Young children form 85 percent of their intellect, personality and social skills by age five, so child care that is focused on learning is critical in helping children to develop well and prepare them for school. These early learning experiences have a life-long impact: infants and toddlers whose care providers emphasize learning are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college, research shows. Despite the importance of early childhood care, studies show that at least one-third of kindergarten students come to school unprepared to learn; only 42 percent of children recognize the difference between letters and numbers, and only 38 percent know how to grasp a pencil and position their writing on paper.
The Colorado Trust committed improve the quality of child care through Qualistar Early Learning (formerly Educare Colorado). Qualistar works to offer all Colorado children quality early-childhood learning experiences by:
- Increasing awareness of the importance of early childhood learning experiences through a public education campaign aimed primarily at parents
- Improving the quality of licensed child care programs by offering child care providers quality improvement plans, college scholarships, training, quality improvement coaches, and loans and grants for facility improvements
- Rating licensed child care programs (using the Qualistar Rating System) so that parents may select a program with an emphasis on learning
- Working to increase funding in early childhood education so that all Colorado families can afford quality care for their children
A group of leaders from Colorado’s business, philanthropic, education and religious communities formed Educare Colorado in 1997. Other Colorado and national foundations joined The Trust to support the organization, which has helped raise the quality of care for Colorado’s children. In July 2004, Educare merged with the Colorado Office of Resource and Referral Agencies (CORRA), which coordinated the statewide network of child care resource and referral agencies supporting families in choosing quality child care. Collectively, Educare Colorado and CORRA are now known as Qualistar Early Learning. This innovative merger made Colorado the first state to combine its accountability system for preschools and child care facilities with its statewide network of agencies that help parents find child care.
The RAND Corporation conducted an evaluation which determined that the components of the Qualistar Rating System accurately measure early childhood program quality. Evaluation contact: nancy [at] coloradotrust.org (Nancy Baughman Csuti, DrPH), Director of Research, Evaluation & Strategic Learning, 303-837-1200.
GRANT AMOUNT: $10.4 million