyone going through ratings must know:

  • The Colorado Shines QRIS (Quality Rating & Information System) database- where you set up your main application
  • The PDIS (Professional Development Information System) where you and your staff set up your professional information online

Get very familiar with these two databases. Love them. Don’t hate them. They will eventually be very helpful to you as you go through the process!

    Were the support systems (QI Navigators, coaches, online tools, trainings, etc.) helpful, and to what extent did you use them? Take full advantage of all the coaching, trainings and information sessions (we worked with the Council, Colorado Shines Clayton Early Learning and Denver Preschool Program). We are all learning together about this new system. It is changing and evolving with us and you can never have too much information.
    What would you say your biggest challenge(s) was (were)? Just getting our minds around the nature and needs of Colorado Shines was the first and most significant challenge we faced.

  • Use the QRIS/ PDIS Colorado Shines helpdesk, either by phone (844-447-4441) or email. The staff are great, and very knowledgeable.
  • Use your community supports and resources often.
  • TIME is definitely of great importance, due to firm deadlines of your scheduled quality ratings and windows to upload your documentation online.
  • Lastly, dependable in-house technology is another expense we had not considered. Our IT support and costs definitely sky-rocketed prior and during our ratings with unexpected ongoing printer/scanning problems, network issues and computer technology needs.

(NOTE– Denver’s Early Childhood Council provides assistance with technology and scanning in the Kaplan Learning Lab, located within the Council office at the Tramway Non-profit Center. Check the events calendar for upcoming Learning Labs or schedule an appointment with your QI Navigator.)

    What is one thing you would do better? I highly recommend keeping EVERYTHING YOU DO in your program in an organized, well labeled filing system. As this was our first encounter with Colorado Shines ratings, we had all of our documentation, but finding and gathering it was another unexpected challenge. Now we literally SAVE EVERYTHING we do- both online and in hard copy form- and keep it all in organized, well maintained files.
    Based on your experience, what is the main thing you would recommend to other programs in getting the most out of the Colorado Shines rating process?

  • Start early.
  • Learn as much as you can about the Colorado Shines QRIS and PDIS databases well before your rating begins.
  • Learn and understand the Evidence Guide.
  • Make sure all of your Evidence Documents open up after you load them into the system. One of our loaded document files would not open in Colorado Shines, and consequently we lost one point in that category.

Our experience with Colorado Shines has been a complex but meaningful learning journey, which was challenging at times. It has helped us to closely examine, evaluate and improve our program in literally every aspect possible. Additionally, we know that our school success is strongly supported by our community partnerships, stakeholders and funders, who have a genuine love and passion for high quality early childhood education. Without these supports, AND our amazing, dedicated faculty and staff, and our beautiful students and families, we would not and could not be who we are today!

Colorado Shines IS a LOT of work and takes a LOT of time, but in the long-run, it will make you a better, stronger, more reflective program.

More about Early Excellence:


Early Excellence provides full-day, year-round preschool services to children ages 2.5 – 5 years old who live in the Denver-Cole Community and surrounding counties. Both English and Spanish are spoken at the school.
Early Excellence upholds the mindset that every child is a special and unique individual who deserves the highest quality of education, nurturing, love and support possible. It is our passion, duty and responsibility to make sure that our children are given every opportunity socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively to succeed in school and life. By providing our students with the daily educational skills and tools they need to learn and grow, we are giving them the opportunity to achieve their dreams. The Colorado Shines Early Learning Developmental Guidelines helps us to establish high quality, measurable and obtainable standards for our school and it is our responsibility to put them into to “live-action” for our students and families.
Overall philosophy
The Early Excellence Program of Denver strongly believes that every child deserves the safest, most loving, nurturing educational learning environment every day they walk through our front door. Our students truly become “our children,” and we wholeheartedly believe that what we do at our preschool every day makes a difference. If this was your child, your niece, your nephew, or any child you truly cared about, you would want the best preschool possible for them. Our philosophy is to educate, love and care for every child as if he/she is our own.
Early Excellence employs 12 full-time teachers who are professionally credentialed through the State of Colorado. The majority of our educators hold a higher education degree in Education or related field and/or are working toward a degree at an accredited college/university. All of our administration hold Master’s Degrees in Education. 95% of all staff have worked five or more years in education.

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