Colorado Shines!

by Nicole Riehl, Director of Early Learning Strategy, Denver’s Early Childhood Council

Nicole Riehl

If you’ve lived in Colorado for any length of time, you know our state is recognized for an abundant amount of sunshine. It may snow 8 inches overnight, but by the time you’re venturing out for lunch, the snow is melting and the warm sun is erasing any evidence of the snow storm 12 hours earlier. We can often thank the Colorado weather for our “sunny” personalities and we also know the sunshine is critically important to ensuring all living things, including our children, can grow and thrive. We are a state that embraces our strengths and is dedicated to providing resources and supports to ensure all children in Colorado THRIVE! Knowing all this, it seems so perfect to have the all-new Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for early childhood care and education providers named “Colorado Shines”.

A Quality Rating and Improvement System assigns a quality rating to licensed early care and education providers, similar to rating systems for other service-related industries like hotels and restaurants. While it helps families find a quality program for their children, it also supports the early childhood care and education providers in their continuous efforts to provide the very best quality care and education possible. Colorado became a leader in the early childhood education field over ten years ago when a voluntary Quality Rating and Improvement System, the Qualistar Rating™, was first introduced. Colorado Shines is the next-generation Quality Rating and Improvement System that will take the place of the Qualistar Rating™ for licensed preschools, child care centers, and family child care homes serving children before Kindergarten. Officially launched in late 2014, Colorado Shines is embedded into the child care licensing system and will:

  • Help licensed early childhood programs that serve children before Kindergarten showcase the quality of their care;
  • Provide families with information and tools they need to find the perfect program for their young children;
  • Continuously raise the bar to improve the early childhood experience in Colorado.

    New systems and changes can be hard to adjust to, and may cause some anxiety. That’s why it’s important for our community members to understand Colorado Shines, and what we are setting out to accomplish together through this new system. Research studies tell us over and over again that children are most successful in life when they have had access to high quality early childhood care and education experiences, and this is even more critical for children who have disabilities, developmental delays, or who are affected by poverty and other life challenges. Colorado Shines endeavors to help “level the playing field” for all early childhood care and education providers, and all families, so all children can have access to the very best experiences regardless of their location, family income level, or abilities.

    Colorado Shines is a 5-Level rating system. With help from a Federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant, there is no cost for early childhood care and education providers to participate in this system and receive their Level 1 or 2 rating, in addition to their first Level 3-5 rating. By meeting minimum health and safety standards and obtaining a child care license, programs achieve a Level 1 and are part of the Colorado Shines System. Level 2 is achieved by early childhood care and education providers demonstrating they have taken specific steps and met specific criteria to promote high quality experiences for children.  Level 3 through 5 ratings are achieved through a flexible points system, which allows early childhood care and education providers to demonstrate their quality and earn points through a number of criteria within five standard areas.

    Colorado Shines WILL:

    • Embed quality ratings in the licensing process, providing a method to assess, enhance and communicate quality as a critical component of licensed child care;
    • Incentivize early childhood care and education providers to strive for higher quality ratings by offering grant funds and incentives;
    • Improve outcomes for all Colorado children by increasing access to quality education and care.

    Colorado Shines WILL NOT:

    • Threaten the licensing of those facilities already licensed;
    • Require early childhood care and education providers to adjust their educational philosophy.

    Whether families choose a child care center, family child care home, or a preschool program as their early childhood care and education provider, we want to ensure all children have access to quality early childhood experiences and are safe, healthy and thriving! Please join us on this journey as we launch the new Colorado Shines Quality Rating and Improvement System, and visit to learn more!

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