Kindergarten teacher Katie Hoiland shows the letter "F" to students Demitris Mitchell, center, and Armani Joslin during a reading intervention session Wednesday, January 23, 2019 at Aragon Elementary in Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8. Photo by Mark Reis

By Anne Schimke, Chalkbeat Colorado

Four years ago, every licensed preschool and child care provider in Colorado received a rating, for the first time in the state’s history. 

The vast majority of programs started out with Level 1 ratings, the lowest in the new five-tier “Colorado Shines” system.

Since then, the state has pumped millions of dollars into the system to encourage program improvements and help providers climb up the ratings ladder. And hundreds of providers have done just that. A quarter of the state’s providers — nearly 1,000 — now carry a Level 3, 4 or 5 rating, all of which are considered marks of high quality. 

Still, the state faces a major challenge in nudging the 1,800 providers lingering at Level 1 to aim higher. Some providers don’t have the time or energy to go through the rating process, local early childhood leaders say. Others have full classrooms already and don’t feel higher ratings will make much difference. 

State leaders say they’re pleased that more than half of the state’s child care and preschool programs have moved beyond Level 1, but plan to survey providers in the coming year to learn more about the system’s sticking points.